The Truth about The Theatre 3/15/01

Do you like that? I even used the arrogant spelling of the word 'Theater.' That's how my wife spells it. Harumph, I say. Just because that's how they spell it in the U.K. don't make it right. We're in America, dammit.

I've been cast in yet-another play. Do I sound excited? Oh-yes ... thrilled to pieces, here. It's not that it's not a good play, or even that it's not a good part (it's a great part in a fair play). It's something else ... lemme 'splain ...

It's called Return Engagements, and I play two roles in it. One is that of an uptight, creativeless dentist--lots of challenging opportunities to be funny. It's the other role that really has my interest: I play a man who is paid to have sex, and then I play the same man twenty years later meeting the daughter he played. Very nice stuff.

However, if we cast someone weak and stupid in that part (the mother and daughter are played by the same person), then I might just fall flat on my face, might I not?

Initially, I didn't have a problem with the actress they cast. In fact, she was the best at auditions. Even when nasty little rumors started floating in my direction ... prima donna ... 'Look-at-me, look-at-me, look-at-me' mentality ... I tried to keep an open mind.

Then we had our first rehearsal.

Our first scene opens with she and I in bed together. We have to make it clear that we've just finished having sex. She's supposed to get out of bed and put on a slip, which might seem to indicate that she's wearing something less than a slip in bed. I'm supposed to get out of bed and put on my pants, and then a shirt--which when you add it all together, places me into a bed with a scantily clad actress while I myself am in a scantily clad condition.

Hey, no biggie, right? I mean, I call myself an actor, right?

(I actually don't--but let's pretend for these purposes that I do.)

It didn't turn into an issue until I learned that she was seventeen years old.

Ever see American Pie? You know that scene where the younger boy (a minor) is seduced by an older woman (not a minor)? Ever notice the fact that they don't even touch or kiss during that scene, and at no time do they appear naked--or in any condition close to naked--at any time during that scene? It's an interesting way to shoot a seduction scene, don't you think? I mean, in a movie where nudity really didn't seem to be a problem.

Should I tell ya why they shot it that way?

Because it's against the law for a person who is over eighteen to be in a sexual situation with a person who is under eighteen.

We've got a cop in the cast, so I know this to be true. Strictly speaking, we can't even swear in front of her. How much of a crime do you suppose it would be for me to be mostly-naked in a bed with her?

The correct answer is, Enough of a crime that I ain't fuckin' doin' it.

So, I brought this up at our first blocking rehearsal. I made it pretty clear what was and what wasn't happening on that stage. The Director ... well, I'm not actually sure what his reaction was. He just sorta looked at me. Maybe he thought I was just being an over-reactive pain-in-the-ass. Maybe he was thinking, Wow, ya know that hadn't even occurred to me? I may never know which he was thinking. I do know that I didn't get a strong 'in my corner' feeling.

The Little Girl (whose name I still can't remember) (and boy, do I ever not mind never having to commit that name to memory) had a big problem with it. She didn't understand why I was being so uptight. After all, she went totally nude in Hair, and her parents didn't have a problem with that.

Ahem. I'll come back to that.

She ended up quitting the play. At first, I didn't know why--but I didn't care. When a blessing comes, best not to question it, don't ya think?

Then, I found out through my extensive intelligence contacts (you know her as 'Mrs. Steele') that the reason she dropped out was because of me. Apparently, I'm a great big pain-in-the-ass--too much of a pain-in-the-ass to possibly work with. And uptight, too. How on Earth do I possibly get through the day being this uptight? Why, I'll bet this great big pussy hasn't ever raped anyone before, statutory or not!

I can't honestly say I don't feel a certain amount of guilt--why, I have no idea. I guess I just never wanted to be the sort of actor who made people quit. It's not a rule I feel strongly enough about to actually commit a crime for, but it's still a rule.

Of course, the great thing about guilt is, it fuels anger. And around these parts, Anger makes the Fuckin' World go 'Round, don't it?

First, lemme just say that I have very little interest in acting, unless there is a compelling artistic reason for me to be in the play. Such reasons might be if the play were Shakespeare, for example. Or the role of Lenny in Of Mice and Men. Or any role Mrs. Steele says I should play, because she knows the play better than I do and says I should do it. If it's not going to be about art--and not just regular art but Real Art with the 'R' and 'A' capitalized--then I'd rather sit at home and play emulated Dr. Mario. Plain and simple.

And, as such, I'm not really interested in doing a play with anyone who's not as serious about it as I am--which isn't all that fuckin' serious, and therefore, isn't a whole helluva lot to ask.

Second, let me just say that I have absolutely no interest in doing a play with someone for whom this whole 'acting thing' is just a symptom of a serious dysfunction. Nude on the stage at age seventeen? Do we have a go-go dancer in the making, here? 'Comfortable with your body' is a whole different animal than 'Member of Future Exhibitionists.' Get therapy. Get your parents into therapy. But don't try to work it out on a stage opposite me, because I barely want to be there to begin with, and I have no interest in saving you. Save yourself, or drown--makes no nevermind to me, so long as you do it in that cherished space I like to call elsewhere.

There. I'm feeling much better now.

Oh--one more thing I should mention in this spot before I head down to Florida to marry my wife again: I wrote a short story based on the Shadowbane game a few days ago, and haven't announced it in this space yet. So, here it is--The Song of Jacob.

Hope ya like it.