Some time ago actor Rick Pearlstein asked fellow actors and directors on Facebook to pick the favorite five plays they’ve been involved with. The responses were many and fun to read. I asked two local theater personalities if I could reprint their responses (originally intended for publication in the Weekly Volcano but now appearing here).
Pug Bujeaud has acted and directed more plays than Carter has little liver pills (who’s old enough to remember that?). Christian Carvajal is also an actor and director, and until recently a theater critic. Bujeaud and Carvajal each graciously shared their comments (slightly edited).
|Ryan Holmberg (back) and Dennis Rolly (front) in Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol. Photo Matt Ackerman CrimsonFlick Photo.|
Ten Years ago I directed my first Shakespeare for Theater Artists Olympia. Macbeth. It was the first time I really put my own spin on a concept, WWI never ended and it is modern day. It was a study of what happens to good people living in terrible times. Something I have continued to explore in various shows and writings. I hope to get my hands on this one again someday soon.
Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol was a joy to work on. The script was a find. The cast was full of some of my favorite people who were all working at the top of their game. Ryan Holmberg, Tim Goebel, Chris Cantrell, and Dennis Rolly. The sound design was Matt Ackerman, the first time we actually worked together on something. And Cecelia Sommerville's lighting design was sublime. I was especially proud of the opening moments of that show. OLT didn't know what hit 'em.
I have put Reservoir Dogs on the list. And I am going to have to tap both productions. Because well, I directed them simultaneously, so for me it was one very large show. What I was thinking I ...don't really know. But man what a wild ride. A great study in what actors bring to the table, and how they affect the direction a show takes. Same director different actors totally different shows.
Inherit the Wind was one of the first shows I was in back in High School, I never fell out of love with it. When The Evergreen Playhouse gave me a chance to direct it I jumped on it.
|from left: Tom Sanders, Michael Christopher and Deya Ozburn in MacBeth. Photo by DK Photography.|
So for my final entry on the Five Day Artist Challenge I am going to have to cheat. I gotta have three. I have a three-way tie. Three totally different pieces as my favorite for totally different reasons.
The Weir at The Tacoma Little Theatre was hard, it was frightening, we were swimming upstream for the majority of the rehearsal process. The script is brilliant. It had been on my bucket list for a long time. The final product ... as close to perfection as I can ever hope to come. Just five actors sitting around telling stories and listening to each other. And it was magic, theater at its best. I never got tired of watching them spin their yarns. Special thanks go out to David Wright for saving our collective bacon on that one.
The HEAD! that Wouldn't DIE! with TAO of course. What fun. What a freezing our butts off, what the hell are we doing, lets just jump into the deep end, labor of love. The writing, the music, and the wonderful cast made all of the sleepless nights and near frostbite worth it. Such funny, funny people. And the reception was the frosting on the already tasty cake. So gratifying. Can't wait to do it again in the fall.
Titus Andronicus with Theater Artists Olympia! Titus was a raging blaze of over-the-top, brutal performances. Everyone pushed their comfort zones in commitment to the cause. I am honored that folks trusted me and allowed me to take them to such hard places. I miss this show more than any other. I got to become real friends with a number of people who to this day are some of those closest to my heart. It was an audacious production and boy did that cast embrace it. Special thanks to the amazing Matt Ackerman for scoring the whole thing. I miss it really all the time.
|from left: Robert McConkey, Brian Jansen, David Wright, Ellen Peters and Gabriel McClelland. Photo by DK Photography.|
As some of you may very well have expected, this brings us to Frost/Nixon at Tacoma Little Theatre (January 2011).
I'd been wanting to play Nixon in Peter Morgan's riveting play for several years. In fact, after Don Juan in Chicago, I lobbied to have Keith Eisner direct it in the Midnight Sun. So when I heard some yahoo named Brie Yost was directing it for TLT, I decided to squelch my anxiety about some kid fresh out of PLU helming a show about events that transpired before she was born. I auditioned in a 1960s style suit with my hair slicked back. I didn't perform an actual Nixon monologue, but I may as well have. It was pretty on-the-nose, but frankly, I thought I crushed it.
When I arrived at callbacks, I felt even better about my chances. None of these guys looked anything like Richard Nixon, I thought. I got up on stage, did my scenes, and there was an audible mumble of approval. And then ... friggin' Steve friggin' Tarry took the stage, and my dreams jackknifed clean off the 405. I knew he had the part before he finished his first scene. I was so crushed that when Brie offered me another part in the show, I told her it was too small to justify the drive back and forth from Tumwater. Jerk move, I know, but you can understand my feelings.
Brie called a few days later and asked if I'd play another part, ABC News producer Bob Zelnick, instead. Having rethought my letdown and refusal, I said yes. And so it was that I found myself sharing a stage, and dressing room, with Curtis Beech, Charlie Birdsell, James A. Gilletti, Bob Gossman, Josh Johnson, Brian Lewis, Gabriel McClelland, Paul Neet, Duane Petersen, and the inimitable Mr. Tarry. That's a hell of a lot of talent in one dressing room. It's also a lot of warm, smelly bodies and clothes, so after a week of that I bid a hearty adieu and promoted myself to the much more spacious women's dressing room. Luckily, those actresses were game, so I spent the next two months in the half-dressed company of Sarahann Elizabeth Rickner, Alleena Tribble, and Anjelica Wolf (now McMillan). I can tell you I've never had a better time rehearsing or performing a show in almost four decades on the boards.
Consider: I had a couple of fun scenes to perform, including a comically over-the-top impersonation of Richard Nixon. I got to bitch out David Frost and wear an awesome suit selected by Naarah McDonald. Then I got to sit there and emote with no lines for most of an act—which meant limited memorization! I believe that was the show on which I met Nic Olson, who was stage managing for Brie. I found Brie herself to be knowledgeable, passionate, smart, engaging, and in all respects the perfect ringleader for our merry circus. It was, at least from my point of view, a charmed show. It was how I met ASMs Jess Allan and Sergio Americo Vendetti. I'm looking at the program now and realizing how many wonderful people came together behind the scenes to make that show a success. They were all at the top of their game, and crowds were gracious and responsive in post-show Q&As.
Mostly, though, I remember the undergraduate-style camaraderie. I hadn't felt as joyous in my work since ECU. It brought back all the feelings of being in my HOUSE, the place I was meant to be at the time I was meant to be there, and I saw very clearly how my talents meshed with so many others to form something richer than its parts. Four years later, I still consider most of these people dear friends, even the ones who drifted away on distant orbits. Shortly after Frost/Nixon closed, I was able to propose to Amanda Stevens, so I felt I'd been gifted with a two-month-long bachelor party. I would've done that show for years if it'd been an option. Amanda and I were married in May of 2011, and Brie Yost performed our wedding ceremony.
In the years since, actor Carv has had his ups and downs. As I said previously, I loved doing radio shows at Lakewood Playhouse. Performing 12 Angry Men there was a blast, and I have nothing but good things to say about the cast and experience of Angels in America, Parts 1 and 2 at Olympia Little Theatre—directed by Nic Olson. I directed Steve Tarry as the Great Detective in Sherlock's Last Case at Lakewood Playhouse, and Jess Allan as Susannah in Laughing Stock at OLT. Both shows were wonderfully rewarding experiences for me and, I gather, their fine casts.
I intend to direct The Credeaux Canvas somehow, somewhere, by the end of 2016. I might even self-produce in a found space, with attendance by invitation only. Amanda and I are currently rehearsing Tartuffe for Theater Artists Olympia, a rehearsal process that in some ways reminds me of that of Frost/Nixon. Maybe it's all the corsets. (Note: this was written before Tartuffe was performed. See my review here.)