Monday, November 03, 2014


KING LEAR, 2013. Fat Man Acting

     "I was hoping you wouldn't do it," Mum said to me. "I don't want you to get sick again." She was talking good sense. Ever since I was in High School, I've always gotten some kind of malady right before or after the run of a play. Fatigue and anxiety take their toll, and it's only gotten worse as I've grown older. After my last two productions, I've fallen into such deep depression that my therapist seriously considered involuntary hospitalization. I was determined to make this show a turning point. Whatever it took, I wanted to hold on to my artistic standards AND my mental health.
     And I'm happy to report success on all fronts.
The whole Summer Session class came to the show. (all but little Sammy)
   Even before going to the theatre to pick up my script, I sat down with my calender and scheduled my rest. I may be the only person in the world whose daily agenda includes naps. My work as a runner and a trainer had taught me the importance of rest and recovery. I also knew how much fatigue contributed to my depression in the past. I wasn't going to let that happen. Once the rehearsal schedule was posted, I contacted my supervisors and colleagues at the Y. I was going to need backup to cover classes, and my YMCA family jumped right in. They supported me from the first day, and a lot of them even came to see the show. I'm not being funny when I call mine the #bestjobever. It's a fact.
     Time was only one of the resources I had to marshal. I was going to need the people I loved, too. Friends and family all stepped up to support me. They checked in to make sure I was doing OK. Invited me out to lunch or a movie. Paid visits. Dropped notes. Joined me for workouts and walks. Offered support and laughter. Trusted me with secrets. Asked for help and support. 
     The emotional toolbox I had assembled during the past year with my therapist was packed and ready. Managing setbacks. Coping with distractions. Accepting the hards times without letting them take over. I didn't spend a minute buried under the covers; didn't miss a single commitment because of depression, and that is mostly thanks to the skills I learned from my head shrinker. 

Lot of pushups in those old arms.
 Once I was confident about my emotional health plan, I turned my attention to my body. I had already set my sleep program in stone, but I knew that the role of the Creature was going to make some pretty intense physical demands. I changed the focus of my training to increasing strength, especially in my upper body. I stopped training like a runner, and started training like a lifter. One of my jobs was to pick up and carry a grown man at the end of the play, and I wanted us both to feel good about my ability to do that. I won't pretend there wasn't some vanity involved. I was going to be shirtless for the creation scene, and I wanted to look as good as I could. Maybe I was no Adonis, but I looked my best.  
Frankenstein and Son. Tim Hull as Victor.
    I usually dive in to the script with a single-minded focus that neglects nearly everything else. I thought I was making the Theatre the center of my life; I now realize that I was using it as a substitute for my life: a place to hide from all the things that I didn't want to have to think about. I thought I was being an Artist. Instead, I was an Addict. I abused acting as a drug to take away the pain of real life. The unique thing about my preparation for this role was that I put my life in order first. How different my career might have been if I had understood this lesson when I was 20, but I am so very grateful to have learned it now.
A company I will hold in my heart forever.
     The play itself was a joy from start to finish. Part of that is due to the changes in me, but a large part of it is because of the beautiful script and the wonderfully talented group of artists who came together to make the play happen. I'm not going to call them out individually because there is no way I could do everyone justice. But I have to say that Bo List's adaptation of Mrs Shelley's story is a terrific ride, for the actors and the audience. The role of The Creature is a masterpiece. The chance to play a character from infancy to adulthood, climbing through each level of physical, mental, and spiritual development toward a final, magnificent epiphany... it is an actor's dream. I will always be grateful to Bo for endowing his "monster" with so gigantic, terrifying, and tender a soul.
     You know, it's funny: I always wanted to be a great Shakespearian actor. I wanted to be remembered as Prospero or Lear. And I don't think I stunk in those parts. But at one point during the run, someone told me that in a strange and wonderful way... I just may have been born to play Frankenstein's monster. There was a time when I would have been insulted to hear that. I'm glad I've lived long enough to be proud instead. And I can't wait to see what the Theatre has in store for me next.


  1. I am thrilled to read this, and only wish I could have been there to see the production. I don't really have the right to be proud of you, since our acquaintance is of the slightest, but still, I am somehow.

    1. Melissa, thank you for your kindness. And I am honored by your pride. You have inspired me more than you could know.