Seasons of Returning to My Roots

“When are we going to see you on stage again?”

You’d be surprised at how often I’ve heard that question recently.

“The next time I audition” is what I would like to say, but, as my regular readers have learned, we actors have very little control over when we get our next role.

“When a role I want intersects with a director seeing me in said role,” might be a little closer to the mark, but I still don’t think it’s the right answer.  It’s also a mouthful to say.

I have the answer, but I’ll wait until the end to reveal it.

It’s been a while since I’ve had enough tales built up to merit writing an entry, but this season and the close of last season have provided some pretty interesting fare.

It began late last season with auditions for One Man, Two Guvnors over at the Omaha Community Playhouse and guest directed by Anthony Clark-Kaczmarek.

This is a modern day rewrite of A Servant of Two Masters and tells the story of Francis Henshall, a minder (British slang for bodyguard), lackey, and all around gofer for two criminals and his desperate shenanigans to prevent the two bosses from ever meeting.

There was only one role I really wanted in this show and that was Alan Dangle, a wannabe actor who is constantly on and a pretty poor performer to boot.  With a lot of Omaha’s finest auditioning for this one, I figured there would be a lot of good playing around at this audition.

While that may have been true, it simply wasn’t going to be true for me.  My instincts were on target.  A sad pity that my execution was not.  The vision in my head did not match the interpretation coming out of my mouth.  I had stumbled getting out of the gate and never managed to regain lost ground.

I didn’t even hold a faint glimmer of hope about this one.  I actually had a weird sense of satisfaction being able to look into a mirror and saying, “Hey, buddy.  That one was all on you” after I got the rejection.  After years of being rejected for reasons other than my prowess, it was almost refreshing to know I was the cause of my own downfall.

Then came this season.  My defeat in One Man, Two Guvnors was a return to my roots in the wrong way albeit an oddly satisfying wrong, but now I was getting back to the right way with the most auditions I had done in quite a long time.

I would begin with the OCP’s season premiere of Sweat which would be guest directed by Susie Baer-Collins.

Sweat is inspired by the story of Reading, Pennsylvania.  This steel mill town went from being one of the most prosperous in the country to one of the poorest due to the Great Recession.  The play focuses on the employees of a steel mill and the bar where they enjoy hanging out.  The steel mill employees are lifers looking towards fat pensions at their retirements.  When the recession strikes, the employees go from looking at lucrative pensions to unemployment.  As things go from bad to worse, tensions rise and racism rears its ugly face until the show’s devastating conclusion.

Now this sounded like a great show.  But I was up against stiff circumstances.  There were only roles for 2 Caucasian actors and I fell right in between their ages.  The younger one was completely out of the question.  Even with my unusually youthful features, my hair and hairline were going to put me out of the running.  However, I hoped they might prove helpful in playing the older man who was suggested to be in his fifties, but I was hoping that maybe he could be bought as a man in his mid to late 40s at a push.

That idea was quickly blasted when I read the line that stated he had been on the floor for 28 years before an injury ended his mill career.  I still had fun with the read as it was a different character from my real personality:  rougher and coarser.  I think I even stunned Susie a bit with my take as she looked at me with a surprised look in her eyes as she walked me out of the room and said, “Good job!” with a bit of wonderment in her voice.

To no shock at all, I wasn’t cast.

Next on my list was the Blue Barn Christmas show, A Very Die Hard Christmas which would mark my first audition with the theatre and Susan Clement-Toberer in five years.

Believe it or not, I have never seen Die Hard in its entirety, though I have seen enough of it to know the story.  Not that it mattered because the character I wanted to play was original to the script and that was the Narrator.

Imagine a role where you just rattle off variations of Twas the Night Before Christmas, sing at inappropriate moments, and just react to the lunacy going on around you while being somewhat separate from it.  This would be a role of great fun.

Even better, the Blue Barn was planning something a bit different this time.  Not only did they want you to sign up for an audition time, but they were encouraging actors to bring monologues.  At last!!  The moment for which I had been waiting.

I’ve long kept a secret weapon for just this opportunity.  A monologue from one of my favorite plays that’s guaranteed to make any director who knows me see me in a brand new way.  To make sure the monologue would be in top form, I revealed the weapon to my friend and ace director, Lara Marsh, who spent an afternoon helping me to polish and refine it.  I was even amazed by the new discoveries made during the process.

The day of the audition arrived and I was practically bursting with excitement though I kept a cool exterior.  I arrived in plenty of time for my 3pm audition which allowed me to engage in some small talk with friends and acquaintances and then the auditions started.  Though I had been expecting to read at 3pm, I didn’t actually get to read until 4:10pm.  But the extra time gave me an opportunity to run through my monologue again and center myself.

When I was on deck to audition, I was handed a side for the Narrator by Blue Barn’s dramaturg, Barry Carman.  I was surprised as I thought they wanted monologues.  But I figured I’d be asked about it once I got inside.

I entered the theatre and met a group consisting of Susan, Susie Baer-Collins, Barry, and Hughston Walkinshaw who would be playing the role of Hans Gruber in the play.  I nailed the read to the floor, managing to infuse a bit of my sheepish humor into the character.  Susan said, “That was really awesome, Chris (pause as she thinks for a moment).  I may or may not be having callbacks for this one.  But you know how things run here and you know I know you” before thanking me for coming.  For a brief moment, I thought I should ask if she would like to hear the monologue, but I pushed it aside, deciding that the idea must have been scrapped.  I was happy with my read and thought I had a good chance based on its strength.

In hindsight, I wish I had obeyed my instinct.

That Friday, I had a thoroughly wretched day.  I mean it was foul!  When I got home, I started to open my mailbox and stopped.  I just had this terrible notion that my day was about to end on an awfully sour note.  I told God that I feared my rejection was in there and asked if it were possible to please hold off for one day if I was rejected just so I could end the day somewhat easier in mind.

I opened the mailbox and saw one letter.  I grabbed it and slowly turned it to face me to see the Blue Barn stationery.

I exhaled a mighty sigh.  I really didn’t want to open the envelope, but did in the faint hopes that maybe it would be a personalized rejection to help cushion the blow.  It wasn’t.

“That’s it.  I’m going to bed,” I thought to myself.

I admit it.  This one got to me.  I really wanted to be part of this project and thought I had a good chance of being involved and the rapidity of my defeat got me in the breadbasket.  As I laid down on my bed, I wondered what might have happened had I brought up the monologue.  Getting to perform it may not have altered the result.  Heck, I may not have even been permitted to read it. But, in either case, at least I would have known that I had my biggest and best bite at the apple as dictated by the circumstances.  On the plus side, I do have it in my back pocket for the future.

My next audition (more than likely, my last of the season) was a real return to my roots.  It marked my first audition for the Brigit St Brigit Theatre Company in. . .I couldn’t tell you how long.  It also marked my first audition for Scott Kurz since he originally read me for Dracula all the way back in 2003.

BSB’s holiday show was going to be a night of one acts capped with an original version of The Monsters are Due on Maple Street which was being reimagined by Scott.  I was looking forward to this one as I’m a big fan of the works of Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone.

My audition night came and I was up for the game and feeling good.  I shook Scott’s hand and began filling out the audition form.  As I scanned the top, I did a double take.  I looked away and blinked.  Then I looked at the form again.

According to the website the show was supposed to end on December 15, but the form said the last day was going to be Dec 22.  I asked Scott if the dates had been changed.  He said there had been an issue scheduling the show with the venue holding it and it had to be pushed back a week.  Internally, I crumbled.  I had to sheepishly admit that I had to fly out to Phoenix at 8am on Dec 22.  Scott seemed just as bummed as I felt.  I offered to stay as an extra body so Scott could have another reader and he thought that was a good idea.

With no stakes to speak of, my reads lacked the full power of my heart.  Not to say they were bad.  On the contrary, technically I was solid.  There were a few characters that didn’t feel quite right, but I loved my takes on Tommy who I reimagined as an autistic man and as the mysterious boss figure to whom I gave a quiet malevolence and a slight edge of insanity.

Scott had said he’d send e-mails out by the end of the week, but it ended up being two weeks later.  A lot had changed in that interim as Scott had informed us that The Twilight Zone was experiencing another burst in popularity and ten classic episodes were being released to the big screen in November, one of which was “Monsters”.  As such, CBS would not release performance rights.

Scott spent that two weeks searching for a new show and found it, but wanted to ask if actors still wanted to be part of it.  Due to my inescapable conflict, I formally took myself out of the running though I suspect my conflict had outed me anyway.

And so my season has come to an end.  It didn’t quite work out the way I planned, but it did open the doors to pleasurable non-theatre activities that would not have been possible had I been doing one of the Christmas shows.  And, of course, it raises the question:

“When are we going to see you on stage again?”

When the time is right.

“Dracula” is Stalking the Circle Theatre

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Count Dracula (Justin Eller) recruits Renfield (David Sindelar) in his quest for victims

An ancient evil from Transylvania concocts a scheme to travel to London, England in search of victims to satisfy his endless hunger for blood.  His pursuit of a young woman leads to an unlikely banding together of five ordinary people led by a wise, if eccentric, professor.  Their goal?  To erase this evil nobleman from the face of the earth before he can claim further victims.

Bram Stoker’s classic gothic tale, Dracula, comes to vivid life at the Circle Theatre in an original adaptation written by Ryle Smith from Oct 19-Nov 3.  Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm with a special Halloween performance on Oct 31 at 9pm.  Tickets cost $20 ($15 for Seniors/College Students/Military/TAG Members & $12 for high school students).  Tickets can be purchased online at circleom.booktix.com or at the door on performance nights.  The Circle Theatre is located at 4444 Frances St in the Hanscom Park United Methodist Church.

Production:  Dracula

Written By:  Ryle Smith in an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel

Location:  The Circle Theatre (4444 Frances St in Hanscom Park United Methodist Church)

Ticket Prices:  $20 for adults ($15 for Seniors/College Students/Military/TAG Members & $12 for High School Students).  Purchases can be made at circleom.booktix.com or at the door on performance nights.

Directed by:  Angela Dashner

Cast

Isaac Reilly as Jonathan Harker

Stephanie Olson as Mina Murray/Harker

Chris Elston as Dr. Jack Seward

Nate Slater as Lord Godalming, Arthur Holmwood

Hunter Ponce as Quincy Morris

Ron Boschult as Professor Abraham Van Helsing

David Sindelar as R.M. Renfield

Kirsty Eden as Lucy Westenra

Kristine Dunbar as Mrs. Westenra

and

Justin Eller as Count Dracula

Also featuring:  Mylan Coffman, Corie Jacobsen, Emelia Rau, Mary Oliver, Stan Tracey, Patrick Brusnahan, and Brian Bencker

 

Classic Horror Opens at Chanticleer Theater on Oct 23

Chanticleer is proud to present Dracula based on the novel by Bram Stoker with dramatization by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston This adaptation is of the classic thriller that marvelously balances the menace of the horror tale with sophisticated satire. Perfect for Chanticleer, given our predilection for housing bats. Performances on Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2:00 p.m. A special additional showing will be on Friday, October 30 at 10:30 PM

The production is directed by Daena Schweiger.

Dates:  Oct 23-Nov 1

Tickets:  $20 for adults, $16 for seniors, $10 for students

The cast features:  Matthew Kelehan in the title role, Andy Niess (Renfield), Adam Haverman (Jonathan Harker), Amanda K. Vyhnalek (Lucy Seward), Alfred Salanitro (Dr. Seward), Mark Reid (Van Helsing), Geana Schneider (Miss Wells), and Michael Taylor-Stewart (Mr. Butterworth).

Dracula is presented by special arrangements with Samuel French, Inc. 235 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 1003

For more information contact the box office at 712-323-9955 or email chanticleertheater@gmail.com

“Dracula” Lacks Bite

The evil vampire, Count Dracula, stalks the streets of London. He, himself, is hunted by a group of adventurers pledging to end his reign of terror. This is the story of Dracula written by Steven Dietz and based off of Bram Stoker’s classic novel and is currently playing at the UNO Theatre.

I have always considered this version of the legendary tale one of the better ones as it is based much more closely on the novel. Dietz manages to capture the most important elements of Stoker’s novel though he does eliminate two crucial characters and compresses events down to size for the sake of the play.

D. Scott Glasser’s direction is fairly solid. He makes good use of the cobblestoned three tiered stage (wonderfully designed by Robbie Jones) and had his actors well placed for the multiple simultaneous scenes that take place during the course of the show. But I did disagree with his staging. The actors presented the story in a very theatrical manner which seemed over the top at certain points which resulted in snickers and chuckles from the audience. A more realistic approach would assist in making this show a true spellbinding chiller.

Michael Judah does fine work in the title role. He has a nice intimidating physical presence and lent an air of mystery to the character as he quickly appeared and disappeared on stage. I was especially impressed with his rejuvenated Dracula as he was truly a beast. He took what he wanted, succumbed to his appetites without regret, and oozed danger. His weaker, aged version of Dracula (a stellar make-up job from Charleen Willoughby) was a bit too energetic and animated. I also thought Judah needed to be more authoritative as weaker Dracula as he is a nobleman and warrior with centuries of experience and cunning on his side.

Andrew Prescott is excellent as Professor Abraham Van Helsing, Dracula’s chief nemesis. Prescott’s marvelously powerful speaking voice was well suited to his bold, decisive characterization. He was truly a man of action and convinced me that this was somebody I would want leading me into a dangerous situation. Prescott does need to be careful not to upstage himself as he turned his back on all of the audience members in the round on a couple of occasions.

Enrique Madera made some odd choices in his interpretation of Renfield. When he opened the play, he spoke with a Received Pronunciation accent and had utterly flawless diction. When he transitioned into the Renfield of the story he fell into a Cockney accent and his diction vanished. At certain points he also seemed to imbue the character with some effeminate qualities which I didn’t think worked very well. Madera also didn’t seem to quite get Renfield’s true nature, though he was on the right track. Renfield is a man of massive extremes. When he is sane, he is completely calm and controlled. When he goes through a psychotic fit, it is savagely violent and he is capable of making those changes on the turn of a dime. Madera was making those changes but they need to be sharper and more pronounced. I also thought his choice to consistently giggle was a little too clichéd.

Garrett Garniss’ portrayal of Dr. Seward was a superior work of storytelling. His rich voice captured all of the subtle nuances needed for the character. I could feel his pain when he lost Lucy, his confusion and irritation with Van Helsing who would not reveal the whole truth of the situation, his anger and disgust at what needs to be done with Lucy, and his courage and determination when he decides to accept the burden placed upon him. It was truly fine workmanship.

The only flaw in Mike Burns’ Jonathan Harker was its theatricality. Toned down a few notches, it is a gripping performance. Burns did good work in portraying Harker as the hungry new solicitor determined to do good by Dracula as his leasing agent. Most impressive was his turn as a nearly catatonic patient after the horrors he experiences at Castle Dracula.

I thought Sarah Nickolaisen made for a very sweet Lucy Westenra. She could be playful as when she was teasing Mina, empathetic when she rejected Seward’s marriage proposal, and I was chilled when she transformed into the eerie and bestial Bloofer Lady. She does need to be certain to overenunciate when she has the fangs so she can be understood.

Likewise, I thought Jordyn Petersen was loyal and steadfast as Mina Murray, but she also needs to watch her diction as her dialogue was mushy at points during the play.

Charleen Willoughby’s costumes were perfect for the gothic tale. Aaron David Wrigley’s sound was an ideal match to the mood of the story. Adam VanOsdel’s special effects could not be improved upon. Audrey Wardian’s lighting was well suited, but was a bit too dim and shadowy. For a large portion of the play, I had difficulty seeing the actors and could not read their reactions and expressions.

The play did have some group issues as well. The theatre is a black box so the actors need to really belt out their lines to be heard. Accents were a mixed bag and sometimes were dropped and changed. The pace of the show also needed to be greatly picked up and scenes of violence need to be tighter and cleaner. Still, I see untapped potential in this show. As this was the first of two preview performances, there is still time for adjustments to be made to allow the show to reach the heights I believe it can reach.

Dracula plays at the UNO Theatre in the Weber Fine Arts Building through October 10. Performances are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm. Tickets cost $16, but UNO students get one free ticket. Reservations can be made at 402-554-PLAY or their website at www.unomaha.edu/unotheatre. Dracula is a horror story and is recommended for mature audiences.

Auditions for Dracula at Chanticleer Theater

Auditions for the second production of the Chanticleer Community Theater 2015 – 2016 season, Dracula, by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston, will be held on Sunday, September 13 at 6:00 p.m. and Monday, September 14 at 6:00 p.m. at Chanticleer Theater (830 Franklin Ave, Council Bluffs, IA).

Those auditioning will be asked to read from the script.  Please bring a calendar and a list of ALL conflicts from September 16 – November 1, 2015.  Cast read-thru tentatively scheduled for audition week with rehearsals beginning week of September 21.

Dracula opens October 23 and runs through November 1, 2015.  Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons for two weekends. For this production we will be including an additional midnight performance on Halloween!

Show Summary
Lucy Seward, daughter of the physician in charge of a sanatorium near London, is mysteriously anemic. Doctor Van Helsing, a specialist in obscure diseases, suspects a vampire which, according to legend, is an ugly soul that, grave-bound by day, roams the earth at night, and sustains its earthly life by sucking the blood of approachable victims.

The Players
Dracula: A tall, mysterious man. Polished and distinguished. Continental in appearance and manner. Age 40 – 60.

Harker: A young man age 20 – 30; handsome in appearance; a typical Englishman of the Public School class, but in manner direct, explosive, incisive and excitable.

Dr. Seward: Age 50 – 65; intelligent, but a typical specialist who lives in a world of text books and patients; not a man of action or force of character.

Van Helsing: Age 50 – 65; Clearly a man of resourceful action; nervous, alert manner; an air of resolution; incisive speech, always to the point; raps his words out sharply and quickly.

Renfield: Repulsive young man age 20 – 30; repulsive; face distorted, shifty eyes, tousled hair.

Lucy Seward: Daughter of Dr. Seward; A beautiful young girl age 20 – 30; her face is unnaturally pale and she walks with difficulty; fiancée of Harker.

Maid: An attractive young girl age 20 – 30; possibly to double in non-speaking role of Mina.

Attendant: Young man of 20 – 30; Sanatorium worker for Dr. Seward.

Dracula will be directed by Daena Schweiger and is produced by special arrangement with Samuel French. For more information or to check out a script please contact the Chanticleer Community Theater at (712) 323-9955

The Fun and Flop of FMV Games

Back in the day, I was a pretty avid gamer. Nowadays I’m more of a dilettante. I break out my systems once in a while, though I have a particular passion for vintage systems.

Back when I was a teenager, I purchased a JVC X’Eye, essentially a combo Sega Genesis/Sega CD player. When the Sega CD came out, I was fascinated by the types of games that would be available, especially the full motion video games also known as interactive movies.

FMV games were a pretty polarizing lot. People either loved them or hated them. Most probably hated them, citing poor writing, acting, and low replay value among the many flaws. I don’t disagree with these criticisms, but I always found the genre to have a certain charm. If I could find a way to immerse myself in the story, I found that this style of game could have a very high replay value.

Today’s article is going to focus on the FMV games that I felt were the most enjoyable of the lot and why I liked them.

Dracula Unleashed

This game is one of my two favorites of the genre and it proved a bit of a challenge at first. The game takes place ten years after the events described in Bram Stoker’s novel and centers on Alexander Morris (the considerably younger brother of the novel’s Quincey Morris) as he tries to learn the circumstances behind his brother’s death. This search leads him into a desperate hunt for a revived Dracula before the vampire kills Morris and his friends.

In the game, you travel from location to location watching video clips that may or may not provide important clues and/or items. You have 4 days to unmask Dracula and you must complete a set of tasks each day in order to progress and it is much harder than it sounds. The key to progressing is bringing the right item to the right place at the right time. Failure to do this will result in the demise of Alexander at the end of each day.

It took me nearly a week to get off of the first day. One of the difficulties of the game is that there are no clues to tip you off as to what you need where. The only clues you’ll get are usually after the fact and are vague. For example, failure to bring an odd Romanian manuscript to a meeting where Van Helsing tells the others that Dracula has been returned to life will cause the group to split. Afterwards, Alexander laments in his diary that he wishes he could have convinced them of the danger.

Sometimes it isn’t obvious at all as to what item you need to proceed. I struggled for a long time on what was needed to convince Jonathan Harker to open up about Quincey’s death. My brother suggested, “Why don’t you try the knife?” I said, “Yeah, like he’s going to threaten Harker,” but I tried the knife. . .and it was correct.

The highs of this game are the atmosphere, costumes, high production values, sense of danger, and long gameplay (even if you know it perfectly, expect at least 90 minutes of play). The downs are the constant traveling around to find valid clues and clips, figuring out what item will move the story along, and the acting.

The acting is very shaky. The lead actor, Bill Williamson, is pretty stiff and wooden. Louis Markert, as Devlin Goldacre, is an overacting disgrace. Though strong performances are given by Jay Nickerson as Arthur Holmwood and John Arthur Olson as Professor Van Helsing.

The Beast Within

Had it not been for the lack of danger to the main character, this game would have easily been number one on my list.

This game is the second of a trilogy featuring the Schattenjager (supernatural detective), Gabriel Knight and the only one done in FMV format. In this case, Gabriel attempts his first case as Schattenjager as he investigates the murder of a young girl by a werewolf.

The story is very deep and involved and count on hours of gameplay to complete it. Some of the puzzles are a little unfair, but on the whole, it’s a very worthwhile effort. The production values are a little lacking since most of the backgrounds are green screens, but the writing and acting are very top quality. Undoubtedly the best acting I’ve ever seen in a FMV game.

Particular kudos need to go out to Peter Lucas for his extremely subtle portrayal of Baron Friedrich Von Glower. It is a powerful performance and worthy of film and stage.

The only gripe I have is that Gabriel Knight faces no true danger until the last couple of chapters. Prior to that point, you will get past each day if you solve the puzzles. If the level of danger in the last few chapters was present for the entirety of the game, it would be the absolute best FMV game of all time.

Double Switch

This game was a lot of fun and focuses on you shifting between cameras in an apartment building to trap intruders. The game is split into 3 parts. In the first part, you need to help Eddie, the main character, escape from the basement. In part 2 you need to protect the residents from a killer disguised as a mummy while searching for a hidden treasure. In part 3, you need to stop the unmasked killer and find the treasure.

The game is extremely fast paced which is one of its downfalls. You need to capture far more intruders than you can let escape (and I mean a LOT more). Failure to do so will result in having the plug pulled on you. Since you have to keep catching baddies, you will often miss out on quite a bit of story since everything happens simultaneously. It will take a few go rounds to figure out how to watch most of the story while keeping the villains out. The trap sequences are also repetitive, but quite amusing.

I felt very immersed in this game. From the beginning, you really feel like a part of it as the game is presented in such a way that it does seem like Eddie hacked into your computer system in order to get your aid.

Arguably, the game also has the most star power of any FMV game. Featured roles are played by Corey Haim, Deborah Harry (of Blondie fame), Oscar nominee, R Lee Ermey, and character actor, Irwin Keyes. This results in some pretty solid acting and a fun story.

Ground Zero: Texas

This was probably the most professionally produced of any FMV game. It was made by a real production company, had high production values, was directed by an experienced film director, and had competent actors. Regrettably, they could not afford good scriptwriters as the dialogue is utterly laughable in some spots and painful in others.

In the game, you’re brought to the little town of El Cadron, Texas as a tactical expert. Utilizing four cameras, you scout around the town shooting aliens disguised as humans and, later, robotic stormtroopers.

The game is split into 4 parts. In part 1, you stun the disguised aliens and protect your 4 partners as the aliens try to kidnap them . As you save a partner, you will receive part of a code. In part 2, you need to locate the alien stronghold, stun the undisguised aliens, and correctly enter the code that will let you into the aliens’ arsenal and prison. You will also rescue kidnapped partners if the aliens nabbed them. In part 3, the aliens send in their robotic stormtroopers to start wrecking the town and you get to blow them to smithereens. In the last part, take out the mother ship lest the military launch a tactical nuke that will stop the threat and wipe out the town.

I really enjoyed the gameplay and was intrigued by the fact that the aliens are aware you are watching them. They are trying to shoot out your cameras in order to stop you. Shields will briefly protect your cameras, but can be destroyed. As your camera breaks down, the picture quality goes down as well, fading to black and white and pixelating. You can get a couple of repairs, but lose too many and you’ll get fired most emphatically. This game had numerous endings which really made it a joy to play.

Prize Fighter

This is a boxing game and, while the game was fun, I felt there was a truly great game trying to break out hidden within it. The cinematography was absolutely gorgeous and the game had a Raging Bull feel as it is filmed entirely in black and white and has some beautiful, close-ups of your opponents being pummeled. The game was directed by Ron Stein, known as a fight coordinator, and I believe he also created the boxing sequences used in Raging Bull.

The game does have the feel of a real professional boxing match right down from the walk to the ring to the introductions by Michael Buffer. I think the game could have used more opponents as you only fight 4 people. The game is also diabolically hard. It is incredibly difficult to figure out what type of punch to thrown when and expect to take a beating for a while until you figure it out. I would advise to use Training Mode to start. In this mode, the first round will indicate where and what type of punch to utilize and it will help you get a field for the fighters’ styles.

The game does have a surprising amount of replay value as there are 3 ways to beat every fighter (KO, TKO, and decision). The fun is winning in every possible way to see all of the available movies. The game is also pretty well acted, again making use of talented character actors.

Supreme Warrior

This game is guilty pleasure fun. If you like cheesy kung-fu films then this is the game for you. It’s essentially Prize Fighter only in color and martial arts. In 16th century China, your character, often referred to as Silent One, comes upon a village being attacked by the evil Fang Tu and his warlords. Fang Tu wears half of a mystical mask that grants its wearer unimaginable power. “He who controls the full mask controls the world,” says Fang Tu and he wants the half his former sensei, Kai, holds (To be more specific, you’re holding it as you were carrying it to the village). Kai refuses to hand it over. Fang Tu gives Kai 24 hours to hand it over or else he’ll put every villager’s heart on a stake and feed Kai’s to his warlords. It then becomes up to you to defeat Fang Tu and his warlords and bodyguards to obtain his half of the mask.

The game actually does contain some well-known actors in the genre of kung-fu movies such as Roger Yuan, Vivian Wu, and Richard Norton. The fights aren’t as difficult as the ones in Prize Fighter though it is sometimes tricky to figure out when to strike your opponent. If your opponent is close you will punch or strike. If they’re farther away, you will need to kick.

The dialogue is ludicrously bad, but I think that is done on purpose as the actors clearly play it tongue in cheek. The locales are cool and the characters are entertaining. Playing it on easy mode will show you where and when to strike your foe. However, beating it on hard will show you the full, over the top ending.

Night Trap

The final game we’ll look at is Night Trap. This was the game that actually kicked off the FMV genre and generated quite a bit of controversy back in the day. This game was actually pulled from the shelves due to the brouhaha surrounding it and was responsible for the creation of the video games rating system.

Having played it myself, let me assure you there is nothing untoward about the game. It is a cheesy B horror comedy. Similar to Double Switch and Ground Zero: Texas, you play a tactical expert for S.C.A.T. (Sega Control Attack Team) investigating the disappearance of teenaged girls at the home of the Martins. Having hacked into their security system, you roam from camera to camera catching augers (half-vampires) and members of the Martin family.

A lot of the controversy stemmed from the incorrect beliefs that you were hunting the girls, the game was excessively violent, and the girls were running around in their undergarments. Well, you’re not, it’s not, and they’re not. What little violence occurs is bloodless and so over the top it’s funny.

The actors are pretty bad for the most part. The only decent actors are John R Kamel and Molly Starr as Victor and Sheila Martin, J Bill Jones as S.C.A.T. leader, Simms, and Dana Plato (best known as Kimberly Drummond from Diff’rent Strokes) as Kelly, the undercover agent investigating the Martin home from the inside.

A big downfall of the game is that you have to continually catch augers to keep from having the plug pulled on you a la Double Switch. It is very difficult to get the whole story so I would recommend going to YouTube as it has been spliced into a full movie if you want to see it in all of its hammy glory. It is possible to catch every threat in this game which leads you to a special perfect good and bad ending. The good ending has Kelly walking off into the sunset. The bad. . .well, you can see for yourself.

That wraps up my little retrospective. I sold my X’Eye about 12 years ago, but I admit that writing this article has given me the itch to play these games again. If the price is right, maybe. . .just maybe I could be convinced to own this underappreciated console and library once again.

Awakenings, Part 3

And so I ended up being part of Dracula and I was glad for the opportunity.  It was also one of the most challenging shows with which I have ever been involved.  For starters, it was a technical juggernaut.  The show had well over 200 light and sound cues.  On Tech Sunday, the day in which those cues are added to the show for the first time, I was at the theatre from 2pm until 2am and we did not tech the entire show.

We also did not have an entire script until a few days before we opened.  Fortunately, the cast was so talented that having to finish memorizing the show near opening night did not appear to be that much of a difficulty.  Finally, the show was monstrously (no pun intended) long.  At nearly 3.5 hours, we knew we had to have a top flight show in order to maintain an audience’s attention for that long of a time span.

As far as my acting went I received one note repeatedly.  “Chris, you’re too big!”  “Chris, pull it back.”  “Too big, Chris.”  I had once heard that a stage actor needed to do everything three times as big for a person at the rear of the balcony could understand it.  Whether the advice was bad or I was merely misapplying the advice, I still do not know, but what was important was that I finally had one of my flaws as an actor clearly defined and that was crucial to the upcoming awakening.

And the show was very successful.  It drew in good crowds for the BSB.  Good enough that Scott had decided to remount it the next year.  More importantly, I began to feel that I had a home theatre as I formed some very strong bonds of friendships with the actors and crew at this theatre.  Aside from Scott, I also formed strong friendships with Jerry Onik and David Sindelar who invited me to join their film group EFS (Exposed Film Society).  The group’s purpose is to watch the worst movies in existence.  I also became good friends with Daniel Dorner, whom you may remember from The Elephant Man.  Dan played Renfield and is truly one of the kindest people I have ever met.  This is a guy who is so sweet and lovable that he felt guilty when he found out that I had badly wanted the roles of Merrick and Renfield.  And that, my friends, is a class act.

While I was rehearsing Dracula, I was offered the opportunity to get involved in a different aspect of theatre.  Angela Dashner, at the time the resident stage manager of the BSB, asked if I would be willing to serve as an assistant stage manager on the BSB’s next show, You Can’t Take it With You.  I was intrigued by the possibility and agreed to do it.

I found out that stage managing is, in some ways, ten times more difficult than acting.  If acting were construction then stage manager is to director what foreman is to boss.  Cathy had the final word, but the stage manager runs everything.  The stage manager starts up rehearsals, serves as liaison between the actors and the director, checks up on actors, gives calls, sets the stage at the top of acts, and many other numerous duties.  In learning how to do this, I gained a whole new appreciation of this particular job.

And then tragedy struck.

Angela’s father died shortly before the show opened.  He had been sick during a great deal of the rehearsal period, so I had actually been a proper stage manager and not an assistant for a good deal of the process.  Angela bravely offered to still come and run a couple weeks of the show.  I told Scott and Cathy that I could run the show and to let her have the time needed to grieve.

It was grueling, but I did it and I can even say I did it well.  One of the actors, John Brennan, said it was the best stage managed show he had ever been a part of.  Not that there weren’t a couple of snafus along the way.

One of the actors, who shall remain nameless, liked to read when he wasn’t on stage.  There’s nothing wrong with that except an actor has a duty to be where he or she can hear calls.  One night, he didn’t hear me give the call for the top of act 2 and he missed his cue by about 30 seconds, so it was covered reasonably well.  The next night, he missed his cue again.  This time by several minutes.  Of course, this was the day that every reviewer in town came to see the show.  Even worse, this actor’s character introduces a character not yet seen in the show so it is absolutely vital for him to be on stage.

The cast improvised a conversation quite impressively and finally one of the actresses, Amy Kunz, looked out the door and said, “Hey , isn’t that (character’s name) that (missing character’s name) is always talking about?  Let’s invite her in.”  Thank heavens.  I was very glad she did that as I was about ready to leave the booth and hunt this guy down myself.

A few days later, I got a letter from Cathy thanking me for all of my dedication to the theatre and my act of bravery in taking over as stage manager when I was only supposed to be an assistant.  She also apologized profusely for the actor’s sloppiness.  Cathy told me that she, Amy, and Scott were proud to have someone like me involved in theatre and if there were ever anything she could do to please not hesitate to ask.  I was very moved and feeling pretty good after that letter.

A few months later, Scott contacted me and told me he was adapting the movie His Girl Friday for the stage and he wanted me to play a role.  He cast me as Virgil Pinkus and he was a great deal of fun.  Pinkus kind of saves the day for the protagonists of the story, but he is a very sweet guy.  He comes off as stupid, but he is really just uber naïve and innocent.  I took my own innocence and ratcheted it up about a million degrees.

I felt good about that role because it was the first time in a long time that I really felt good as an actor.  Scott told me I was funny as hell.  Dan told me that I took a one note character and got as much mileage out of him as I could.  Cathy gushed about my shouting of her favorite line of mine, “She’s good enough for me.”  I was even noticed by the critics.  One of whom said I hit the right notes in a minor role and another saying that I was the dumb blonde even though I was neither blonde nor a woman and that I made the most out of Pinkus.

I made some serious strides as an actor that year and began to envision a brighter future for myself on the boards.  As great as the year had been, I had no way of knowing that my next show would bring about the awakening and then things were really going to change for me.

To be concluded

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