Thursday, April 14, 2011

Orange and Blue

The other day, I returned to the scene of my most recent crime. I auditioned out at Olney Theatre, where only a week or so ago, we closed our Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. It's funny and odd that, for nine weeks, the place felt very comfortable and homey, but under the new circumstances, it felt very chilly and professional. It doesn't matter how much fun and fulfillment you get from doing a show at a particular theatre, once the experience is over, you are back to square one, waiting with some trepidation outside the audition chamber alongside a dozen other actors. It does help, I confess, to bump into several of the support team who worked on Joseph, including the lovely and talented Kelsey and Kendall, who did a swell job smoothly moving actors in and out of the firing squad. When I got inside, I was greeted by the Powers That Be, as well as by the Grand Pooh-Bah of Music out at Olney, the lovely and talented Chris Youstra, who cracked me up a bit with his comment, "I know you. You're the guy who never shows up for the first day of rehearsal." This was a reference to the fact that I was hired so late for Joseph... that I missed the first day's rehearsal (I wrote that story here). Being back at Olney revived that familiar melancholia which always accompanies the closing of a show one enjoys. I had avoided some of that depression last week by tackling my taxes the day after we shuttered, but as the week progressed, the expected melancholy emerged. Eight o'clock would roll around, and I would suddenly wish I were standing onstage with 18 actors shouting "Dad!" at me. That's how I started each performance (I wrote about being the center of attention here). Our last weekend of Joseph... was, as usually happens in such instances, bittersweet. Each performance brought the thought, "I will only be doing this 3 more times" or "2 more times," etc. So, each time the lovely and talented Heather Beck offered me water as one of my wives, and the lovely and talented Erin Driscoll followed up with an offer of wine, and each time the lovely and talented MaryLee Adams gave me an airkiss, I felt a pang of loss.

I knew I was going to miss my favorite moment in the show, in which I shared a cute little soft-shoe number with the lovely and talented Eleasha Gamble: And of course, I knew I would be missing my interactions with the lovely and talented Alan Wiggins, who played Joseph, my Favorite Son. Once the stress of the opening performances subsided, Alan and I had some fun every night chatting with each other onstage, as the ensemble delivered the expositional number "Jacob and Sons." During the rehearsal process, we were encouraged by our director, the lovely and talented David Hilder, to make these mimed conversations very specific, and so we did. It can now be revealed that those chats (which could not be heard by the audience nor the other actors onstage) rarely had much to do with the plot. We were more likely to be discussing such things as "is that a moose?" or "do you smell popcorn?" or "do you see that tree? It's where I buried your mother." That last weekend also brought some poignancy backstage, as I started to feel how I would miss my dressing roommates. I don't know how we lucked into a dressing room with only four of us, but we couldn't have been better suited. The lovely and talented Russell Sunday and I formed the Caucasian contingent in the room, and we often found ourselves sitting back and enjoying the hell out of the...ahem..."ethnic" humor of our mates, the lovely and talented LC Harden and Stephawn Stephens. (I was particularly pleased to be sharing space with Stephawn, who was the only person in the cast whom I knew much before we started: we cris-crossed the country years ago in the First National Tour of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer).

Yep, I've been missing all my sons a bit, particularly their habit of upstaging their old dad onstage. The show isn't about Jacob anyway, it's about his sons, so no harm done. But as our run progressed, I started to realize an entire one-act play was going on behind me during the number in which my sons reveal the supposed death of Joseph, "One More Angel." The lovely and talented Nick Lehan led the charge here, with all the guys following suit. I'm told the lovely and talented Andrew Sonntag was particularly active behind my back during the number, with the smile of an angel but a devilish glint in his eye.

By the time we closed the show, everyone had forgotten that I was an emergency replacement for somebody who quit after one day's rehearsal. That's what nine weeks and many adventures will do for you. Speaking of rehearsals, I quickly got in the habit of stashing a couple of oranges in my backpack to peel and eat during our breaks (Costco helped out there, as they sell 13 pounds of them in a box). That routine carried over into performances: I would sit in the green room and eat an orange before every show, even on two-show days. The habit was widely commented upon by the cast and crew, so for closing day, everyone received an orange from me. Hey, I'm the last of the Big Spenders. The accompanying card, which was left in the green room for everyone, reflected my thanks for their support, and my sadness that the experience had come to an end:
To All My Sons, and All My Wives,

And to that Lady on the Bed, and to her sons, too,

And to those folks in the corner who never put down their instrument except to pick up another one,

And to those odd people in black, who were always dashing about, pulling ropes, pushing platforms, pointing lights, and peeling clothes off actors,

I joined your tribe late and unexpectedly.

Thanks for the welcome.

Thanks for the ride.