When I was in college I gave serious thought to going into the theater as a career, but decided on law both for practical reasons (say, money) and because I thought I could make a difference in that field that would be more important than just entertaining others. So I gave up acting except for the occasional law school production. Gilbert and Sullivan (see “A Fanatic’s Tale (This Isn’t Pretty),” April 11, 2010) wrote a one act comic opera called “Trial By Jury,” in which the plaintiff (still in her bridal gown) comes into court suing the dastardly defendant for breach of promise to marry, only to end up snagging the judge instead. The show is only a half hour in length, and, due to its many legal jokes, is perfectly suited for a law school production. In my 40 year teaching career I directed TBJ eight times at two different schools, frequently, but not always, playing the part of The Learned Judge (see photo below).
|The Plaintiff reads the Judge's mashnote.|
Since then I’ve acted in seven shows, and directed three others (“The Curious Savage,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “Closure,” a new play—see the post “Directing ‘Closure,’” June 5, 2010), and have been enjoyed it all. I’ve played many types of roles, and had the lead in three plays: “Deathtrap,” “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” and, incredibly, “King Lear.”
In “Deathtrap” I played the aging dramatist who’s willing to kill to create another hit play (see above photo), and the nine year-old boy that lives deep inside me was thrilled by all the action the play requires. I participated in five murders onstage and died twice myself, plus getting to use a garrote that squirted blood as it was wrapped around the victim’s neck (that’s what’s going on in the photo), shoot a gun, and even fire a crossbow!
“King Lear” was the best, however. I’d played Brutus in high school, and Leonato in a local production of “Much Ado About Nothing,” so I knew the joy of performing Shakespeare, but nothing is as enriching as taking the stage as this doomed monarch. When rehearsing and acting Shakespeare’s lines one is constantly amazed at how rich they are, how beautifully phrased, how perfect, and—startlingly—how new meanings come to the forefront no matter how much you thought you understood the words when you first read them. I found myself slapping my head over and over with new insights into Shakespeare’s genius. In college I had two courses on Shakespeare, and have always been in awe of him. When my heart behaved so terrifyingly in 2005 (see “The First Time I Almost Died,” August 3, 2010), I began thinking about what I hadn’t accomplished in life, and I realized that I’d read or seen all of Shakespeare’s plays except six: the three parts of “Henry VI,” “Pericles,” “Cymbeline,” and “Two Noble Kinsmen.” So, sick as I was, I promptly ordered DVDs of each of the first five, and found an audio recording of the last play.
|With close friends after the show---note the beard.|
I’m next scheduled to play a British police inspector in a January 2011 production of the thriller “Night Must Fall,” and I can’t wait. There are few things in life as much fun as standing backstage opening night waiting for the show to start, your heart in your throat, worried about missing lines, wondering if you can get through it all not only without error, but performing well.
And then the curtain rises and you’re on.
"Directing 'Closure'," June 5, 2010
"I Am an 89 Year-Old Jew," January 13, 2011
"Another Opening, Another Show: Doug is in Hamlet'," April 29, 2011