draws a line along the edge, from the inner corner to the outer edge
of his upper eyelid. He does the same on the lower lid beginning in
the center, extending to the outer corner and intersecting with the
upper lid line. Then with a Q-tip he removes most of it leaving only
a fine definition line. He has done this with the application of all
his makeup, base, shadow and highlight, first blending then wiping
away most of it leaving a "make-upless" look, just enough to absorb
He dresses, pants, undershirt
and shirt. He slides his suspenders over his shoulders then slips
a purple cord, suspending a gold cross, over his head, the cross resting
against his chest at his heart. Each move is isolated and methodical.
He sits on a step and slips his sockless feet into a worn pair of
brown shoes. One of the laces broke ten days earlier and, although
it will likely not be visible to the audience, he chose simply to
knot it back together; Shannon, the character, has no money for new
He is not alone in the small
dressing room at the Ghent Playhouse. It is at various times occupied
by eight or nine actors, all dressing and preparing for opening night.
Opening night is the white lane lines and starting blocks for a sprinter,
it's a gallery opening for a sculptor or painter, it's the deadline
for a writer, or for an opera singer, the night Pavarotti is in the
audience. It is a tense, pressured, high stakes night, critics and
friends out there all competing for his focus, but the play's the
thing and that's where the focus must remain. Opening night is the
culmination of many weeks of difficult work. A quick glance at the
script reveals the enormity of this role; out of seventy-five pages
there are only five where he is off stage or silent.
"The rehearsal process is my
favorite part of it all," his voice is low, quiet, relaxed. "Rehearsal
is discovery, exploration, experimentation, it's the time of risk
taking. An actor must never be afraid of making mistakes, in fact
it's imperative he make them, otherwise he never grows or goes anywhere.
The theatre is no place for playing it safe, that's what makes theatre
an exciting, alive experience, it's real."
"Where does the character come
from?" I ask.
"It's in the script, in the
words if it's a good writer, we're lucky, Tennessee Williams was arguably
America's best playwright; he's kinda' like our Shakespeare."
"Yeah, I think so."
"So, what is the character?"
"It's an onion."
"Yeah, you know, you cut an
onion in half and you see all these layers. A character is like that.
You peel back each layer until you get to the tiny center core, then
you begin adding a layer at a time until you have a full complete
character, not made up or tacked on, but a real, living breathing
human being, that's what grows out of an intense rehearsal process."
"How important is the cast?"
"Crucial," he smiles as he checks
and sets his props back stage, each move a lesson in deliberate ease.
"We are very fortunate with this production of 'The Night of The Iguana'
to have a great cast. Someone said, 'there are no small roles, only
small actors'. Every actor has an important job and contribution to
make to the play as a whole. It takes commitment, determination and
vulnerability from each actor. When actors connect on stage the life
of the play truly begins to appear, then the director can shape that
life into the life of the play." He stretches and begins doing some
sort of T'ai Chi moves, part of his warm up preparation I gather.
"We've been blessed to have a cast willing to connect completely with
their fellow actors. When that happens you stop thinking about words
on a page and instead soar in a magical dance."
"What will you do when the play
"Go back to writing stories
"Five minutes," the stage manager
announces to the cast members backstage. He turns away from me now
and begins to pace, steady at first then wildly. His fingers move
in an odd fan-like exercise, his face contorts and strange gibberish
sounds fall from his mouth, occasionally he punches the air. I decide
it's time to slip away and leave him to his final private moments
before the two and a half hour stage romp.
"Mr. Region, it was nice to
chat with you, nice to get to know a little something about you, about
what you do. Break a leg."
He turns abruptly to face me
but he's someone else now, his eyes are dark, moody, a half grin,
half sneer twists his lips, "Yeah, fantastic, nice to meet you too
Mr. Region, see ya around."
We'll talk next time, From The
to Road Archive