Drooling on the Pillow

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Menagerie of Desire 

The reviews of the Broadway revivial of The Glass Menagerie with Jessica Lange and Christian Slater are entertainingly exterpative. Here's the Times, but I wish I could link to Jeremy McCarter in the New York Sun.

After reading the reviews I wrote a post on how I must be the only person to have been an actor for more than twenty years never to have been in a Tennesee Williams play. It was a good post, I thought.

Unfortunately, it was a lie. Not wanting to get Al Franken on my case, I had to 86 it.

The truth is, I just forgot.

After my freshman year in theatre school I got my first professional engagement. It was a summer of one-week stock in a barn of a theatre in a corn field in northwest Illinois, about twenty miles outside of Moline. Basically boot camp.

There were very few days that summer we didn't work fifteen hours. I think we did about six plays and two musicals. There was a director, a designer and about fifteen actor/slaves. We built the sets and the costumes, hung the lights, did the changes, ran the publicity, cleaned the house, ran the props, all the while rehearsing during the day, performing in the evening and doing what 18-year olds like to do best in the time remaining. For this we made $15 a week plus board. Meals were at a lunch counter in town. I do remember that the food was good and I became addicted to rhubarb pie that summer. There was a boys barracks and a girls barracks, but that quickly became a distinction that lacked a difference.

I remember a night after a tech rehearsal when everyone was so utterly exhausted that no one could sleep. As the last person dragged themselves through the door someone, in the dark, said "Shut the god damn door." It was a line reading that could have been a pre-homage to Nicolas Cage in Con Air saying "Put the bunny in the box." Everyone started laughing and didn't stop for half an hour. We were tired.

Anyway. One of the plays was A Streetcare Named Desire. An excellent choice for a bunch of inexperienced teenagers. I would so love to see a tape of that production. The girl who played Blanche, actually, was as good as she could have been and went on to have a career.

I was cast as the doctor who comes on in the last scene to haul Blanche off to the looney bin. The only direction I received from the director was the old chestnut about the actor who played the doctor on broadway. When he was asked what the play was about he said "It's about a doctor who is awakened in the night to attend to an interesting case." I took the direction to heart and had to be told several times "Mike, you're going to have to pull that scene back."

It just occurred to me that a girl I knew from college and was there that summer contacted me last year when I blogged about my college. If you're still out there Annette, send me an email. I have serious memory gaps from that year.

Perhaps I recalled all this because years later I was part of a showcase theatre on 101st Street. We used to put on a production of A Christmas Carol every year as a fundraiser. Playing the part of Tiny Tim a couple years was Christian Slater. I wonder how much he remembers.
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