Awakenings, Part 2

As we saw in Part 1, I was so excited about the upcoming production of Dracula at the Brigit St Brigit Theatre Company, or BSB, that I didn’t want to wait for announcements.  So I wrote a letter of introduction to Cathy Kurz, the owner of the theatre and asked when the auditions were going to be held.

I received a response the next day, but it wasn’t very promising.  Cathy informed me that her husband, Scott (and author of the adaptation), was casting the play as he wrote it, but that she would pass my information along to him in case he had any roles he needed to fill.  I was very disappointed, but it was Scott’s original work and he had every right to do whatever he saw fit with it.

My spirits perked up the next day when Scott wrote me an e-mail.  He said that he was casting the show as he wrote it, but that he would like me to come by the theatre for an audition.  FANTASTIC!!!  A few years later, I found out that Cathy asked Scott why he was auditioning me when he had not planned to hold any auditions for the show.  And he told her that he had been impressed with my courage.  As he said, I didn’t know him from spit and took the chance to ask about being involved with the show and he wanted to reward that forthrightness.

Scott had wanted me to come to the auditions of Othello, but said he would understand if I were uncomfortable reading for a Shakespeare play.  As an English major, I was quite comfortable reading Shakespeare, but I had no experience speaking Shakespeare.  His plays are written in a format known as iambic pentameter, which is commonly used in poetry, so I told him that I didn’t have any performance experience with Shakespeare.  Scott understood and he planned to have me read some scenes from Cyrano de Bergerac.

So I went to the theatre and met Scott who seemed a most friendly and gregarious guy.  He was also the most skilled actor I had ever seen.  He was going to be playing Iago in Othello and he spoke Shakespeare as naturally as I spoke English.  His timing and phrasing were unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  I remember thinking that I could learn a lot from this guy.

Scott and I shot the breeze a bit and I told him about what a great novel it was and how I was so thrilled that a proper adaptation was going to be done.  Scott told me some of his ideas for the show, some of which were quite ambitious such as a swordfight between Count Dracula and Professor Van Helsing where Van Helsing would fight off Dracula with a sword and crucifix.  He asked me what character I was interested in.  Without hesitation, I picked Renfield.  He said he had already cast the role.  I said that was OK because all of the principals were interesting.

Then he had me read some of Cyrano de Bergerac.  I tackled the read and when I finished Scott told me I read very well.  He adjusted my intensity level and had me read it again.  Then Scott said I had taken a big step with the second reading and wanted to see if I could take another.  He then threw a series of changes at me and asked me if we were moving too fast.  I said I thought I was getting it and he agreed saying I took direction very well.  I went through the scene again.  Finally Scott had me read with another actor.  Then he said, “I don’t think I need to see any more.  I really see you as Seward, possibly Harker.  I’m not sure yet.”  Then he said he would be in touch.

Needless to say I was beyond excited because I thought I was going to be playing one of those two roles.  While I waited, I found out that Cathy still needed to fill some supernumerary roles in the BSB season opener, Inherit the Wind.  I auditioned for it and she cast me as the hot dog vendor, Mr. Bannister.  There wasn’t anything flashy about the role, but what was important was that I met Jeremy Earl at my first rehearsal and we chatted a bit and I told him I was going to be in Dracula.  Jeremy, who would be playing Quincey Morris, responded, “Oh!  So you missed our first readthrough?”

To say I was surprised would be an understatement.  I was still dead certain that I was going to be playing Seward or Harker, so the logical explanation was that I must have missed an e-mail or call.  I felt terrible.  Scott had given me this extra consideration and I had somehow missed the first readthrough.  To be frank, I felt like an idiot.  I wrote Scott a letter apologizing for missing the first readthrough and asking if there were going to be a second one.

The next day at the theatre, I found Scott working with his Count Dracula, David Mainelli, and I sat down to watch them and Scott noticed me and said, “Hey.”  A few minutes later, he finished working with David and then came up to me and said, “Can we talk?”  I said we could and we stepped outside.  Scott looked a little worried which worried me and then he finally said, “Chris, the last time we talked, did you think you had been offered a role?”

I felt my heart leap into my throat and I said yes and Scott asked me why I thought that.  I told him what he had said at the audition and he didn’t quite remember saying that, but I knew that he had.  Then I realized how it could be the same line, but with 2 different meanings.  I had taken his statement as one entire thought, meaning that he wasn’t certain if he wanted me to play Seward or Harker.  His statement was actually 2 separate thoughts.  “I’m not sure yet” referred to his not being sure if he was going to cast me yet.  Scott thought I had sounded upset in the e-mail and I suppose some people might have been.  I had just been confused and felt bad about missing the first readthrough and letting him down.

Scott explained that he wasn’t certain if I was going to fit in the cast, but was planning on having auditions for the role of Jonathan Harker in the near future.  We shook hands and left the matter at that.  Later that night, he wrote me an e-mail and apologized for the misunderstanding and said he was glad we talked and that he would be in touch soon.

As tech week began for Inherit the Wind, Scott approached me one night and said he had a Dracula script for me and that he wanted me to look at an original role for a character named Watkins, a trustee at the asylum.  Just to be certain, I asked him if this was a role he wanted me to read for or play.  Scott said that he had written the role with me in mind and that it was mine if I wanted it.  I feared he felt bad because of the misunderstanding and threw in this role to make me feel better.  I didn’t want to see the story compromised, so I told him I didn’t want the role if it was added because of the misunderstanding.   I wanted to earn my way into the show.  He assured me I had earned it.

He said he had been having trouble with a scene in the show.  It was too flat and, try as he might, he could not fix it.  Then he finally gave up and pondered about where or if, I might fit in the show.  Scott said that’s when he realized if he added a second character to the problem scene, it would spice it up.  Based on that I accepted the role.

With Dracula, a new road began for me in theatre.  But it wasn’t quite time for the awakening yet.

To be continued