Here’s an interesting twist to the story of my life: after years of not doing theatre—Spamalot notwithstanding—it seems I’m turning into an actor.
I’ve been cast as the Narrator/Mysterious Man and the Wolf in Newnan Theatre Company’s production of Into the Woods, which should be very interesting indeed.
The Wolf is usually played by the same actor as Cinderella’s Prince. Indeed, the two share the same set of rhymes in “Hello, Little Girl” and “Any Moment,” i.e., exploring/boring/ignoring (at least in the original cast album; the printed score omits those lines from the Prince’s song in Act II). The concept for this production, as far as I understand it, is that the Wolf will be a puppet manipulated by me.
I like that, actually, puppets being a longtime interest of mine. I’m curious to see the design—I do hope it’s a full-size bunraku-style puppet. I’m also curious whether I’ll be singing the role as the Narrator, or somehow as a different persona. I’ll find out soon enough: first readthrough is Monday night.
I directed Into the Woods and played the Baker more than 20 years ago, in 1992, and it was a great show to work on. We had a talented cast, and audiences enjoyed it even if they were taken aback by Act II.
Random memories from that show:
- After auditions for that production, I was sitting in the breakfast nook trying to nail down the cast. I seemed to be missing key pieces to the casting puzzle, and The Child, who would have been four years old at the time, asked what I was doing. I told him, and he replied, “You should play the Baker.” Click. It still weirds me out that my four-year-old even understood what “casting” meant.
- Losing my Jack to health issues and going to school in a quandary—young Ryan Vila was a member of the magazine staff there in the media center, and I asked him if he could sing. Don’t know, he said, so I took him into the server room where I had a keyboard set up and tested him—he was a natural tenor! Unfortunately, he had no sense of rhythm, so “Giants in the Sky” was always a bit of a muddle. I would have conducted him, but I was asleep on the stage in front of him during that number alas.
- One night, we had a celebrity in the audience (whose name escapes me—Braves player, etc., somebody help me out here…) and that was the night that during the final number, during all those infinitives—“To mind, To heed, To find, To think, To teach, To join”—every single cast member forgot the words. All of us. “To… buh buh buh buh… Into the woods! Into the woods!”
- Sitting atop a rolling tower, inches from the Fresnel lighting instrument (our ceiling was only 12 feet tall), singing “You Are Not Alone” with Ryan.
- Cradling the Baker’s infant wrapped in The Child’s security blanket. It smelled like him, and my tears were real.
Our Milky White was a cardboard cutout, but I don’t think it was as bad as any of these. Warning: clicking on that link will confirm your status as an awful, awful person.
Into the Woods is a brilliant show, like almost everything Sondheim has ever done, but the thing I like most about it is the multiple layers of mythos: the Hero’s Journey (into the woods, and home before dark!); Bruno Bettleheim’s The Uses of Enchantment and its analysis of fairy tales as deep structures for empowering children; the reverse of that idea, that “happy ever after” is 1) contingent upon how you got there; and 2) not going to happen anyway; and the interconnectedness of all things. Truly a beautiful show!
I’ll keep you posted.
But wait—there’s more!
Into the Woods closes on March 29, just in time for spring break, during which we hope to travel maybe, and then, on April 14, I will decamp to Columbus where I will play the lawyer Ed Devery in the Springer Opera House production of Born Yesterday from April 30-May 16.
That’s right: at the age of 60 I am becoming a semi-professional actor. When the opportunity was offered—you’ll forgive me if I spare you the details—I thought, “Well, this is interesting. Sure, why not?”
It’s not really a paying gig—a room and a per diem, basically—but how exciting to be asked to join the State Theatre of Georgia! Again, I have tons of questions about how this all works, but there’s time enough to ask, right? At the moment, I’m just waiting for the contract/employment paperwork to arrive.
So that takes care of the first six months of 2015…