Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Taming Of The Show

Seven weeks ago, give or take, I began work on the Titan Theatre production of The Taming of the Shrew.  It was early April when I auditioned for this production, which was to be performed in Queens, NY;  it was to be my New York City debut, though I didn't know it yet.  All I knew in April was that I liked the artistic director of this young company.  He had an enthusiasm which was refreshingly different from the attitude I had been encountering at other NY auditions. 
Director Lenny wore
the same jeans 18 days
in a row, until I called him
out. He changed jeans, which
he wore the next 18 days.
They were his wife's.

The lovely and talented Lenny Banovez seemed excited to be seeing an actor of my age, willing to work for subway fare.  The fact that I had no NYC credits, having only recently opened my NY Branch, didn't seem to bother him in the least. I liked Lenny for another reason, too:  his casting call asked that each actor prepare two monologues, and that one of them be a speech delivered by one of Shakespeare's clowns.  I LOVED that kind of specificity, this kid clearly knew what kind of production his Shrew was going to be, and what kind of actor was needed to fulfill his vision. 
My old buddy Jack Young trained many of
my Shrew castmates. I played Buckingham
to his Richard III 13 years ago.

Between the time of my initial audition and my callback, I did a bit of digging into Titan Theatre's website, and discovered that one of their earlier productions had been directed by my old friend, the lovely and talented Jack Young.  After I had completed my callback, during which Lenny offered me a place in his production, I mentioned I had worked with Jack years earlier.  Lenny's eyes lit up, and an immediate connection was formed.  I was soon to learn that many members of the Titan Theatre company had been trained by Jack.  Small world! 

Our rehearsal process was to be short and swift.  Our first read-through of the script was at NY's The Players Club, courtesy of one of the only other actors in the company of my generation, the lovely and talented Michael Selkirk, who is a member of this famous actors' club. It was an auspicious beginning, to first read our text at The Players Club, which had all the great thespians of yesteryear as members. 
The Players Club, the site of our first rehearsal.
That first rehearsal set the tone for our rehearsal period, not only because it was held at the first of SIX different spaces in which we rehearsed the show, but also because it was steamily hot. 
Romeo and Juliet has its balcony, while Shrew's most famous
sequence is surely the wooing scene, beautifully played by
Elizabeth Audley and Michael Poignand.

I don't recall ever NOT feeling overheated in any of our half-dozen rehearsal haunts, which was just as well, as the air-conditioning which was purported to cool our theatre really didn't.  But other than that mildly uncomfortable temperature issue, I had a ball with this production.  Lenny had cast the show very well, there didn't seem to be a weak link or a diva in the bunch. 

We had a lively run of only 12 performances, and they were not as well attended as one might have wished. 
Our deck set was simple but effective.
The theatre owners were so impressed,
they asked Titan to leave it intact, for later use.

The Secret Theatre, where we performed, seems slightly off the beaten path as it's in Long Island City, Queens.  Being a newcomer to the city, I had to ask around before I was informed that yes, this would count as my NYC debut (one Facebook wag informed me that yes, a production in Queens does count as my New York City debut...until I snagged a gig in Manhattan, in which case that would be counted as my New York City debut). 
Adam Van Wagoner and Laura Frye played
our younger lovers, Lucentio and Bianca.
Both were trained by my old friend Jack Young.

I couldn't have asked for a stronger production with which to get started in New York.  Just as strong word-of-mouth was spreading, we closed, which is always a bittersweet moment.
Marc LeVasseur as Hortensio.
We had lots of fun as Bianca's
futile suitors.

Titan Theatre operates under the AEA Showcase Code, which, like the old L.A. Waiver Code about which I've been writing lately, allows Equity members to appear without a full contract.  It's really the only way a fledgling company can get started these days, at least in New York. 
Corey Tazmania wins the award for the
Best Name in the cast. Her work as
Biondella was physically dynamic.

I'm hoping I have a future with Titan, though artistic director Lenny is heading to Milwaukee to work for at least a year; he plans to maintain a presence in New York as well, so stay tuned.  Meanwhile, I'm grateful to a company of actors who were gracious and welcoming to a newcomer.  Thanks to everyone for my share of the feast.
The highlight of my work as Gremio was surely the orange shirt I wore. It's actually mine, given as a gift from my Shear Madness buddy Matt Sawyer, right before he shipped out for military duty. I thought of him every time I donned it to play this silly character.  As for this pic itself, it really doesn't reflect the true goofiness of the role. I told others, I look like I just wandered in from The Three Sisters.