An Actor’s Least Favorite Question

I know a few actors who are constantly working, but for the most part, even successful ones are wondering what their next gig will be. This blogger below, Patti Murin, puts it very nicely.

I’ll never forget, before I ever attempted screenwriting, I saw a production of “Exit the King” at a tiny theater and loved it. A few weeks later, I sat down for a beer with my ex. It was a large busy bar, and it took a few minutes for a waiter to see that we’d seated ourselves. He finally came around, and looked oddly familiar. My ex recognized him first: “It’s the king!” I was surprised at how abashed and annoyed he was. We eventually became good friends and still have a laugh about it now and then.

Literally Patti Murin

“Oh my goodness, the show was so wonderful! You are so talented!”

“Thank you so much!” you reply, slightly shy at the outpouring of compliments from this family member/friend/stranger/superfan, but ultimately feeling the glow of pride in a job well done.

“Really, your voice is incredible,” they continue, further elevating your spirits.

“I love this music, so it makes it a real pleasure!” you share, feeling grateful that people are so excited about what you just did on stage.

“So what’s next for you? Any shows coming up?”

And just like that, the glow fades.

Because I don’t have any shows coming up. I do not know what is next. I am completely unemployed in every sense of the word, and you unfortunately just accidentally reminded me of that.

Don’t get me wrong, I know you only ask this because you care and are genuinely interested in where my career…

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Richard II

Years ago I spent an evening talking with a film critic who was born in Kenya, and he told me the only British film he ever liked was Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth, a movie I frankly hated. He said it showed the British for the savages they are. I protested, “You mean you don’t like Mike Leigh or Ken Loach?” “Nope.”

I saw the best Richard II I suppose I’ll ever see on stage last week at the Lincoln Center Festival. The Druid Theater Company of Ireland put on a marathon seven-hour production (I saw the first half) of excerpts of the four Shakespeare history plays Richard II, Henry IV Parts One and Two, and Henry V. You knew you were in for a treat the moment it started, when Marty Rea entered as Richard, his face painted a ghostly white, surrounded by other characters in more conservative costumes just a bit reminiscent of Duran Duran.

Marty Rea as Richard II and Derbhle Crotty as Henry IV.

Marty Rea as Richard II and Derbhle Crotty as Henry IV.

It was only the beginning of his commanding performance as Richard. Major parts, including Henry IV, were played by women, and the Irish accents every actor used to deliver the lines – Shakespeare writing about the founding of the English nation, as spoken by the Irish – were clear and passionate and yet tinged with political meaning. This is a company that loves Shakespeare so much it went straight for the plays that, according to director Garry Hynes, have the shadow of the colonization of Ireland over them at all times.

What a thrill writer Mark O’Rowe must have had cutting so many scenes, and making a lean narrative out of the plays that I, for one, usually find too windy to enjoy.

And talk about a reactive protagonist! Richard is besieged by problems that question his very legitimacy from the start, but never seizes control of the course of the plot. If a story, as we’re told again and again, is a character in pursuit of a goal, then this is a pathetic story, since the few attempts he makes to take any initiative are so ill-informed and going nowhere, no one would ever write this play today. And yet you felt his vulnerability the whole time, and the enormous weight of the sadness of his life.

The night I attended there was a talk back afterward, and Rea said that the closest character he could actually relate to as he tried breathing some life into Richard was Michael Jackson: chosen to be king when he was too young to be a fully formed person, and ending up an emotional deformity. An Irishman channeling the King of Pop to make Richard II believable. A night I’ll never forget.

Iran, Where Social Media Falls Short

My Facebook feed, often full of certain and unshakable opinions about world events, has been oddly silent this week following the agreement John Kerry brokered between Iran and the world powers. Is it just too nuanced, by its very nature murky? A potential misstep? Is saying “Hallelujah” going to mark us as fools, or, in some of our friend’s eyes, closet anti-semites?

My Twitter is a little better, but that’s thanks to a few public personae I follow.

I feel like this is what social media doesn’t do well. It’s great with no-brainers. Single cop shoots single African-American guy in the back as he runs away: I hear about it hundreds of times. A deal brokered between a nation of 78 million people and the rest of the world, human suffering alleviated on a mass scale, and a complicated if-then enforcement system set up, not so much.

Shame on us, not matter what you think of the deal.

What do I think? I quote Churchill: “To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war,” and if Obama’s pissing off Netanyahu and the Saudis, he must be doing something right.

Doug Died

My new writing hero is Doug Legler of Fargo, North Dakota, whose name is longer than his obituary.

The shortest newspaper obituary on record.

The shortest newspaper obituary on record.

They say this was done in accordance with his own wishes.

More than one colleague has suggested I call this blog “Less Has To Happen” to remind writers, as I often do, to keep their stories concise, and to chop extraneous information.

What a sense of humor, Doug. Rest in Peace.

Happy 4th, everyone.