With time, I managed to find the silver lining of The Elephant Man, but at the time, I thought I was kaput as a performer.
I attempted several auditions after that crushing blow, but my heart simply wasn’t into any of them. But that changed when I auditioned for Arsenic and Old Lace at the Playhouse. I have made several references to “flashes” I would sometimes get at an audition when I would have a sudden burst of inspiration and have an exceptionally good read. I think the effort I put into preparing John Merrick began to unlock the secret of acting in my mind. The door was only open a crack, but my “flashes” happened more frequently and with greater duration and then I auditioned for that show.
From the beginning till the end of that audition, I was simply red hot. I had great reads all night and I was having a high old time. When the night was over, Judith Hart, the director, took the time to shake my hand and tell me that I had truly funny reads and even another auditioner told me how funny I was. Judith even told me she was going to call me back and I found the beginnings of my theatre confidence once more.
I did go to the callbacks, but now I have to make a confession. I may have erred in doing so. You see, I never was formally called back. Since Judith told me she was going to call me back, I figured that was the notification so I went. Nobody looked at me funny or asked me what I was doing there, so maybe I was right to come, but sometimes I wonder.
Where was I? Oh, yes. The callback. Again, I had fairly strong reads, but I took a long look around and noticed I was about 15 years younger than anybody else there and I had a sneaking suspicion that an older cast was going to be selected. And that is exactly what happened.
Still, I was feeling better about theatre and then fate seemed to hand me a huge chance to redeem myself when I read that the Circle Theatre was going to have auditions for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. While John Merrick is my dream role, the role of Billy Bibbitt (the young, stuttering, dominated by his mother patient) was a close second. (Charly Gordon in Flowers for Algernon is #3 for those who may be wondering.)
I went to the auditions and again had a solid first night reading various roles. I went again the second night and found myself on stage reading for Billy the entire time. Again, I allowed myself the hope that I might have landed a great role just due to the quality and quantity of time that I had spent on stage.
A week later I received a letter in the mail from the Circle and I felt my spirits plummet as a letter in the mail could only mean one thing: rejection. “How could this have happened again?” I thought. I ripped open the envelope and snapped out the letter and, to my shock, I discovered that the entire show had been canceled because the theatre had been unable to cast the key role of Chief Bromden. Eleven years later, I found out that I would have played Billy had the show been produced.
I finally caught a little bit of a break when the Playhouse produced the comedy, No Sex Please, We’re British. I had hoped to audition for it, but a monster blizzard buried the city on the first night of auditions and I was unable to make the second night of auditions. I wrote Carl Beck to find out if I might still be able to audition, but discovered that auditions had occurred on the night of the blizzard and that Carl had enough actors show to be able to cast the production. However, he did say there was a supernumerary role of a deliveryman if I were interested.
It was a tiny step back into the world. Looking back now, the role was good for my confidence, if not exactly a stellar performance. I began to regain my confidence. About May of 2002, I wrote the Circle Theatre and asked if “Cuckoo” was going to be mounted in the summertime. Instead, I found out from that the theatre was going to mount Our Town instead and was floored when the theatre owner, Doug Marr, offered me the role of Doc Gibbs without virtue of an audition.
Now that was a much needed jolt of confidence.
And I had a good run as Doc Gibbs. I was even mentioned in the review of the play as being in good voice, if a little young for the role. Still I had really started to believe in myself again as an actor.
While rehearsing for the play, most of the theatres announced their seasons and I saw that a theatre called the Brigit St Brigit Theatre Company was going to mount an original production of Dracula based on the novel. A truthful adaptation of this story had never been done on stage or screen and I REALLY wanted to be part of it.
I wrote a letter to the theatre owner, Cathy Kurz, not knowing that this decision was going to one day lead to the awakening.
To be continued