Hits the spot today, I tell ya what.
For @steffiknows and @aussiebecka!
As I mentioned yesterday, Mandi and I are starting Halloween early this year. I love making mixes, and here’s what I have SO FAR for 2013. Check back as I might be adding more, and please please please feel free to share!
A stage production tries to be many things. Inspiring, challenging, entertaining, moving, and above all respectful of Art. Robert Kauzlaric’s adaptation of ‘Neverwhere’ by Neil Gaiman provided the foundation for Sacred Fools’ latest sacrifice to the gods del Arte. The offering, I feel, has been wholly accepted and appreciated.
I joined in the adventure to bring ‘Neverwhere’ to the west coast for the first time as understudy to the very talented Bryan Krasner. I wondered (briefly) if I was offered the understudy part because I somewhat matched the physicality of Mr. Krasner. His are big shoes to fill both literally and figuratively. That thought was quickly cast aside as I was given an unprecedented amount of trust to make the roles my own by the faithful director, Scott Leggett.
In the rehearsal process I was given free reign to come and go as I pleased, never being bolted down. This proved helpful in being able to “touch base” with Mr. Krasner without becoming dangerously married to his portrayals.
The only times where choice was not afforded were the nights of fight choreography, impulsively and passionately demonstrated to me by the award winning Andrew Amani. The man thinks on his feet and he adapts his fights to the players smoothly. Again, trust was more than amply vested in me to bury both the subtle and not so subtle movements with staff, knife, and bare-fist. There was never a frustrating moment in the fighting and safety was always priority number one. A great comfort.
Opening night came and went. A packed house, glorious reviews, and a buzz began to reverberate across the stage world of Los Angeles. This was something to see and were I not an understudy, I would have. As each actor has his or her own process stewed in unique spices, my brew requires a diligent eye on my own crock until it is ready to be served. My only true regret in this whole process is that I missed so much wonderment in seeing the show early in the run.
Still, I simmered until called for. The single rehearsal we had before being thrust towards a hungry audience provided ample heat and we fed the crowd with quick, large ladles. I left that night elated. A chef not only pleased, but proud of his menu.
The ensuing performances I enjoyed with equal parts humbleness and honor. I cannot remember ever being given this much space to play even as a main player. To have had this opportunity is something I won’t ever forget and certainly something I can’t ever duplicate. What a magical show with a dedicated cast and crew from top to bottom! Simply magical.
This weekend was originally scheduled to be our closing, but thanks to the popular and critical support we’ve received, we’re all thrilled to have a few extra weeks to play in London Below!
Thanks to all who have made it out thus far, and if you are in LA or going to be in there area between now and May 25th, get your tickets NOW because they are going fast!
“Greetings, and welcome to Sacred Fools’ production of ‘Neverwhere’…”
So begins the pre-show speech, delivered wryly by Jonathan Kells Phillips, playing the Marquis de Carabas in Sacred Fools Theatre’s production of Neverwhere. Jonathan is one gear in a well-oiled machine, a production so complete that it nearly boggles the mind. There’s only one problem: Jonathan Kells Phillips isn’t here tonight.
His understudy is here, it’s me, and I’m currently behind the stage-left curtain, unable to move.
As the pre-show speech continues, informing the audience what to do in case of a fire (helpful tip: just punch everything that moves until you’re outside), a number of panic-induced thoughts flood into my brain, including the following:
Did I preset everything?
A common concern for most theater actors, but elevated in this case, as I have no idea what I’m doing. I race through the props I’m responsible for in the show: the statue used to ward off the Beast of London, the pocketwatch stolen from Door’s house, the fire extinguisher I use to bludgeon myself in the head in Scene 4. A moment of terror overtakes me as I realize I didn’t set the fire extinguisher, which is followed by relief as I realize I made that prop up.
In what order do I enter the first scene?
Do I follow Marz, Carlos, Cassandra, or Senator Strom Thurmond? And what the hell is Strom Thurmond doing in this show? He wasn’t in the book. And isn’t he dead?
Am I wearing the right pants over the other pants I wear?
Sounds silly, right? But seriously, during certain parts of the show I wear two pairs of pants at the same time, which leaves virtually no room for error, since if I walked onstage wearing the wrong pants on top I would look like a moron.
What’s my name, and am I dead?
It’s Bob, and no.
Then, before I am able to devise even more concerns to levy upon my already levied brow, the pre-show speech is over, and the show has started. I try to take a deep breath and relax before the first scene, but I can’t, because everyone else in that scene is walking onstage, and it’s time to take the plunge.
The next few hours are a blur – I remember almost nothing about what occurred onstage, though I can say with relative confidence that I avoided destroying most of the set or brutally, albeit inadvertently, injuring any of the main cast…except for when I stabbed Vandemar in the neck with a rapier. Sorry, Bryan. Seriously, I don’t know what I was doing with a rapier onstage.
I do remember moments from the performance, but instead of recalling some above-average acting moment I pulled off or a cue that I missed (of which, I’m sure, there were many), I vividly remember those moments that occurred once I stepped offstage and behind the curtain. After nearly every exit I made I was greeted by a member of the regular cast shaking my hand, cracking a smile, or mouthing some words of encouragement to me. That, more than any applause or laughter from the audience, meant the world to me.
You see, being an understudy is weird. On one hand, it’s a great gig as you don’t have to attend as many rehearsals as the main cast, so you aren’t as mentally or physically drained as they are. Instead, you fill the role of an observer, watching their run-throughs, marveling at their choices and the production level of the play, picking out the moments you want to steal from the actor you’ll be covering. On the other hand, when the time comes for you to fill in for that actor, the lines, blocking and cues haven’t been ingrained into your body. You can’t FEEL the play as well as if you were in the main cast. It’s a strange, uneasy sensation.
So when your number is inevitably called and you step into the Marquis’ shoes, having the main cast be as supportive as the folks in Neverwhere were makes a world of difference. These actors, and let’s not forget the awe-inspiring backstage tandem of Suze and Yonie, were just as responsible for me successfully completing the performance as I was. Without their words of encouragement, the occasional nudge in the right direction, and the overall “we got your back” mentality…well, I may have finished the performance, but it would have been far more terrifying.
To the cast and crew of Neverwhere, I look forward to the remaining performances I get to share with you. Thank you…it has been an honor.