Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sitting Here Thinking....

...And Thinking.

...And Thinking.

...And Thinking.

I really don't know what the hell to write today. It happens, I guess. Well, hell, I know it does.

I'm sure I'm not alone in wondering what my legacy will be. Not that you wonder about my legacy, but in that we all wonder about what we will leave behind. It's so funny, I have found myself, in recent years, damn near obsessed with the idea that I want to leave something behind, about leaving my mark on the world. What was my primary choice for that? Theatre. The most transitory and impermanent of all art forms. It's there, then it's gone. The script can live on, be remounted, but the actor? It's gone never to be seen again.

It's funny, but I think I'm also starting to feel it's a bit sad.

I was at a callback on Saturday, and I ended up talking to an acquaintance about a production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest that went up here in Chicago over the summer, I think, maybe late spring. She had auditioned for that production, and had contacted me about a copy of the script. I had been in the show in 2007, for Open Eye Productions.

I knew several people who, ultimately, were cast in that version of the show. People who, very strongly, encouraged me to come see it. I tried to, in every case, politely beg off. You see, I was very, very proud of what we did as a cast and company with our Cuckoo's Nest, we got some very nice notices (see above), and it's a very precious memory for me. I can watch Nicholson play it, because, well, it's Nicholson, but I don't have any need to see anyone else do it.

No, I don't feel like I own the part. It's not mine. However, my memories are mine, and I don't want to spoil them. In my heart, Anne Sheridan Smith will always be Nurse Ratched, Andy Lawfer will be Billy Bibbins, and Manny Sosa, may he rest in peace, will be Chief Bromden. The entire cast, too many to lay out here, were amazing and fun to work with, and Chris Maher, as director, made it all such a joy. It's a pure memory, and an experience that felt fulfilling personally and professionally. In my experience, that's a rare thing.

It also gave me a lot of things I wanted. Earning the role of McMurphy wasn't about my physical look, Hell, I was as tall as, or a bit taller than Manny as Bromden. I fought for it, through six glorious hours of auditions. I read, and read, and read, I didn't even know how tired I was until I was walking back to the train. When Chris called me to offer the role, I felt completely justified in my elation. I had taken what I wanted. It had also been a good, long while since I had to carry a show like that. It was a challenge, and something that I knew I could identify with. I could make it work, but I would have to work my ass off for it.

So, with all due respect, I don't really want to see your version. I'm not badmouthing it, as I didn't see it, but my experience on that set, with that cast, is something pure and golden for me. That's why I doubt I'll ever see the show again.

Then, on the other hand...it's gone. It's not coming back, there will be no remount, and Manny has left us, anyway. So, I shouldn't hold it so close as to not be open to new things.  It's fading, and certainly no one but those of us who were there in it remember it fully. I mean, I get a few "you were in that Cuckoo's Nest , weren't you?" once in a while, but the worm has turned, and that day is done.

That, I'm not at all afraid to say, makes me sad. I also know that's what this business is. Not even the biggest "hits" live on for more than a year or two, and we didn't even sell that well.

I guess it all comes back to that "I want to matter" thing. Which is horribly selfish, and I also, objectively, know that I do matter. My life is not all what I do on a stage, I have a loving wife, family, and good friends to attest. Even if it was, lots of people see my work, in any number of shows, and have a great experience. Lots of people have told me how much they enjoyed The Sound of a Yellow Flower, and that is precious to me. Any compliment is precious to me.

I also, flat out, don't believe it 70% of the time, but that's my own self-doubt in play.

It's all so transient. It becomes a game of trying to convince yourself that what you're doing matters. If we get down to brass tacks, it doesn't. In one hundred years, ain't nobody gonna remember my name, and, if they do, half of them will just talk about what a jerk I was.

So, what's the point, y'know?


  1. You should be proud of that show. You were great.

  2. Everybody was great. Top-notch all around. You made that whole last scene work for me.

    Ah, well.

    Moving on...