I'm at one of the best periods of my life, which is weird. It's by no stretch the wine & leisure one imagines of this time when they're young. I only rarely get to recline in a toga while being fed grapes by beautiful slave girls, but my creativity is really hopping.
I did something brave this last Saturday: The Daytrippers Play-in-a-Day Marathon. It's theatre that playwrights write overnight, then directors and actors put it up off book and with full tech that night. Within 24 hours.
Itís an amazing experience. Iíve directed for it before, and written for it. I found the latter terrifying, the former relaxing.
But three days ago I acted for the first time. At midnight the playwright asked who'd be willing to do nudity, I said "yeah, sure, what the hell." Me and my best friend in the cast both did. He even said that he really WANTED to. The other two declined.
The next morning at 8:10 we began our cold read through of the ten-page script. My character entered on page three, "...wearing only boxers and shoes. He has big red scratch marks across his back and generous smudges of lipstick on his face and neck. "
On page seven another character pantsed me.
Rumours start flying from rehearsal to rehearsal. Weird rumours, like "every show has nudity in it." Oh no. Just mine. Just me.
And strangely I wasn't afraid or even weirded out. I did my first rehearsal in costume and felt fine, very comfortable with my stocky figure. It suited the very funny british bulldog of a character the writer had written for me. The play was called "Lock, Stock, Daytrippers Will Rock." We even added a bowler hat and a fake eye lash like Malcomb McDowell in "A Clockwork Orange," a fantasy Iíve had since I was fourteen.
And I tell you what, those lines would not let me memorize them. I got a lot of time early on in the process to run them, but I just couldnít do it. I normally pride myself on being a quick study, but not this time.
Part of the difficulty was that they were written in thick dialect. My opening line was "There'll be no talk of takin' over any franchises 'ere. Is that understood? Is that understood? And you! Do you find som'fin amusin' about my appearance? Well? Answer me, you fuckin' pig-wanker!"
It only got more convoluted and hard to say.
I was working with a very solid cast & director. They all got their lines down. Naked boy had more issues. When I left for dinner break at 6:30, I was getting scared. I'd put my script down later than the rest of the cast (a very new experience for me as an actor), and was very obviously more remedial than the others. Scary remedial.
I disobeyed my producer and worked hard on my lines for most of my dinner break. I know he's right, relaxation is better for an actor at that point, but I had to cram. I got a lot better. A lot better. But there were still a number of trouble spots that never went away during rehearsal.
We were scheduled last in the set of three shows. Once we were over in the space, we applied my make up. The director gave me the scratches, which were very bloody, with one going straight over my left nipple, and the bruises. I actually had a couple of natural ones of each from the day's shirtless rehearsal of the stage combat.
I haven't mentioned that in the play, immediately after I get my underwear back up, the fellow hip-tosses me to the ground and jumps on me. This part was actually the only nudity that worried me. The ancient boxers I was wearing are more of a loin cloth sort of arrangement. Lots of falling-out potential. It is one thing to flash people for a second and cover your crotch with a bowler hat, quite another to flop out while another actor pretends to maul you.
A member of one of the other casts was kind enough to place the kiss marks... I managed to get them extended beyond my face and neck to my stomach, chest, and back. I really should send her a thank you e-mail.
I also had that painted tear that McDowell had as Alex. I was a sight. Couldn't put a shirt on because the scars would smear. Did I mention that two twelve year old girls came during this application process? They sat in the front row for the show.
Forty minutes later I was standing in the wings, 80% naked and waiting for my entrance, thinking "I wonder what my first line is."
The nice thing about a costume like mine is that it takes care of getting the first laugh. It's a gimme. And the writing really was good, and well suited to my acting, and I rocked the first couple of pages. More paraphrasing and weirdness than I've ever done in my life, but still, good reaction, good energy.
Then I'm in the middle of my big monologue, and it's going well, and just as I started the second half that I do in a downstage spotlight, someone's tweeting mobile phone goes off. Afraid those lines werenít nearly deeply ingrained enough to have any of that kind of distraction. I went blank.
There's nothing quite like the light of a spotlight shining on you when you have no idea what youíre supposed to say. I forced my way through much of it, then decided to see if any of the other characters had my lines. We went on. Rattled.
Page 7 approached. I start into my pompous monolog that prompts my nudity. And right toward the end, I arrive at where I'm supposed to cue him. The play has now broken out of the British part, and we are now playing ourselves. The line is ""This show is a piece of cake. I have played every kind of character, and let me tell you, when those lights go up, I don't disappoint..." Would have been nice to have said that.
What I said, I have no idea. The subtext was "Just Do It! Rip Em Off! I AM LOST." I just kept vocally making things louder so that the pull would be at some sort of vocal peak, even if the actually words were "ubba jimba yannabooo." Eventually my partner decided that I was done and yanked...
Gasps. Shrieks. Laughter. Someone said "Oh my God." After a second or so I get myself covered with my bowler hat. I stood there basking for a minute (playing "oh I am so embarrassed"), then pulled my shorts up slowly, staying covered. I pulled them over the bowler, stood that way for a moment, and then removed the hat.
And in those moments I found a kind of freedom that Iíd never had before. A confidence. I hadn't been on stage in four years, and I was not scared. Rusty, sure, but an improved actor from the one I once was. Because I know and love myself better.
And thatís the story of my own Full Monty. I really wish that Iíd had the guts to follow my instincts and approach people on the street at my dinner break and say ďHey, at 10:45 Iíll show you my penis for seven dollars.Ē
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