Awhile back, my great and good friend Don Winsor (whom, if you have been following along on my continued conversation, assisted in the writing of a very long piece entitled THE BALLAD OF CLEMO AND WINSOR (no relation) which you can find in early entries) sent me this questionnaire, and now I'm going to share it with you...
We all have great stories about our theatrical experiences so now its time to share.
1) What was the first play you ever did? What role/job?
I think I was in the eighth grade, and the play was called MRS. McTHING. I played a dopey gangster whose one dream was to push old ladies under streetcars. My first line was a very comical, "Ahhhhhhhhhh, shhhhhaaaaddduppppp!" Got good laughs from a very forgiving audience.
2) What was your most recent show? What job/role?
I've been semi-retired for about four years now, but the last thing I did on a stage was called CATCH ME IF YOU CAN at Circa 21 in Rock Island, Illinois, back in '03. I played Daniel Corbin, a guy whose wife has gone missing. Or, has she? It was a great time. The theatre in Rock Island is a palace, and the audiences are tremendous.
Two years ago, I put together about forty minutes of Mark Twain stuff for the Historical Society in Arroyo Grande, California. It went over very well, and I have since expanded it...a bit. And then, promptly left it on a disk, somewhere in the vicinity of my desk.
3) What was your most fun show/role?
I can only really remember hating one show I've done in my career; they were all pretty fun. The most fun I think I ever had was in two shows; THE MUSICAL COMEDY MURDERS OF 1940, where I played Eddie, at a theatre in Vincennes, Indiana. Great cast, great show, fun audiences. The other would be THE TAVERN, where I played The Vagabond, at the Great American Melodrama. Again, great cast, great audiences, and I met my wife during that run.
Both casts had one thing in common; thinking actors who were more than willing to come to a rehearsal and play. And good things always come out of that kind of process.
4) What was your most challenging show/role?
John Merrick in THE ELEPHANT MAN. Physically demanding, vocally demanding. It was a relief to die every night. But oh, what a role.
One thing I remember most about that run.....On our opening night, Kirk Gibson hit a three run homer in the last innings to seal the deal for the Tigers in the '84 World Series.
5) What is the most bizarre show or role you've ever done?
NO EXIT, by Jean-Paul Sartre, where I played the Valet in Hell. Trained myself to not blink, making it reallllly creepy. What can I say? You can experiment in college.
I try not blinking in my present job, but it scares the straights.
6) Has anyone ever written a show for you?
No. But my life isn't over yet. I did have one fellow who always said he had me in mind when he wrote something. I have me in mind when I write something. But then, I get bored with thinking about myself all the time, and the work suffers.
7) Have you ever gotten romantically involved with a co-star?
Several times I've been involved with members of a cast. but rarely with somebody I was supposed to be "intimate" with on stage. Work is work. I never fooled myself into believing that something fictional was something real.
8) Have you ever quit a show to accept a better one?
Once, but with proper notifications and such. It was an opportunity to re-establish an old theatre, and I was fond of the producers. Oh, wait. Twice. That time, and the other time I bowed out of a children's theatre contract in Pittsburgh, because I decided to get married in California instead.
9) Have you ever completely blown character on stage?
Only twice that I can remember; my favorite is a story involving the man who sent me this series of questions. We were doing STAR TREK: THE MELODRAMA, and he was playing Kirk and I was playing Khan. At the end, as I was being dragged off, my long wig fell off. I threw it to Kirk, with a parting shot: "Except this tribble with my compliments." Of course, I was corpsing the whoooooole time. I think he forgave me, and he played it off brilliantly.
10) What show are you just dying to do?
The next one that someone offers me.
11) Have you ever done one of your "dream" shows?
Not really.....I don't have "dream" shows...unless you count the ones I would do if I could run my own theatre.
That's not true. I do have dream roles. But they are things I can never see myself playing. George in SUNDAY IN THE PARK. Guido in NINE. Templeton the Rat in CHARLOTTE'S WEB.
12) Who was your favorite director?
Brad Carroll. The man is an actor's director. But most of the directors I worked with have been very creative, supportive, and effusive in their praise.
13) Who was your least favorite director?
I won't mention names....but the guy from PCPA that everybody thought was a genius was an emperor with no clothes. And the guy who directed MAN OF LA MANCHA in Carbondale, Illinois in 1997 was an all-around incredible idiot. In fact, idiots everywhere look upon this guy as their patron saint.
14) What is the most surprising role you have ever been offered?
Henry Higgins. I couldn't take it, but I can remember my reaction....I said, and I quote: "No shit?"
15) Have you ever injured yourself onstage?
Oh, yes. Quite badly once. Lost the feeling in my legs for six weeks. Cost a fortune to fix. I recovered. I've also had my nose broken, by teeth chipped, I've been cut by a sword and an axe (separate plays), and I've been knocked unconscious twice during rehearsals.
16) Have you ever worked on an original play?
Yes. It can be fun, and it can be a pain. I can remember one playwright actually tweaking a couple of scenes in the house on opening night, writing dialogue on the backs of programs, which he gave to us the next morning for the following performance.
17) What show have you done multiple times?
BIG RIVER, YOUNG ABE LINCOLN, THE LEGEND OF DANIEL BOONE, and a couple of others.
18) Have you ever done different adaptations of the same show?
Several CHRISTMAS CAROLS.
19) What roles do you usually get?
I'm still a leading man, but I'm heading toward unemployable character actor.
20) Have you ever had an onstage kiss?
Yes. I can remember one, in particular, during the first rehearsal for a production of ROMEO AND JULIET. I had been cast at the last minute in one of the leads (and can you think of a less likely Romeo?) and it was the first ever Shakespearean production for this theatre. So, of course, there were small town television stations looking for a story, and what do they want on film? The balcony, of course!
"Hi. I'm John. I'm pleased to meet you. Looks like we're going to be making out here in a minute, and I just wanted to get our names out there beforehand."
21) What was your scariest moment in a show?
When I was set on fire during the climactic battle in THE LEGEND OF DANIEL BOONE. Or, getting shot in the back of the head by a blank during TECUMSEH. There are lots of scary moments in outdoor drama.
22) What is your best show memory?
I can remember a rehearsal process during MUSICAL COMEDY MURDERS, where everybody was on the same level.....rehearsals were incredible, with new interps flying around; people giving and taking and making it one of the best productions I was ever a part of.
23) What is your worst show memory?
Performing Scrooge with a temperature of 102, barely able to speak without coughing, and having to do TWO shows to full houses. AND having the Ghost of Christmas Present try and launch me off the stage.
24) Have you ever pulled a prank on someone in a show?
I don't encourage them. I've played concentration games with other actors during a long run, in order to keep the show fresh for yourself, but never to the detriment of the show, and never to destroy somebody's concentration. That's strictly "bush league."
25) Have you ever been the recipient of a prank during a show?
Yes. And if you want to piss me off in perpetuity, that's one way to do it.