Acting: From celluloid to treading the stage boards

And I use the term ‘actor’ very loosely. 

I’m no actor, although I enjoy acting in films and, now, in plays. 

When the Cayman Drama Society chose to put on the double bill plays of Frederico Garcia Lorca under Nick Dereza’s direction, I took the opportunity to throw up out of nervousness, then audition for the thing. 

Before these productions, I had never acted in a play. Only film, which couldn’t be more different.  

 

On screen 

In 2010, I starred as the lead in a Chicago independent film production – Never Forget How Much a Dead Man Weighs. 

Yeah, can you believe it? This mug was on screen for approximately 30 minutes out of a total of 61. 

I had the look of the character – a young college professor whose father just passed. He finds out that he is Jewish and must come to terms with his fragmented past. 

And if you know anything about auditioning, most producer and directors and casting agents are going for the look rather than the acting chops. 

But I did give a good performance in the audition with another actor in the film who also co-wrote the script. 

So, I got the role, shot the film (on actual film, a rare thing in these digital days) and moved to Grand Cayman with a movie in the bank. 

When I got here, I kept my ear to the ground about any movies being shot. That’s when I found Nick. 

Pimp Daddy Nick Dereza 

Self described pimp daddy, that is. 

That was his response to me calling him a ‘mad scientist’ in an earlier preview article. He was joking… I think. 

I talked to Nick for the first time when he was sending out the casting call for the double bill – he called the paper and gave me some quotes about the plays. 

After the first week of audition, no men had shown. There were a few slots open for male actors and I was/am male. If the shoe fits… Right? 

He gave me two roles in the play – Friend of the Groom and Woodcutter #3 – both of which I was determined to knock out of the park (that means do justice – for those non-Americans not understanding the baseball/pop culture reference). 

That’s when rehearsals started. Three bloody months of it (bloody, in this case, means a curse word – for those Americans not understanding everyone else). 

Nick is a pleasant man who always asks me if I’m okay? I always want to answer, “Yes… Do I not look okay? What’s wrong? Am I actually okay? No… Maybe… I dunno…” 

A simple ‘yes’ always suffices though. 

The reason I called Nick a ‘mad scientist’ was because of the rehearsal schedule. 

Chaos. That’s the only way to describe it. 

For weeks upon weeks, all the actors would meet at the Prospect Playhouse and run through different scenes. 

We all became fast friends – there are many good people in any given play in any given city in any given country (hemisphere, world, universe, et al). The theatre brings out some of the most interesting characters. 

For this play, we have actors from all over the globe – Kenya, France, Phillipines, India, UK, US, Canada – which adds to the fun and adventure. 

Pimp daddy Nick cast them all well, but how the hell could we know with all the mayhem happening every rehearsal. 

Around the corner 

I didn’t know a single one of my lines two weeks before opening night. I was lost. So was everyone else, or so they said. 

But I didn’t have a bloody clue (there I go again – you pick it up fast in Cayman). 

And I started to kind of freak out. A little bit. What can I say? I didn’t really want to do this in the first place – I was roped in (by a certain artist – damn you!) and I wasn’t a stage actor and everything was going crazy and… Ahhhhhhh!!! 

Okay. It wasn’t that bad. But I needed people to blame and excuses to make. 

We’d run through the entire play with scene changes and furniture movements and dancing and lines and we’d all look at each other and go, “What just happened?” 

And of course there wasn’t an answer. 

Finally, we got to the week of the show. It was dress rehearsal time. And things started going better. 

Everyone kept on saying, “Ohhh… that’s what you meant, Nick.” And he’d laugh like a James Bond villain and walk away (then send a novella of notes the next day over email). 

But they made sense, even if the notes took you all night to read. And they helped. They bettered everyone’s performances and character. And they built morale and pinpointed the vision. 

We were all on the same page. Then came… 

Opening night 

“Opening night… opening night…” Do you remember season four of Curb Your Enthusiasm when Larry David is asked by Mel Brooks to act in the final performances of The Producers on Broadway? 

In the final episode, Larry wakes up to that song – “Opening night… opening night…” Huh? Do you remember? 

Well, that’s how I woke up on the morning of Thursday, 26 May, the opening night of Blood Wedding. 

It was a combination of freak out and excitement, utter fear and confidence in knowing my lines. 

After leaving early from work (thank you, Alan), I went to the playhouse and changed into my costume, which was work boots, gray slacks, a collared and button-down shirt, a vest (waistcoat – yeah, yeah) and one of my many hats that I thought looked Spanish. 

I was one of the first people on stage – I needed to know the space, how close we were to the audience (the audience was on stage during Blooding Wedding – theatre in the round, they call it). 

Minutes flew by and pretty soon I was ducked into the corner in which I first enter. The audience was on the stage before I could back out of the play and run out of there as fast as I could. 

I was stuck between a rock and a hard place (literally – I use a rock to sharpen my knife in the first scene and there was a wall right next to me before I go on stage). 

So when the lights dimmed and the cue music played, I bolted on stage with as much gusto as I could muster and had at it. 

“His legs are wounded, his mane is frozen. In his eyes, there’s a blade of silver. They went to the river. Ay, how they went! Blood running, quicker than water,” were my first lines. And I nailed them. And the next two. Scene done. Not too bad. 

Time started to bend – moments were heightened – blood was running, along with a Grizzly Bear dose of adrenaline. All of the sudden, the entire cast was in the middle of the stage bowing to the sold-out audience. 

We were done. We made it. I made it, unbelievably. I finally did it. I acted in a play. 

Post show 

We had three more performances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday that first week. Four more after that the next weekend for a grand total of eight shows. 

I survived all the shows with my ego intact (unfortunately). Anyone who says they were humbled by this or that isn’t really humbled, so I won’t say that. But the entire process of acting on stage is humbling – it has to be. 

I won’t perform in any more plays here. I don’t think. For now, at least. 

It’s very time consuming. And very tiring. But it’s also about as rewarding as it gets. 

A live audience’s laughter or applause or gasp or attention on your performance is worth all the money in the world. Really. 

It’s instant gratification. Some actors compare it to doing really good drugs. 

I wouldn’t say that (some drugs are just too good – I kid, I kid). 

But I would say, ‘thank you’. Thank you to my wife and kid, thank you to the audience, to my cast mates, to my new friends, to the Cayman Drama Society, to Pimp Daddy Nick. 

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