When the Ink is dry…


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.

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.

Johnny Lee Miller as Larry Lamb (editor of The Sun) and Bertie Carvel as Rupert Murdoch (aka – in some circles – The Dirty Digger).

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, initials; R. M.


12 replies on “When the Ink is dry…”

What a wonderful experience you contributed to and were a part of and benefited from….I’m so happy for you. And very much wish I could have seen you and it and all! Much love Colin. I miss you and yours. Beth

Loved the show, loved the writing, staging and direction .AND acting. Sadly I saw it in London and missed your performance. But how amazing that Rupert himself came!! Glad you had fun Colin!! JOxxx

Nice gig, Col. You might well be right (about woo woo), but it could be simpler. I’ve always believed that one of the greatest aspects of our experience as actors (especially in the context of a large company) is working with people of all ages, from the kids to the “old salts”, as you so piquantly put it. I can’t think of another endeavour where twenty-somethings and eighty-somethings can work as colleagues without being separated by a formal hierarchy. It’s one of the true gifts of our business and, I think, it’s this inter-generational mix that makes the communal dressing room such a crucible of intellectual, cultural and, yes, even spiritual reaction. By the way, how stoked was Rupe to find another US/Anglo/Aussie in da house? Enjoyed the post, as always.

Yours ever,

Yes, completely agree with all that. And the mix goes wide socially as well as up and down age-wise. So… we’re both right?! Must find a way to liaise at a green baize table where they serve sherbet before the decade is quite over…

So glad to hear you had such a wonderful experience! xxH

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