Carv's Thinky Blog I'm an author with a focus on satirical sci-fi and agnostic commentary.

2Apr/150

#TBT

The picture below was taken by Gretchen Phillips at Charlie's Bar & Grill in Olympia after Laughing Stock's opening night. It includes much of the cast and crew of our show, plus friends and family. There's Amanda, for example, checking her phone after four failed attempts at taking the picture.

Laughing Stock Opening Night

Laughing Stock Opening Night

[Pictured from left to right: Rick Pearlstein, K.C. Beadle, Tom Sanders (standing), Phil Folan, Anthony Neff, Jess Allan, audience member Louise Morgan, David Phillips, Conner Engelking (sitting behind us), Hannah Eklund, audience member Jen Leonard, Abby Wells, Christian Carvajal, Amanda Stevens, George Dougherty, Heather Cantrell (blouse), Hally Phillips (green fingernails)]

Something about that photo nagged at me. It seemed familiar to me somehow, as did much of the experience of putting this show together. Suddenly it dawned on me: it reminded me of the picture below, taken almost 22 years earlier.

Opening night for The Boys Next Door at ECU, spring of 1993

Opening night for The Boys Next Door at ECU, spring of 1993

[Pictured from left to right: unknown, Paul Dowell, Angie Reynolds, Dorya Garrett (Huser), Cheryl Beck (Carvajal)]

That photo was taken by, I think, my mom, the night we opened The Boys Next Door at ECU. I didn't know it then, but the blonde with the red-eye at lower right would soon be my sister-in-law. (She also played the adorable "Sheila" in Boys.) The Boys Next Door was the first full-length show I ever directed, and, like this new show, Laughing Stock, it was a smash hit right out of the gate. Both featured huge laughs that set up more sentimental moments. Both benefited from friendships I made in the five years before while introducing me to talented strangers. I set both shows in 1993. And when all is said and done, I'll have enormous pride in both.

Laughing Stock sold out its entire opening weekend. That never happens in theatre, at OLT or anywhere else. Tickets are selling fast for the remainder of our four-week run. I love my cast and crew; we've been through a lot together. Being involved with Laughing Stock, a show I consider theirs as much as mine, has filled me with a sense of grateful accomplishment and joy matched by few other recent career developments. If you live anywhere close, I do hope you'll make plans to see it. I'll be there Saturday and probably at least one more time during the course of the run. For ticket information, please visit OLT's website or call Brown Paper Tickets at 1-800-838-3006. This show is turning into something of a phenomenon. I'd hate for you to miss it, not for my own aggrandizement at this point, but because I know how much you'll enjoy it. It takes me back to a place and time when I came into ECU's drama department thinking the only thing that mattered was self-expression...then came out five years later with a new lifelong family. This show represents my family album. Perhaps it's yours, too.

Opening night of The Boys Next Door at ECU, 1993

Opening night of The Boys Next Door at ECU, 1993

Note the shirt I'm wearing in these ECU photos. The night of first read-through on Laughing Stock, I decided to wear a shirt I owned in 1993. I dug this one out of a drawer and put it on. I believe it's the only such garment I still own. Imagine my surprise when I realized, just last that week, that I wore it to The Boys Next Door all those many years ago. Our lives carry echoes. Those peak moments follow us down through the years.

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24Mar/151

All In

When directing for community theatre, it's often a given that one will wear numerous hats. That has certainly been the case with Laughing Stock at Olympia Little Theatre. Of course, I don't mean to give the impression that I'm doing it all alone. No, fourteen actors and four hardcore crew members have been busting their butts from the start. We benefit from the years of labor that went into compiling OLT's shop, and then we borrowed from another. But when there's literally not a single aspect of the show that hasn't had my input at some point, it's hard not to take special pride in it. It's also impossible for me not to worry, though intellectually I know we're in good shape. I just feel incredibly invested, and that increases my anxiety level. If something goes wrong, no matter what or which department, I know I'll be partly to blame.

We've reached the last three rehearsals, when I step back and let the stage management team of K.C. Beadle and Phil Folan take the reins. Assuming actors get their lines out correctly, always a trick given an accelerated rehearsal period, we'll be in good shape. People who've seen the show have laughed throughout, often convulsively. It's sentimental in all the right places and really takes me back to a time in my life when I first figured out what I was capable of being. I'm reminded of people who taught me how to be whatever approximation of grown-up behavior I've achieved. At this point, especially after generating a binder full of promotional material, "The Playhouse" in Charles Morey's script is very real to me. I've started accidentally referring to the cast by their character names, even in casual conversation. I know what the place smells like, how the light comes through in summer, what the walls might say first if they could talk. It reminds me of 1993, when I was younger and braver and cooler than I am now but had no idea any of those qualities applied to me.

In the past few weeks, we've exhausted ourselves to the point of shaking. We've left literal blood, sweat and tears on the boards at OLT. In a month it'll all be gone and we'll move on to other projects. So why do we do it? What drives us to kill ourselves for ephemera? We do it so both we and you can laugh. We do it to tell and enjoy a good story. We do it because your inexpensive ticket helps keep OLT's lights on for season 76, but more importantly, because coming together to share adventures and emotions is what makes community an actual thing. And my God, this is an emotional show. I feel safe in saying it's crawled inside all of us. We can feel we've made something special. And part of what we've made, an important part, is the coming together of "another little temporary family." And that, Gentle Reader, has been the story of my life, over and over again.

Aw, sniffle. Look, never mind all that. You're immune to such maudlin sentimentality. Just know this show is really, really funny. It's been hysterically funny from the first read-through on. That's to Morey's credit, but also to actors who've given life to his words and, I promise you, augmented them. And while it won't happen every night, some nights the guy laughing loudest in the audience will probably be me. That's my right. It's okay to laugh at family.

Laughing Stock
Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave. NE
For tickets call (360) 786-9484

A funny and affectionate look at the magic that lies at the heart of the theatrical world. When "The Playhouse," a rustic New England summer theatre, schedules a repertory season of Charley's Aunt, Dracula and Hamlet, predictably, confusion ensues. Follow the well-intentioned but over-matched company from outrageous auditions to ego-driven rehearsals through opening nights gone disastrously awry, to the elation of a great play well-told and the comic and nostalgic final night of the season.

$8-$14

7:55pm: 3/27, 3/28, 4/2, 4/3, 4/4, 4/9, 4/10, 4/11, 4/16, 4/17, 4/18;
1:55pm: 4/12, 4/19

"Good theatre hurts."

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11Mar/150

A Straight Meditation on National Themes, Part 2

I spent February in the skin of a monster. I played Roy Cohn, the very real attorney who guided the knife point of Sen. Joseph McCarthy's Red Scare, then adamantly denied his own homosexuality even as he was dying of AIDS. He's a character in Tony Kushner's landmark, two-part play Angels in America, which was directed for Olympia Little Theatre by Nic Olson. The show inspires bizarre moments on stage.

OLT's new artistic director Kendra Malm was delivering opening-night house announcements when suddenly, a stack of boxes that formed a wall of the set leaned over and collapsed. The destruction of that wall, and the emergence of an angel through the breach, mark the climax of Part 1, Millennium Approaches. "I don't think that was supposed to happen," Malm announced accurately. No one was standing anywhere near the structure, which remained upright for 21 hours prior to the fall. This sort of thing makes actors believe in theater ghosts.

We performed for a larger house the second night. After the three-hour show, as per OLT custom, we greeted departing guests as they passed through the lobby. An audience member (and frequent OLT actor) came over to shake my hand. "Hey, do you watch that show Breaking Bad?" she asked. I replied it was one of my favorites. "Your Cohn kinda reminds me of that lawyer," she mused, meaning Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). I threw my arms in a V and claimed victory for the night. That performance, at least, I won Angels in America. That was one of my favorite audience compliments ever.

By Saturday we were inured to the occasional walkout. (The show pushes people's buttons.) We agree it was our finest performance of Millennium Approaches, and the crowd responded warmly. Sunday? Not so much. An audience member shook my hand and asked, "How do you do all that yelling?" Another complimented each of us in turn before arriving at the last actor in line. Instead of praising his performance, the audience member announced, "You need to speak up more," then strode out the door.

I wonder if anyone in the Saturday-night performance of Part 2, Perestroika noticed Roy's blessing of Joe included the split-finger Vulcan symbol. I learned Leonard Nimoy, who passed away that morning, based the gesture on the Hebrew letter shin. That letter stands kabbalistically for both Shaddai (Almighty) and Shekinah (the feminine dimension of God).

You have to hand it to any audience member who sits through, and tracks with, an epic night of theatre that makes David Mamet sound like the Disney Channel. Even a brief male-male sex scene, which caused pandemonium in the SIU-C theater where I played Louis twenty-two years ago, raised nary an eyebrow over the weekend. I did learn something new: in Olympia, snapping your fingers at an actor means, "I agree." Apparently, it's something students do at The Evergreen State College to avoid interrupting discussions or lectures. I wish I'd known that beforehand; in theatre circles, snapping fingers usually means "hurry up." I was acting as fast as I could!

I think the cast of Angels in America would agree that a role in that show is something an actor hopes to achieve as much as enjoy. We tested our mettle against it and emerged with minimal bruising. Thanks to every audience member who braved its content and morally complex characters. Now, on to directing a nostalgic comedy! In the week and a half since we wrapped Angels, the cast of Laughing Stock at OLT has already blocked that new show and worked through most of its scenes. That's good, because we open in sixteen days. No pressure!

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