Casting Call forGreta

We also have governance by denial.

Only when the last tree has died, the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught, will we realize that we cannot eat money.” Attributed Native American saying.

What is this frustrated-green-rant doing in a blog about acting? – Scroll down for answer.

Greta Thunberg – the heroine of our times

The solutions are there

The Biggest Little Farm They brought the soil back to life

Wilding This is a technically dense account of returning the land to nature

The Man Who Planted Trees A novel by Jean Giono

Australia is burning, the oceans are dying, the ice is melting, plastic particles too small to see clog soil, water and now air, earlier this year California was up in smoke as was the Amazon.

What will it take for those who govern to wake up? What do oil and coal execs imagine, that they will be living in just the right places unaffected by the coming catastrophe?

It would be good if there was an outbreak of responsible action amongst those in power, because recycling our plastic packaging at home is probably not going to do it.

And why does some actor that you’ve never heard of post a splenetic piece like this?

Well I bet you a dollar that the honchos who run Hollywood are even now considering who will play Greta Thunberg in the movie. Maybe I could play some 70s/80s/90s/2000s politician who knew but did nothing…

And the movie will gross what it does and the planet will continue to turn and the Sun to rise. But will anyone in power do anything meaningful…?

Nicely Busy

That young actress Patricia Conolly is back on Broadway, she gave her first performance as Mrs Debose yesterday in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD with the new cast at the Shubert Theatre with Ed Harris now playing Atticus Finch. Tickets are available at mind-numbing Broadway rates.

I haven’t seen the show yet, but judging by the audience response as I heard the last few lines of the play from the stage door, it sounds as if the price of admission might be justified. Understand that I say this as one whose first theatre-going set me back about 30 pence (50 cents), not the mortgage it takes today.

Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, or as we say here in NYC, Off-Broadway, I am rehearsing LONDON ASSURANCE at The Irish Rep. I’m playing Sir Harcourt Courtly a character descended from a long line of fops. There’s a puff piece here where you’ll also see a picture of the wonderful Rachel Pickup playing the unforgettably-named, Lady Gay Spanker.

That’s Simon Russell Beale in the 2010 National Theatre production.

Sir Harcourt Courtly has been personated by such giants of the stage as Donald Sinden in the legendary 1970, West End and Broadway production, and Brian Bedford 1997, Broadway and Stratford Ontario 2006.

I worked with Brian Bedford twice. He was a master at light comedy. One time I backed him into a corner and asked him to tell me his secrets, “Brian!” I said, “How do you do it!?! I have to know!” Brian gave it a little thought in that slightly puzzled quizzical manner which was one of his comic modes and finally said, modestly, “Well I don’t really know.” He did know of course, but in common with others of unusual ability, he knew it wasn’t a thing to be discussed. Why? Because that’s not what it’s for. And nothing lets the steam out of the bottle before the soufflé rises so surely as casual talk – so I had to be satisfied by just watching him. Which I did. But if Brian wishes to whisper any tips to me now that he’s playing the great stages in the sky, he’s more than welcome.

Tix at the Rep will set you back a manageable amount and they are available here. It’s a holiday show. We open December and play through January and I hear there’s a nice advance, so please book soon if you plan to come.

A big shout out to two colleagues of Irish Rep fame, Mick Mellamphy and Tim Ruddy, two of the lads who were also in THE SEAFARER with me, Andy Murray and Matthew Broderick at The Rep a couple of years back.

Matthew Broderick and Andy Murray in The Seafarer at the Irish Rep 2017

Mick performs and Tim directs THE CURE, tix here, and for the price of a couple of pints. It’s bare bones, storytelling magic at its best. Mick turns in a virtuoso performance with nothing much behind him in terms of set. Doesn’t matter, not needed.

He takes you to Cork and back.

Even Actors go on Holiday

Before we left we noticed that everyone we told we were going to Barcelona had something to say along the lines of: “Oh, it’s great, you’ll love it.” And now we can say that too.

There’s the oddly named Hotel REC, which I wholeheartedly recommend, is situated close by the Arc de Triomf. The entire staff is extra friendly and helpful, and the cool design of the building on an oddly shaped footprint includes a roof terrace with views over the old part of the city.

We did the Gaudi Basillica of course, we did the Picasso museum,  which inspired a self-portrait.

We strolled in the parks and the wide tree-lined boulevards. One evening we went to the beach when I ordered a dish of langoustine, a challenging gastronomic adventure.

There was a seaside moment, this was L’escala. Could have stayed longer. Next time.

 

And a hotel we didn’t stay at with this perfect Romeo and Juliet balcony but, alas, too many flights of stairs, no elevator…

… and a hotel we did stay at:

And we took the occasional mysterious alleyway

We went to the confusingly named “City Hall” – which is neither a hall, nor in the least any kind of civic centre. It is in fact a tired old theatre reminiscent of some of the gloomier London fringe venues or some off-off Broadway space. There was long dimly lit corridor and starts to a basement. It was lit with very low level red-light and some sort of automatic, dancing follow spot and some pretty average sangria was included in the price of admission.

We were there to see “Authentic Flamenco”, and from the surroundings we did not expect much. But then…
The show lasted about an hour. Four men, two women including one guitarist. The other three men each sang, one danced, and everyone supplied percussive accompaniment with syncopated hand-clapping. They began slowly and softly, but then each of the dancers took a solo turn.
It was spectacular. Physically the dancing included gymnastics, ballet, tap, tango, and sculpture.
But emotionally… sudden flares of passion, equally sudden moments of poise and stillness. Contrasting and instant states of fierce pride, disdain, seduction, invitation, flirtation, challenge, devotion.
It was enthralling, hard to believe that human beings can move like that.
Oh and before all that we were sequestered for a week in an ancient villa in the hills where there was a terrace with views and a gathering of astrologers. More here.

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A Prince Among Men

They will dim the lights on Broadway in honor of the passing of Hal Prince. Mr. Prince’s many achievements and his collection of honors will be well documented in many publications, and there will be tributes of all kinds in all media, to which I add my own small and oblique one here.

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I never met Mr. Prince, but I knew him to be an extraordinary man of theatre, outstanding in his courtesy. I’ll tell you why.

Because he wrote back to me.

No fewer than three times.

Each time by return of post.

When I arrived in New York in 1999, I put up a one-man show in an off-off-Broadway space in the upper 50s on 8th Avenue.

Naturally I sent mailing pieces to as many industry professionals as I could find addresses for, while developing a monologue with which I hustled the discount seekers in Times Square in the manner of one of the too-many performers at the Edinburgh Festival. An excerpt would be:

“Nicole Kidman naked live onstage! – Not in this show, but it’s a matter of global importance that you see it tonight!”

Among the many postage stamps in which I invested, one was fixed to a postcard addressed to Mr. Prince whom I knew by reputation of course. He knew me not at all, not enough to distinguish me from a bar of soap.

Hal Prince wrote a personal card back. By return of post. Let me say that again.

By return of post.

He regretted not being able to see the show and he wished me well with it. This exercise was repeated three times. Each time, I confidently expected that he would file my postcards in the bin and ignore them. But no, each time a personal hand-written message came back with a polite regret and an explanation of his other commitments.

It’s difficult to convey how extraordinary this is. And what an outstanding example of good manners way beyond usual practice in theatre circles. For example:

When I graduated from the Central School in Britain some time back in the last millennium I wrote to each of the 120 repertory theatres in the country (of which about 30 remain). I filed their word-processed rote-replies under F.O.A.D.

I wrote to the head of casting at the RSC once a week for two years, eventually I was granted a general interview (not an audition, that never came), where the opening gambit was, “Now, have you written to me?”

How to describe this astonishing attention to detail from a man well known to be a workaholic and one of the giants of the business? And which, by the way was hugely encouraging to a struggling actor trying to come to notice.

I think the phrase I want is: noblesse oblige

When the Ink is dry…

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Ink on Broadway, closes today.

Ink by James Graham, directed by Rupert Goold, has been an extraordinary experience. Not only because of the quality of the show itself, but also because of the unusually harmonious conditions backstage. I take the view that theatre people are good to live amongst and work with. We are mostly adaptable, flexible, responsive. The hunter-gatherer mode which any freelancer must come to terms with tends to dispose us that way.

When the Maharishi turned the Beatles on to transcendental meditation in 1967 (two years before Ink is set), he told the world that if 2% of the population practiced meditation, the crime rate would decline.

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Our micro-society backstage at the Friedman Theatre, including the actors and technicians, comprises about 30 people. Of whom at least 6 are practitioners. The company also includes a couple of astrologers, a human-design aficionado, several martial artists, a few who espouse clean diet to a high degree, and, being New York, one can safely assume that many people have ventured into the nether world of psychotherapy.

In the micro-society that is the immediate performing company front of house, on, and backstage, we number approximately a 20% quota of woo-woo adjacent practitioners — in the wider context, including the creative team from London, and the hosting Manhattan Theatre Club, that percentage is perhaps somewhere between 4% and 8%.

My question then is; is this significant percentage of growth-path and metaphysical-awareness activity, in some way connected to the atmospheres in which we’ve been working? And my answer would be a tentative “Yes, I think so…”

I say tentative, because in these times when scientism demands empirical proof over common sense, a rush to certainty in what can be loosely termed questions of the woo-woo, is a mistake.

But say then… speculate with me… let us suppose that inner practice of the kind that has demonstrated outer benefits, has in this case at least helped to create conditions that facilitate agreeably civilized behavior and high quality creative work… all very well, but there is another necessary ingredient in the mix without which even the finest influences can dissipate.

That quality is leadership.

And here I begin a fan letter. Barclay Siff, our stage manager, has helmed the running of the show with an extra-dry-late-nite-radio-show confidence that puts his calls over the p.a. system into a deliciously unique category; his assistants, Kelly Levy and Kyle Birdsall, have been consistently cheerfully supportive and beautifully competent. One has felt at all times in expert hands.

And what can I say of my mates in dressing room X? We are 6 in number, between us we run the range of, at one end, coming young star-to-be, to seasoned old theatre-salt. there has been lively debate among us, and we have, I frankly admit, flirted with the behaviors  and dialogues of a mens’-only smoking room, or do I mean tree-hugging drum-circle? We are fortunate in that we energetically intersect like the bricks of a Jenga stack, to the extent that I believe if castaway on a dessert island, most of us, perhaps all, (certainly so if we could replicate the ephemeral liquor cabinet to which we all contributed), would survive. Gentlemen, it’s been an honor to serve with you.

I could name each person in each department but then this post would become a book. To summarize: From the originating creatives of the project, Rupert Goold the director, and James Graham the writer, I’ve no idea if these guys are neo-Buddhists or some such, but they led in the most relaxed fashion while achieving detailed results; to the good cheer in the wig room, the detailed expertise of the dressers, the humor in the props hand-off, the friendly muscle of the crew and the welcome at the stage door. All this and more…

And special praise to our two co-stars, Bertie Carvel, and Jonny Lee Miller.

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These boys have exemplified co-operation and camaraderie in a way that has unified the company – it’s no small thing to say that. When ego, red-in-tooth-and-claw takes centre stage, as can sometimes happen in theatrical companies (what a surprise?!?), then it’s every man or woman for themselves and good luck if you happen to well downstage searching for light. But when a couple of mature and disciplined performers can negotiate the demands of the job it sure makes a difference.

In summary: when there’s an emotional texture of possibility, then each person’s individuality can flourish. As I perceive it, each of us in this company in whatever job, has had the opportunity to occupy their particular niche in very agreeable conditions.

Which is a long way of saying: as we witness the moves to tyranny out there and all over the place. I suggest that regular practice of meditation, kung-fu, contemplative baking, introspective water-coloring, or any genuine right-brain method; is as valuable a political act as voting.

Oh, and the other thing that happened was that we had a singular visitor backstage one night:

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Who’s that geezer with the glasses standing next to me?

This Just In…

Reading reviews of plays that you are in is a right dodgy thing to do.

It’s well known that a review that disses a performance is uninformed, uneducated, uncultured, while reviews that praise your work are enlightened, elevated, exquisite.

Either type are equally hazardous to read and (in my opinion) to be avoided until after the show has closed. Why so? Because a comment in print too-easily morphs into a voice on your shoulder during performance, and it doesn’t help. You don’t need it.

Therefore I publish here the following redacted document which may or may not be a summary of reviews of INK (my lips are sealed, I admit nothing):

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What I will say is that I, and the entire company, are completely exonerated.

Meanwhile to satisfy the curious here is my own non-disclosing-non-spoiler review: INK is a damn fine play. It is a work of cunning device, appearing on first look deceptively simple. The form of the production mirrors the tabloid format of the paper in question and the hero’s quest encapsulated in the will-they-won’t they task set out in the early scenes, messes with the audience’s head in that it makes you root for one of the global media-meisters of pop journalism.

Among the many amusing ingredients in the show, is the character of Diana (brilliantly played by Erin Neufer) the astrologer, and the use of the Sun-sign column to influence the boss.

Astrology isn’t everyone’s cup of lemon-juice, but if you’re interested, take a look here for my two-astro-cents on Rupert Murdoch and the planets in the case.

STOP PRESS!

April 1st 2019 — mcphillamy actorblog still ABSOLUTELY FREE!!!

INK will tour to MARS

Solar system debut now confirmed!

 “Terrestrial culture important on inner planets,” says congressperson in funding debate.

Aliens give hour-long standing ovation! Win a one-way ticket to Jupiter! Your postcard from Mercury — no-risk delivery ABSOLUTELY FREE!!! 

Plus: Special feature how to date a Venusian (and live)!

Catch INK while still local!!!

1st Preview tomorrow 04/02/19 Friedman Theatre West 47th St, NYC, USA, EARTH.

 And Much Much More! All in INK! 1St preview tomorrow!!!