Monthly Archives: January 2014

A Tale of Two Motor Cars and a Lot of Places to Stay

Once upon a time when the world was young, there was a beautiful small green car. It was built in 1961 when I was five years old. And I bought it from a fellow-student—his aunt actually—when I graduated college.

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“This was owned by a little old lady who kept it in a garage and used it once a week to go to the shops.” said my friend Jeff when I dropped in on him in the Yorkshire Dales on my way north.

“How did you know?”

“There’s no other possible explanation.” he said.

Together, the little green car and I went all over Britain. Delivered by ‘Molly’ as I called her, I stayed in youth hostels, once in gymnasium with a dozen other actors on June 21st at the St. Magnus Festival, and once in a monastery on the Isle of Iona. I loved that car and felt as though I was born to drive her. She was a Wolseley 1500. They don’t make them any more.

And once … I left London for Birmingham to play Herbert Pocket in Great Expectations,  and Molly broke down somewhere on the M1 motorway. Towed by emergency services I arrived seven hours later at midnight at the residence of Mrs. Madge Morose. She was a theatrical landlady straight from central casting. Sitting in her bed surrounded by enough medication to sink a chemist, she directed me up unlit stairs to a dark room with damp nylon sheets on the lumpy bed. Her appropriately Dickension house came complete with a name over the door:

Dunroamin’

“Er, no.” I told myself.

And when Robin, the senior actor in the company and veteran of many tours, said at rehearsal the next morning, “How are your digs? Mine are pretty bloody!”

I knew I had to find a better place to sleep. Since then …

Hotels, motels, hostels, spare rooms with and without en suite, on sofas, in attics, lofts, and raw spaces. In borrowed houses, in bed & breakfasts, on a 16th floor balcony open to the air. On a beach, on a hillside. On planes, trains, and the back of rental cars, on a ship. In a palazzo, in corporate apartments, and in friends’ ones with and without views. In a chalet, in a shed, in funky studios covered with Clematis. In a room with African masks full of presence. All alone in a town house worth $10 million for just one night, and also for just one night on the marble floor of the Boston South Station bus terminal, the quality of sleep not dissimilar in these last two venues?!

But not till now …

Me and my purple shirt (see November ’13 entry) are back in South Florida. In Miami actually, at The Actor’s Playhouse where I’ve never worked before. As with every theatre there’s a story. They’ve just closed a play called ‘Making God Laugh’. I mention it here because I knew three of the five actors in the show, and now that I’ve seen it, I know them all. This was a production which achieved a unity of style in the splendid acting, the delicious design, and the expert direction, in such a way that sitting there as an actor watching … well … I remembered why we do it. I forget sometimes.

I’ve said it before in these pages, a theatre, any theatre is a triumph of the improbable over the impossible.

The show we’re currently rehearsing is “End of the Rainbow” it’s about Judy Garland’s last comeback. The script is by turns poignant, funny, tragic; a tribute to one of the great talents of the 20th century. The extraordinary Kathy St. George is Judy. It is a role she was born to play. I am excited to share a stage with her.

Dave Arisco directs. A remarkably good natured and enthusiastic man. To the extent that if you’re called late to rehearsal you’re minded to go in early so as not to miss any of the jokes.

Here’s a candid from the rehearsal room.

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Dave is 6’4″, Kathy is 4’11”, I think they do a great double act.

But I digress.

What I really wanted to mention was this:

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You see before you a four bedroom house circa 1960 set amidst a couple of lush acres. There are two wings with two bedrooms in each, there’s a huge kitchen with state of the art equipment (1960). And the lounge and the hall and the sitting room each have a piano. Which is useful, I’ll say why later. At the time of writing I am the only occupant, if you transit Miami, Florida before February 9th consider yourself invited.

And you should see the back. There’s a large patio, the sort of place where you could write The Great American Paragraph. There’s a tennis court under the pines. There’s a rockery and shaped swimming pool. It would be an ideal location for an infomercial about the untold millions you can make by flipping real estate. I can’t show it to you yet because the pool has been drained for repairs and it doesn’t look pretty—maybe next month.

This sort of exotic theatrical digs goes a long way to ease the trials of the road. Previous details when arriving in actor housing have included; a bath with no plug, a water filter with no filter, and a bottle of wine with no corkscrew. And we won’t mention the dead mice, the empty beer bottles, the colonies of ants. None of these inconveniences applies in this case.

And even if not 100% of the lights are working, it doesn’t matter because …

Now let’s talk about this:

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That, ladies and gentlemen is a red Lexus. For my time on this show, I am driving it.

There’s not much to say except that it’s a cherry on the cupcake of the gig. It’s a piquant morsel from life’s smorgasbord. It’s a … you get the idea.

There are ascetic types (somewhere), who’ll tell you that the trappings of wealth and luxury are not the source of true happiness. I’ll tell you what, It works for me!

Another car I was born to drive.

Happy New Year!