Monday, May 22, 2006


You may already know this about me, but many moons ago, I was a wannabe actor in a Guthrie Theater production of Shakespeare's "As You Like It." I had a lot of fun being part of that play, and one of the things I loved the most were the little games that the cast would play onstage.

The goal of a good production (especially in a top-level theater like the Guthrie) is to repeat the same quality performance over and over again. That can be tricky if you do the same show every day (twice on Sundays) for four months, so the actors keep themselves fresh with tiny inside jokes while on stage. They will try to work in gestures or facial expressions or even phrases.

I reckon that one of the challenges of a director is determining which of these childish inside jokes should be allowed. You don't want to have a cast that is so distracted by playing games with one another that they lose focus. But sometimes these games can actually enhance a performance.

On the outset, it would seem a pretty simple call as to whether the phrase "Man, this is fucked," should be worked into Shakespeare. But we did it.

The phrase came from a hilarious story told to the cast by John Carroll Lynch.

Lou (I'm blanking on the last name at the moment), the actor who played the wrestler that fights Orlando early in the play, loved Lynch's story so much that he worked it into one of his scenes. After being defeated by Orlando, he was dragged off stage coughing and groaning in pain. When he was about halfway down the vom, no longer in sight of the audience, he would let out one final anguished cry: a drawn-out and incoherent, "mmaaaaaahhhhnnn, fffiiiishhhh hih vvuuuuuhhhhhhhggged."

The goal for Lou, of course, was to see how loudly and coherently he could shout the phrase without, you know, tanking the production and killing his career. It's a fine line between funny and disastrous.

The director allowed it to stay in, I think, because it really added something to Lou's performance. The slurred way Lou said it made him sound completely done in. You felt that the wrestler was not only exhausted by the fight, he was exhausted by life. He was totally deflated.

And that's where I seem to be these past few days. I have everything going for me, and I'm sure I'll return to normal soon, but, man, this is fucked.


Anonymous said...

Just roll up the jeans and keep smiling, Chris. All will be well.

Brian said...

JC Lynch is a great guy. I was lucky enough to be his stand-in on a movie filmed in Illinois about ten years ago. And plus he got to be melted alive in that volcano-in-LA movie a while back. Awesome.

Crystal said...

this is a trick my dad taught me.
1. get in the shower
2. take a plastic bag
3. tie it around your head

when you come to, everything is better.

my dad is a smart man.

Neal said...

I was in a play in high school where I had about two lines. I spent my entire time on stage trying to make everyone laugh and forget their lines. When we finally put on the big show in front of the school, I forgot one of my two lines. That's when I knew I wasn't going to be an actor.

Curly said...

Have you been stumbling around slurring long, drawn out words?

You should head down the ghetto and join in with all the other funnies. (Don't have a ghetto? Start one)