Technically my first theatrical production was at the Tinkerbell Kindergarten graduation ceremony when my tour de force performance of the Big Bad Wolf brought the house down with my ad-libbing and comedic timing. I did an impression of Nixon even though I didn’t fully appreciate who he was in the annals of American history or why it was funny, but I’m sure I had heard other entertainers do impressions of Nixon and all things considered, a Big Bad Wolf who shows up to the little pig’s door and sounds like Nixon is going to get laughs, especially if a five or six year old does it.
Some four decades later I’ve come back to my roots, rejoining the world of the stage.
How it went down: Some months back my friend Keith Paul of the Desultory Theatre Club had been teasing on social media that he was going to direct a David Mamet play. I openly salivated at the thought of playing any role in Glengarry Glen Ross. I knew the lines from the movie and I identified at varying times in my life with each of the characters to varying degrees (except for Alec Baldwin’s character…I’ve never been that guy but it would still be a fun role to play). I’d even lived in Chicago. Then he told us all that it was going to be Revenge of the Space Pandas, Mamet’s only play for children. I was hooked on the idea already and asked if there was any role I could play, however small.
As it turned out there was a role of a reporter in the children’s play and I was perfect for the part. You see for the past 6 months prior to my communication with Keith I had put out some videos called “60 Seconds with J. Timothy Quirk” which were spoofs of reporting in Torrington. My 60 seconds bits essentially embodied the role of Bill Kaberdie, the reporter in Revenge of the Space Pandas, and my audition tapes got me the role. (some of those videos are in the tab on this blog on the comedy-video tab)
The format of this production of Revenge of the Space Pandas was called a “stage reading” which meant each actor would have the script in front of them and it’s their voices and expressions that sell the story, kind of like a live performance of an old time radio show. Theoretically, this would take the pressure off of memorizing lines. My role was considered a cameo appearance that gives some exposition and brings the audience some clarity but it’s only five or so pages. By the third rehearsal I had mostly memorized the lines.
Of course there’s a difference between memorizing a speech or a monologue and then having to perform it back. At the dress rehearsal I forgot my line, a simple one, and then I said a line wrong which meant the other actor I was talking to was going to give an answer that didn’t make sense if I didn’t correct it. Mamet’s plays, even the children’s one, rely on precise language. I got put back on track fast, but it was a wake up call that no matter how much one can prepare, there is a moment right before being on stage when the realization of doing a performance can rush through you. It’s ok to recognize it and if it gives you energy, accept it for that fraction of a second but don’t live in that moment when doing the performance. The JOB is the performance, to hit the lines and do it right and it can be fun…but it’s a responsibility to the others, to the director, the cast and the audience who are relying on you. I’d have to see if I could do it for the show….
End Part One…
Categories: Torrington Stories