Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Story of Jacob and The Dog

Even this blog post has backstory.

So, I felt like I needed to post SOMETHING. Please note, I'm still reeling from Kidstuf and there's a chance that I'll talk about it more at a later date. But, this weekend is very high stress for me, so we'll just have to see when that happens. Just know that when I post about it, it's probably not a good thing. Also, Hamlet starts next week, so I'll have stuff to talk about.

But, until then, here's this story. Redd, at one point asked for some Embarrassing or Awesome stories for the Shakespeare Tavern blog. The only one that I could think of was this story from my time at Double JJ. She never ended up doing the blog post, but my tale was so very long, I figured I'd use it. So, enjoy. PLEASE NOTE - Some language used is not suitable for children. Kidstuf fans - Please avert your eyes.

I was at the Double JJ Ranch and Resort for one summer where I worked on staff as "Entertainment". That title covered a lot of ground, from setting up the mechanical bull to working on a rifle and bow range to performance. Even the performance was varied. Throughout the week, we would perform in stunt shows, a children's theatre piece, an improv show, and a country and rock musical revue (I know, right? I still know all the words to "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)"). But, since our entertainment managers were former (Current again? Nice! Go check out Jason Leyva's website, especially if you're in Oklahoma.) theatre people themselves, they also had, during the summer, a legit theatre day. It was performed in one of the several bars on property called "The Silver Dollar". They tended toward longer one-acts, so that one week, we could have James McLure's "Laundry and Bourbon" or "Lone Star", another "Jack and Jill" by Jane Martin. It was an odd collection, and once a play was out of the rehearsal phase, they would toss it on the schedule on occasion, just to keep it sharp.

I tell you all this to set the background for my one moment of glory(?). One of the reasons I came to Double JJ was to do Albee's "The Zoo Story". It's a seminal play in Albee's career, and just a great piece of work for two men. The other actor, Matt Waldrep, and myself took turns on occasion. One day he'd be Peter and I'd be Jerry and vice versa. On this particular day, I'd be playing Jerry, the guy who carries the lion's share of the text. It had been a bit before we had put it up, and recently I had been playing Peter, so I wasn't as solid as I could have been on the lines. I spent all day going over it, trying to make sure it was in there. By the time I got to The Silver Dollar, the emotion I felt was very similar to going on as an understudy during my apprenticeship here. Sort of unprepared, but excited for the challenge. But unprepared. Did I mention that?

When I got on stage, things were going alright...they ticked along just fine for a bit, but something began to stick in my head. Someone had a dog in their car outside. And he was barking. Loudly. And constantly. Now, we're talking about a play that clocks in at around 45 - 50 minutes. Not too long of a time, but imagine a dog barking through that. Seriously imagine it. The longer the dog barked, the more my performance began to suffer. This was when I was a far less disciplined actor than the rock of consistency that you know and love, so I was really letting this dog get to me. It got even worse when I got to the largest section of Jerry's text, fittingly enough entitled, "The Story of Jerry and the Dog." The dog outside just started getting more and more insistent, louder, and my monologue began to get more incomprehensible. Finally, I broke down to the point where I stopped, mid-line, and yelled, "Will someone PLEASE shut that f***ing dog up!" I took a quick breath and continued on with the remainder of the line.

After my outburst, I saw one guy look back to the door, slowly sidle outside, and the dog stopped barking. I finished the rest of the show without incident, but it was the first time I had ever dropped character like that in front of an audience. NOT something I intend to do again, but, man...I gotta admit, it was liberating.

So...there it is. The story of Jacob and the Dog.

If you ever need someone who has done absurdist theatre on a ranch, you give me a call.

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