Up until this production, every part I've had has been pretty solidly boring. They've not been bad parts, mind you... far from it! But let's take a look. Here's what I played to date:
|Yelling at Katie in
'The Shape of Things to Come'
So it's been one of two things: be a milquetoast or yell at Katie. Or
be a milquetoast that yells at Katie. And nary any leeway to take the
character in some different direction. Not at all like George, the
stage carpenter from On Monday Next, who could be whatever is funniest.
There's something to be said for bit character parts; they're
rarely fleshed out, so if you're lucky enough to get one you can make
it really memorable and yours.
- 2002 - - Young Robert, the angst-ridden
emotionally crippled psyche of another actor. It was intended for
someone much younger, but I'm
an expert on playing angst. This was the sort of part that if you had
to play it on Broadway for six months straight you'd slit your own
wrists. At least I got to yell at Katie Holden.
- 2003 - - Frank James, the put-upon theatre
owner. Good part! But mostly it consisted of reacting to women
screaming at me for my bad taste in stage acts. Except for a scene with
Young Elvis, poor Frank spent most of his time getting walked on.
- 2004 - - Raymond. I can't say I was fond of role. Raymond was a hen-pecked mamma's boy. He never actually gets the
girl, and spends most of his time saying "Yes, Mother."
- 2005 - - Harvey, the alcoholic wife-beater who dies at
the hand of his father-in-law. On the plus side, I did get to yell
at Katie again, and that's always fun. And I had the flu at the
time, and this was the sort of character that sounds better with the
flue An important part, to be sure, but people don't remember
"important" parts. They remember the ones that made them feel good, not
- 2006 - - I was the school councellor
who's all around nice guy veneer covered an core of racist attitudes.
Then found that my daughter (played by Katie) was dancing with a black
man. Which means I got to yell at her.
So in the Spring of 2007 I find -- Oh Joy! Oh Joy! -- I've got a bit
part. It's an old obnoxious gentleman named "Veston" who's described as
being horribly obnoxious. He's the sort of fellow that, if you've got
one of something, he had one once, but threw it away because it was
rubbish. He crashes funerals so he can belly up to the buffet. He's
dislikable. BUT... later in the play he winds up finding a woman every
bit as dislikable as he, and together they prove that there's someone
for everyone. I know, that sounds like a big part, not a bit part, but you have to remember... there are no small parts. The best thing about a small character part is that nobody tells you how to play him. So play him big!
This is a great character! You've got to make him believably
obnoxious to the people on-stage, but you can't alienate the audience,
since they've got to root for him at the end! It's tailor-made for
comedy. So I died my hair grey, let my beard grow out, slouched about 4
inches shorter than
normal, stuck out the belly, and got myself a distinctive cane. A lot
of loud laughing and bad sight gags, and voila! Veston. I liked him,
and the audience did, and there was a lot of leeway for some nice
in-jokes for the cast, like using a different pet name for Nancy every
performance... all of which were food. "Sweet pea", "Honey pot", "Apple
Dumplin'", "Strawb'ry Shortcake"... they were headed for a
funeral buffet. We know where his head's at.
He never yelled at Katie.
is a funny, funny play. Some story threads:
Ooh, it sounds morbid when you put it that way! Just take my word for it, this is a hilarious play!
- A visit to a relative results in one dead relative... one cremation... and a mysteriously disappearing box of ashes.
- The Society for Elevated Learning For Intelligent Smart Husbands (S.E.L.F.I.S.H.)
- How not to take driving lessons!
- A recently divorced swinger dresses as a UFO to impress the local librarian. Huh?
- Return of the Beauty Shop. Miss Conservative gets a makeover.
- An undertaker wants to have his wedding in the mortuary. And the bride says....?
- Old farts in love.
- The most fun you can possibly have at a funeral!
One aspect of it, though, was a bit poignant. In 2004's , Joe Chamberlain played the narrator, a cemetary caretaker who told the stories of the people whose graves he tended. Michael Smallwood played his apprentice, learning the stories and the importance of his own role. Shortly before production of In Good Company, Joe passed away from cancer. returns to the same scene, this time with Michael Smallwood as the Caretaker, breaking in his own apprentice. In real life, Michael
was away for college, but he took time to come back to Union to reprise
his role and tend the headstone of his mentor. If you had never seen
production, you'd have never known the significance of the casting, or
of the name on the headstone. But we knew. In such ways do the stories
on our stage reflect the stories of our lives.
Cast and Crew to be added