Monday, June 27, 2011

Happy Dancing And A Nerd Note

The mood has improved quite a bit around here this week, and not all of it has to do with the Marriage Equality now achieved in one of the country's most populous states. Sure, I'm happy about the development, and I'm not the only one to recognize the significance of the vote happening so close to Gay Pride Day. I've written several times about the Gay Pride celebrations which happen all over the country these days, not all of them occurring during June, which is Gay Pride Month. But there certainly seems a nice symmetry to the historic vote in New York on Friday, since today marks the 42nd Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, commonly recognized as the official beginning of the modern gay rights movement.

Yeah, yeah, enough of that. I've had a busy week on my own, I'm sure you're dying to read all about it. I've been trying to get life in order before heading out to lovely Wayside Theatre ("the little theater with the big heart") for some summer stock fun. I've worked there a couple of times in the past, including a gig as Sancho Panza in Man of La Mancha, about which I wrote extensively at the time. Haven't been back in a few years, so I was pleased as punch when artistic director and Grand Pooh Bah Warner Crocker approached me last January, at our annual Equity auditions. He suggested I read a play called The Nerd. I had heard of it but had never seen the piece, so I ordered a copy online and read it within a week or so. It is one of the very few scripts I have ever read which caused me to laugh out loud, so I dropped Warner an email that I enjoyed the play and would be available for the summer run.

Many weeks passed, during which I was unexpectedly involved in Joe's Coat out at Olney Theatre (you remember that story, right?), but a month or so ago, I received word that I would in fact be returning to Wayside to play in The Nerd. I won't be playing the actual nerd, whatever you people think, but will be playing the dry theater critic who lives downstairs. Perfect casting, if you ask me.

I had assumed all along that the lovely and talented Warner would be directing the play, as he directs 99.99% of the shows at Wayside, but here's a funny story. Several weeks ago, I agreed to do one day's extra work (excuse me: "background work") for a film for HBO which had been shooting in the area. I dislike extra work (excuse me: "atmospheric artistry") with a vengeance, but I've been out of work since early April, so I bit the bullet and agreed to spend a very long day in a tent on the parking lot of a warehouse where a crucial scene of the film was being shot. It was an excruciatingly hot, humid, and dull day, but we went into overtime, which means the SAG (union) actors made some bucks.

During the hours and hours of waiting around in the hot tent, I recognized Bill Diggle across the way. I have only met Bill a few times, at auditions or, more frequently, at Opening Nights at Wayside (either his or mine). His head was buried in a script so I left him alone. He works all the time, though I try not to hold that against him too much. Anyway, I finally bumped into him an hour or so into the day. The encounter went something like this:

Me: "I didn't want to interrupt you while you were buried in your script. What are you working on? You work all the time so I hate you." (okay, that last sentence was only in my head)

Bill Diggle (BD): "I'm doing The Nerd."

Me: "Really? I'm getting ready to do The Nerd!"

BD (dryly): "I know. I'm directing you in it."

This was how I discovered that the guy I thought would be directing my show, wasn't. Not that it matters, I have a hunch the young and talented Bill Diggle will be a hoot to work with, and I've heard this arrangement will allow Warner to spend some time reorganizing Wayside's administration, insuring that the venerable theater moves well into its second half-century. Yes, The Nerd is part of Wayside Theatre's 50th Anniversary season, and I'm pretty pleased to be a part of that celebration.

So this week, I've been doing the Happy Dance. I'll be heading out to rural Virginia today, and we'll begin rehearsal tomorrow. I have a strong suspicion that I'll be issuing regular updates on our progress, as I did with Man of La Mancha. Stay tuned. And, if you are reading this on June 27, remember those brave men in heels who ignited the Stonewall Riots 42 years ago, and hug a homosexual.