Sunday, November 22, 2009

'Audiences and Tennessee Williams'

So, the show opened on Tuesday, November 17, 2009, to a small audience, (but enthusiastic) and went off without a glitch. (Well, there were a few, but not with the show itself.) Wednesday was a smaller audience, but the show was even better. I'm getting so I can gauge when the show is strong, and whether there are three people of eighty people, I try to give an energetic performance. The show, is reaching a maturity as the shows are consistently without errors, which is a great sign. The difficulty of doing a show in a town you have not spent much time in, however, with a cast member of one, a technical director, and a house manager is pretty difficult. The show is meant to operate on a minimal of people, and I have accomplished that, however, usually, with a large cast show, everyone involved with the show, (actors, technical support, costuming, set and lighting design, not to mention the director) bring all their friends and family, so you can see the difficulty with an ensuing audience for a one person show. I never get discouraged though, I believe in this show, and its ability to create a buzz. It will, however, be difficult to do, because before I can create that buzz, I have to get 'someone' in the audience.

There was a reviewer in the audience on opening night, (The Austin Examiner), and from what I understand from Ken, (the artistic director of the theatre I'm in), he really liked the show. A review, however, still has not been posted. The Austin Chronicle is coming on Tuesday, (which is an important one), but it will still take another week for that one to come out. Reviews help with a one person show. Austin is a very competitive town in terms of entertainment, there must be three hundred venues of live music, which Austin is known for. Last night, Rustin and I went to see James McMurtry, (son of Larry who wrote 'Lonesome Dove' and 'The Last Picture Show') and I have to say, he was amazing in his own right. He is a great songwriter and musician. In Austin, as a musician, it is a reason to be inspired or depressed, (depending on how you receive it) but musically, the bar is very high. When you open the paper here to look at the music for any particular night, its remarkable what you find. Names of musicians you may have read about and listened to in the bar down the street. As for theatre, it exists in abundance here as well, but most of the really good companies have been cultivating audiences for years.

The glitches have mainly been with some miscommunication with the artistic director, (who was in New York when I opened), and being in a situation where another show is playing in the theatre at the same time I am. So, I've had to create a set within a set, which is working but not without some repercussions. Anyway, without going into detail, as of Friday, I had closed the show and was looking for another venue. With some very quick arbitration from Marie Hills, (the producer of the show) the mis-cues where solved and so the show continues. As you read this, you might be thinking 'Oh My God!' and trust me, I was saying the same thing at the time. Still, after a day and some negotiation, the show continues and 'I think' everyone is finally happy. I'll write more about this in retrospect, later, for now, however, it is still cooling down
and 'settling'.

All I can say for now, is that I totally understand how it happened, and it came from some mistrust, (simply not knowing people) which can easily happen in a highly charged environment, and dealing with artists who have lots riding on each performance. More on that later... there were a couple of days, however, that were as intense as anything I've encountered in quite awhile.

During those days, luckily, I had a book of memoirs of Tennessee Williams that I had just started reading. Now, I'm no Tennessee Williams, but after reading most of the book, it did make some sense how he ended up in the hospital, (don't worry, I'm not even close) and how the sixties became his 'stoned age'. Shows opening and closing in four days, (after weeks of rehearsing, not to mention the anguish and time it took to write the play). Critics, who eventually turned on him, and tore into him with a vengeance, (were probably tired of so much of his success). Most of us remember Tennessee Williams for 'The Glass Menagerie', 'Street Car Named Desire', and his most successful play, 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof'. But, for the successes, there were probably more failures. Although his plays brought him a great wealth, when it came to 'living a life', he had difficulty no matter the money or the geometry, (he traveled world wide in attempt to quell his sensitivity). I read in another book by Harold Clurman, "that a successful play in the theatre happens by accident..." (there is more to this, but that is the gist). I thought the book, (Tennessee Williams) was pretty self-indulgent at times, okay, most of the time, but it was still an interesting look into a playwright's life. And, ironically, it paralleled much of what I was feeling, (on a much, much smaller scale).

Okay, time to get to the theatre and do a show, (I thought it was 3:30p, but its almost 4:30p, I'm late. More later....


Gerry said...

I feel that you know the hazards of building an audience, especially for a cast of one or two, but sounds like you are accomplishing your main purpose in going to Austin which was to become familiar with what the city has to challenge you with and to run it long enough to get very comfortable in the role and be able to give it your best. Then I think that when you come back and try just one night performances in smaller places, you will be that much surer of your material. And you will be ready to try to make money with it among audiences that might know something about the story which would be Utah. You might even be ready to bring it to Phoenix where you have lived so many years. Austin without even relatives and friends and people who have heard about you to support you might turn out to be a tough place to attract an audience but I know you willnot let that discourage you, because there is always a chance to learn from any run. I knew you would take the hardships in your stride because you had years of experience dealing with theater hardships.

LaRena said...

Glad you got busy and did a blog for us. It gives a clearer vison of what you are up against in a town like Austin. Not only don't they know you but the competition is fierce. If you can handle Aistin you can handle anything. You and baby will look back on it as a terrifically courageous thing to do. Good for you. said...

Maybe when you leave Austin, you will be ready to do a show in Phoenix where many people know and love you...what about that???? I do admire your nerve to take a show to a strange place and 'work it out'. I bow to your determination! I'm glad you have Baby there to share a hot dog for Thanksgiving. I'll be thinking of you.