The Whale and the Starfish and the Eel and Whatever

Posted: February 27, 2013 in Acting, Life
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Before a play or musical hits Broadway (or off Broadway, as the case may be) it goes through several stages – these usually involve readings or workshops. A reading is basically the cast sitting down (or standing up) and literally going through the script, and maybe some songs. I did a few of these – I worked on Big before it went to Broadway, and had an awesome time. By the time it was ready for the stage, unfortunately, I had outgrown the role that I helped flesh out. I was literally too big for Big. The writers and directors were awesome though, and really supportive. I passed out a tape of some of my music to the composer, who rewarded me with a very thoughtful and encouraging letter.

I also did Fauntleroy, which was to be a stage production of Little Lord Fauntleroy. Uncle Richard was especially excited about this, but despite repeated attempts I don’t know that it went anywhere. It was cool, though, and I made some friends out of it. The thing with theater is you are thrown together very quickly and often you become like a family. Then, after the show, it’s all gone. So it’s a strange thing to have a close knit family one day and the next day it’s basically not there. During Fauntleroy I became friends with the kid who played the villain – great kid, whose turned out to be a great writer now. I still remember playing with his sister (his sister was actually my age, he was a little bit older) and making Creepy Crawlers. Remember those? It was basically an Easy Bake Oven, and you put these molds in it and filled them with goop. They came out all rubbery – usually they were bugs or monsters of some kind. It was pretty neat though. The week the workshop ended, I remember hanging out with them in their apartment  – his sister and I made some sort of collage out of stuff from Entertainment Weekly. I don’t remember everything in it, but I specifically remember cutting out a picture from Stalone’s Cliffhanger. I probably still have it somewhere. Afterward, these people who were close friends quickly disappeared for all intents and purposes from my life – at least in terms of a daily basis. It made me sad, but I was used to impermanence. It’s part of the lifestyle that you have to embrace – the ying and the yang.

One of the later workshops I did was for something called Pedro N’ Pete. It was a show about preserving the ecosystem, and it was a musical with all these sea creatures in it (eels, starfish, an octopus, etc). I played Pete. The musical director was actually the band leader for Saturday Night Live, a show I watched and loved even as a kid. We hit it off immediately, since we were both from Pennsylvania.

Anyway, they found out I had a little brother and they actually made a part for him in the play – he played a little eel that followed around the big eel. He loved it. It wasn’t our first time working together, though – we had done some commercials before. It was his first time in a play with me, though, and that was really cool.

I have a lot of “favorite” things about that play – for starters, it was really close to a cool comic book shop in the city. I insisted Mom take me in nearly every day. She rarely let me buy anything there, for whatever reason – comics were a “waste” since I was such a fast reader. By this point I was basically choosing books based on weight in paper – a 1,200 page novel might take me a week to finish off at most. I mostly just read the comics in the store until Mom got bored or I started getting looks from the salespeople.  The other thing I liked was that this venue was a place that Bob Dylan played often. I thought that was pretty cool. Yes, I did know who Bob Dylan was at 10. I knew who the Beatles and stuff were too. I remember listening to the radio and hearing some of their stuff when I was a kid – I asked Mom why they didn’t put out anything new.

Mom: Um…they’re not a band anymore.

Me: Oh, why not?

Mom: I’m not sure why. I think John Lennon got shot.

Me: WHAT!?

Mom: Yeah.

Me: When the hell did this happen? Why did nobody tell me?

Mom: It was a long time ago.

Me: Oh.

I remember very distinctly on the last night of the workshop our car blew up. We were just outside the Lincoln Tunnel and it started to shake. We heard a loud bang! and black smoke started to billow out from under the hood. We rolled it – very carefully – to a gas station. At this point, it was possible we weren’t even going to make it to the show at all. I’m not sure how it would have gone on – they don’t really do understudies in this sort of situation, and I was the lead. At the gas station, two Arab men looked it over and shook their heads while Mom threw fits. I don’t think they understood each other anyway. Eventually, one of them came up and told her he would buy the car from her – $500 cash – and she could use it to get to the city. We did. I think we called a cab.  Somehow, we made it there in time. I don’t remember how we got home, although we obviously must have. We went car shopping the next day.

The last night of the play was also significant in that I got my first real look at a woman. One of the ladies in the chorus (I think she played a star fish) happened to be dressing when I walked in after the show to get changed. I feel I should add that I wasn’t being creepy or pervy  – it was sort of a communal dressing room. Things weren’t divided in a typical way because there just wasn’t any room – there was just “back stage”. So the women took one side and the men took another. I felt awkward myself, changing in front of everyone, and usually used the bathroom to change if at all possible. Nobody really paid any attention, though – it was just another human body. To be fair, I didn’t see much – she was rolling down her stockings and slipping on jeans – but I felt hot and weird and embarrassed. Head down, I slipped on my sneakers (still laced and tied) and made my way out of there.

  1. Jessy says:

    haha i remember creepy crawlers!

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