'Plaint of the Playwright

'Plaint of the Playwright

[ Tuesday, December 04, 2001 ]

April, 1996.

Again, I wait outside of Broom Street Theater with Joe. Again, it's another Gersmann show.

And again, I've been asked to do gun work.

Joel's not going to remember me, I say.

"Probably not," Joe says.

Dan Konar, an actor in the show, pulls up to the theater in his car--I see Joel Gersmann's grinning face inside. He's looking at me.

"Joel," Joe starts as Joel gets out of the car, "I don't know if you remember Rob--"

"Of course," Joel says, smiling wide, "This is Rob Matsushita--our Gun Guy! I remember him! Come on in!"

Joel is so happy to see me, that he lets me watch a rehearsal for the show.

I am the show's only audience member for this preview.

I am enjoying the show a lot, and then...

"Hooray For The Red, White, And Blue" plays over the speakers, really, really loud.

Dan Konar enters, in costume. He's dressed like a male stripper.

He starts to strip.

I chuckle.

He continues to take off his clothes.

I keep laughing, but more nervously, now.

He is now completely naked.

I realize again that I am the only one in the audience. I do my best to look him directly in the eye--which he can't help but notice.

It's at this point that I abandon all attempts to not look uncomfortable.

Konar's grinning as he grabs an American flag, and--completely naked--flosses his ass with it.

I start laughing again.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I think, Welcome to Broom Street.

Rock On, Sisterfriend.
Part 2: Maybe you wanna come with me.

Jump to a month later, and Joe, my two friends (who are also my roommates) Lenny Maki and Luke Delwiche, decide, on a whim to try out for Rick Vorndran's next show, entitled "Please, Please, Please Love Me."

I am excited.

I have seen Rick's previous show, "I Am Star Trek," and have really, really liked it.

I have also heard that this new show will contain "Oodles of sex and a smidgen of violence."

So obviously, I'm all over that like a cheap fuckin' suit.

We audition.

Something to point out about Broom Street auditions: some of the directors do not have the actors read from the script for the first audition. At this point, in 1996, virtually none of them do.

Instead, you are asked to read from the newspaper, or perhaps even a storybook.

Then you'll be asked to do things like:

Read it as if you're very, very angry.

Read it as if you're in a burning building.

Read it as if you're stoned.

Read it as if this is the answer to a big puzzle.

You get the idea.

This is to see if you can take direction.

It's also, I was told later, the weed out process. So I go through that.

Rick asks me to read it as if I'm stoned--and I have to admit that I've never been stoned.

(That wouldn't happen until the next show.)

Lenny gets the role of a psychiatrist who has an affair with his niece.

Luke gets the role of a loudmouth tennis pro.

I get the role of John Kaufmann.

This is not only the role I wanted, but one of my favorite roles I have ever played. He's a right-hand man--a heavy.

I have always wanted to play a role like a villain in a Walter Hill movie--and Rick's letting me do it.

So the rehearsal begins.

I figure that since I am just playing the suit, I wouldn't be involved in any of the sex or nudity.

I am wrong.

See, I'm really weird about nudity or sex onstage--not that I mind watching it--but, these days, now that I'm a director, I find it hard to direct it. I don't usually write nude scenes--I'm even weird about directing people kissing.

I'm able to get past it now, but back in the day, in 1996, this is my trial by fire.

See, although I am not naked in the scene, the woman in the scene is--and it's a looooooong scene.

The direction I'm given: Stare at her breasts, mouth agape.

This, admittedly, isn't that difficult.

A quick work about Julie Levinson, the actress in question. Julie is a very cool person--and wins many snaps (can't believe I just typed that) from people in the cast for being so comfortable with her body. She used to be a topless dancer--and is very matter-of-fact about it.

At any rate, because she's so cool about it, I am able to chill out--when it comes down to it, it's so not a big deal, that soon, I'm just thinking about my taxes up there.

(What, you think I'm lying? Yeah, well, you're right.)

It is a strange time, and a fun one. Joe and I pretty much only have one scene together, where we get to face off on each other (We steal a moment from "The Usual Suspects:" The one where Kevin Pollock and Stephen Baldwin get in each other's faces. Very fun). Oddly, we would never be onstage together again until Three Sisters.

You may well be wondering why I've gone back this far just to tell my tale of being in Joel Gersmann's The Three Sisters.

Well, here's the thing:

It's very important to remember how these things start--how, at Broom Street, things have a tendency to build.

You start by going to a show.

Maybe you come back right away, maybe you don't.

You become a fan.

You work on one show.

Then another.

And then another.

You become labeled as "dependable."

Not everyone's story is identical, but they're all similar.

So before you wonder: "Why put up with this?"

"Why do it?"

"Why don't you leave?"

Just remember:

I could be you.

Skipping ahead, the show's runs goes pretty well (save for a pesky incident with a blank-firing gun that I'm saving for another posting), and so we strike. My confidence in being able to be onstage has increased (Rocky Horror reference), and I feel better.

And up comes Joel, his arm around me.

He tells me that he really liked me in the show...

"And I want you to be in my next one--NaziBoy."

I get very excited about this.

So excited that I don't notice other Broom Street regulars chuckling at this. He's got another one, they must be thinking.

When a show closes, the cast for the next show will drop by and help the previous cast during the strike--it allows the next cast to get a jump on things.

The next cast is also a Joel Gersmann cast.

The next show is called Irish Lesbian Vampire.

It is impossible to know Joel Gersmann without having an impression of him, so after Joel leaves (he rarely sticks around for strike--a perk of being the Artistic Director) we all (in both casts) start pretending to stress out and be bossy like Joel, each trying to top each other.

Joe's Gersmann impression is so good, he has called me on the phone with it, and fooled me.

This show is KILLING me, I yell like Joel, out of the side of my mouth: I'm DYING, here! Really DYING!

Turning on someone, I reach my crescendo: Maybe you wanna come WITH ME!

This send a few people into a laughing fit, but one person laughs the loudest. She is on a ladder above me, hanging a curtain. I hadn't noticed her until she laughed at my joke, and as I look at her, she is smiling at me.

She is one of the actors in Irish Lesbian Vampire.

Her name is Betsy McNeely.

In four years, she will be my wife.

To be continued...

posted by Rob on 1:04 PM | link



Post a Comment