Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Bathroom of Higher Education...and Hotnessssss!

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Yes, someone was getting down while doing their business. I was just getting down. Go, white boy! Go, white boy! Go! Go! Go, white boy!

Live Bait: Eat Your Broccoli

This is a story that was meant to be told at the March edition of Live Bait. The theme was “Eat Your Broccoli”. This is the story of how I met Kevin Broccoli…and went to war against him!

I met Kevin back around 2006 when we were both in a production of The Boys Next Door. Immediately, I thought he hated me. I wasn’t sure why he did. Maybe I did something to him in a past life and he had the ability to remember recall this event. More realistically, he might have just been sizing me up. If this was in fact the case, I don’t think he was impressed. Frankly, if I were to go back to 2006 and size myself up, I’d probably go back to “Young Kevin” and agree with him.

Regardless of initial impressions of each other, real or perceived, we got along fine during the production. This was actually my first community theatre show, and Kevin was certainly part of the reason the experience was enjoyable. Once we had gotten to know each other a bit better, our senses of humor seemed to mesh pretty well.

Once the show wrapped up, I really only saw Kevin on occasion. I might run into him downtown in Providence on the street. I might see him when hanging out with other friends, as it turned out we had some friends in common. But mainly, I would see Kevin at auditions. Right after The Boys Next Door was done, we both ended up auditioning for Proof at the Barker Playhouse. It was a bit weird for me, because now here was a guy I just worked with, and now we were both going for the same role. And this wasn’t a show we could both be in. There was only one character we could both appropriately play. I ended up getting the part. Later on, we both auditioned for You Can’t Take It With You. Once again, it was at Barker. Once again, we were both up for the same part. Once again, I ended up getting it. I’m certainly not saying this to toot my own horn. It’s for chronological purposes, and it will supply some reflective material later on.

Flash ahead some years, and I am in my last year of earning my MFA at Rhode Island College. I performed my thesis project entitled Sex, Please, We’re Americans at Perishable Theatre. It’s coming to the summer of 2010, and I am getting my annual messages of Facebook saying “Please vote for me at this year’s Motif awards”. For those playing the home game, Motif magazine holds a theatre awards ceremony every year, usually at this place called The Hi Hat, where suspiciously hats are banned, and you, the readers, choose the winners. I go on the site to vote for people I want to support, and I am surprised to find that my thesis was nominated for “Best New Work”. Also nominated, “The Kevin Broccoli Monologues”. As many people are aware, Kevin writes monologues regularly and puts together shows. If you haven’t seen one, you should. Also, if you have a moment, ask yourself why.

I am working at RIC, and I run into a friend of mine, Jeff. I’m talking to Jeff, and I mention the Motif nomination. Now I’m the one that can prod people to vote for me. To this, Jeff says “Kevin Broccoli said he wants to destroy you at Motif.” I am certain this was the verb to be performed: destroy. Not beat. Not even overtake. Destroy. Jeff also mentions that Kevin claimed we had a “mutual disdain” for each other. This completely confused me. First if this was a mutual thing, wouldn’t I have been in on it? I feel like I’ve missed many opportunities to express disdain because I didn’t know I was supposed to. I was cheated out of hatred.

The day of Motif arrives. I’m there with my girlfriend Jamie. I see Kevin, I say hello. I’m playing it cool. But maybe to cool because I think he’s on to something, but if he is on to something then he is hiding it well because he too is playing it cool. Too cool, perhaps? By now, I have completely engrossed myself in the “why”. Why does Kevin not like me? What did I…what…now wait a minute. It’s Barker, isn’t it? It’s the two shows at Barker that I did instead of him. Kevin, a fantastic writer who is making his mark in Rhode Island Theatre, a man who is becoming recognized by newsletters and local magazines, a man completely in control of his destiny, is holding a grudge because of two community theatre shows. His success is not enough! He should have been Hal! He should have been Tony! He should have paid the $75 in dues! Not me! And now, Kevin is going to exact his revenge! He is going to destroy me and the work I did! To this I say, “I…think…not!” I will not be destroyed. I will be the destroyer. In fact, I will devour every fiber of this man’s being at the Motif awards! I will devour Kevin Broccoli! I will eat…my…Broccoli.

He won. Rightfully so.

Later that summer, we both were in a show together. And during that rehearsal process, I wanted nothing to do with him. I made efforts to at least be polite. I don’t think I was rude during the process. Just quiet. When we get to the run of the show, I have to say something. I ask him where this mutual disdain is coming from.

“That? That was a joke! I was saying that about everyone. Jeff is a moron.” I don’t know if he really called Jeff a moron. But I am. Jeff, you’re a moron. And I love you.

Jeff actually came to our show, to which I told him that he was mistaken. He knew. In fact he knew so well that he in fact played me for a fool. The whole time.

Since then, I would say Kevin and I have a mutual respect for each other. I would say that we get along pretty well, and our regular interactions at Live Bait are some of the best I’ve had with him. And I am certain that he doesn’t hate me. After all, I’ve gotten to perform his monologues.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ignorance is Bliss(fully Like Drugs)

Recently, I had performed in one of Kevin Broccoli’s monologue shows at the 2nd Story Theatre in Warren, RI. This is the second time that I got to perform in one of Kevin’s shows, and the first time proved to be a great theatrical experience for me. What I mean by this is that it isn’t like the run-of-the-mill theatre people expect. The kind of theatre that sort of stereotypes the whole form, and it is fueled by the likes of what Peter Brook would call “Deadly Theatre”. This was the kind of theatre that I could really get behind; it was the kind of theatre that understood what it was and it was true to its “self".

I was excited about the monologue that I had. It was much more substantial than the first one I had performed. It was interesting. It was funny, as well as something I could have fun with. I had a fair amount of time to go over it, and I was feeling good about it. When I got to 2nd Story that evening, I had gotten to see a fair amount of people who I haven’t worked with in a while. One thing that seemed constant about these people was that they were working regularly, and I mean this in a performance sense. They were working regularly in work that seemed interesting and provoking. At the time of this show, I too was part of a production currently in rehearsal. And while I felt good about this production, I felt a bit stifled with all of the other work I have been doing. I don’t know if it had to do with the monotony of the work, or if it was because the work in itself was not pulling in a crowd, but I was in need of a new creative outlet. I needed something creative that would give me a solid kick in the pants. I tried turning towards writing, primarily through a comedy writing course through Second City in Chicago. Unfortunately, that class was now over. And while the class provided a great deal of information and practice, I am not so sure it provided me with the thing I wanted most: the “want” to write. This is probably something that can’t be manufactured, but nevertheless it is still something that I am eager to grasp hold of. It is something I want to not bury in excuses. “It’s been a long day.” “I’m tired.” “I’ll watch a movie instead.”

We have a little less than an hour until the doors open, and I’m seeing the space for the first time. I hadn’t the pleasure of being at 2nd Story before, but it’s one of those theaters in RI that people want to be involved with. It’s generated this certain amount of clout that those in the artistic community want a piece of that pie. I was unaware that the place was in the round, which was certainly interesting. I was also unaware that my particular monologue was part of a dual monologue. I would be performing this alongside another actress named Katie. It’s our turn to get up. Katie and I are on opposite ends of the stage. We are performing monologues about a one night stand we had with each other, each with very different perspectives. Katie goes first. Her monologue is good. It’s solid. The delivery is where it needs to be. I’m feeling the lights trying to melt me from the head down.

I start my monologue, and right away I begin to blank. Why am I blanking? I know this monologue. I know I know this monologue. I take a look at it from off my phone, continue, and I blank again. I take another look, and I continue. More blanks. This is getting absurd. I tell Kevin “I need to sit down and look at this”.
One thing I will give Kevin was that he was as calm as could be. I’ve worked with enough where he thankfully had something he considered faith in me. Meanwhile, I was sweating bullets. Here I was, at a monologue show, and I don’t know my monologue. These shows that Kevin had been doing for a while gained a good rep. I didn’t want to be the guy that tarnished this rep. I didn’t want to be the guy that let the rest of the cast down. I could almost picture myself completely blanking in front of a full house, watching Katie stand uncomfortably as I tried to remember my next line. I didn’t want to be “that guy”.

One thing that I can assure you all of is that one of the biggest rushes one can have is not knowing what you are doing before you have to do it. Not to be confused with being inexperienced. I felt confident in the skills I’ve gained for the stage. I knew this was something I could potentially do. Think of it like a NFL quarterback, at the Super Bowl, and he forgot all of the plays. As I watched the beginning of the show, going over my monologue over and over in my head, I could feel my heart beating in my throat. The anxiety was like nothing else. If it was a drug, I was not only hooked on it, I was hooked, kicking it, going through withdrawal, rehab, and then hooked again. Like one of Lindsay Lohan’s months.

This anxiety kept building and building, all the way through Katie’s monologue. Finally, it was my turn. I took one moment, one moment to make a choice. Somehow, that choice got a laugh, which was good in this case. I started talking, and thankfully, I talked the whole way through. I had one rough patch, where I had switched some stuff around, but everything that had to be there was there. The audience seemed to have enjoyed the piece. My adrenaline slowly went down all the way to intermission. After that, I went over to Katie to congratulate her on a job well done. Then, I went downstairs, got myself a beer, came back up, and had the best “cool-down” I’ve ever experienced.

In one fell swoop, I felt what I needed to feel, both creatively and mentally. Pants thoroughly kicked.