Acting 101

“Take your fucking socks and shove them up your cunt!!!”

Told you I’d tell you this story.

So I get to my first rehearsal after returning to the city from Maine.  The rehearsal period for the show is short.  Two weeks in a rehearsal room, 10 hours of tech and we open.  Fast and furious.  We all knew this going in to the project.

So I arrive and I’m given a spot at the table…this time.  And it’s time for a run of the show.  Before it starts the director gives a little speech about honoring the space and the work being done in it.  I thought it was a little strange but I’d been thinking for  a while that he reeked of a director that had just graduated from State School University Theatre Directing 101.  It’s not that you don’t learn a lot in these schools but there are a lot of exercises that are performed and required that almost everyone who does theater for more than ten minutes thinks are stupid.  And yet every school in the country teaches these.  So he gives his little speech.  Rehearsal starts.

And about three minutes into the rehearsal the director asks the assistant director to quietly give one of the female actors a note as she was standing in the wings to make her entrance.  The AD had taken about two steps when let’s call him David  (My friend the set designer says, “You can’t spell David without Diva.”)  stops rehearsal and begins to shout.  “I thought you just said to honor the rehearsal room and the work that is being done here.  I can’t work with these constant interruptions.  You MUST honor my process blah, blah, blah.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  Was he fucking for real?  I’ve worked with a lot of actor’s.  And most all of them are temperamental.  I get that.  It takes a lot of guts to go on stage in front of thousands of people and do what they do.  I respect that.  What I can’t do, is take them seriously when they start thinking that the show is about them.  I can’t take them seriously when they start to take themselves to seriously.  This guy is supposedly a fucking professional.  He’s been a member of Actor’s Equity since 1989 as his bio states.  (Who cares?  It means you did some stupid show in Peoria that happened to be Equity and you got in).  Is he really saying all of this?

And then I start having conversations about what I saw and it seems this was not the first time.  Nor was it the last.

He stopped rehearsal and threw a pen across the room because it was not the pen that he’d specified.

He refused to wear the shoes that were bought for him because they didn’t ground him.

He refused to wear the next pair of shoes that were bought for him because they pitched him forward.

He refused to wear the next pair of shoes that were  bought for him for some other asinine reason.

He refused to sit in the chair that was provided during rehearsal because it wasn’t the right kind of chair.

There were a series of light flashes that occurred during the show and he insisted that someone yell “FLASHING” before it happened each time.  We only stopped doing this the day we openened.

He plays a Russian and in one scene he drinks tea.  He insisted that he be given real tea, in a china cup to use.  He also researched what Russians put in their tea and then insisted that he be provided jam to be put in said tea.  All of this had to be served on a silver platter.  He also insisted that the cup of tea be covered with a doily offstage until it was served to him.

I was not there when this happened but it seems in the middle of one rehearsal he screamed so inappropriately at one of the interns that she ran crying from the room.

He refused to wear the first two watches that were given to him.

He insisted that his suit be tailored to fit him, even though there was no money to do so.

He refused to be in costume for rehearsal because he felt it would be too hot.

He refused to come on stage because he hadn’t received his proper ten minute call to places.

He refused to wear nylon socks.  He refused to let them static guard his socks.  He bitched because static electricity caused his suit pants to stick to his socks, which could have been alleviated, but…

I’d like to reiterate that the rehearsal process was two weeks plus 1.5 days of tech and then we opened.  The entire budget for costumes, lights, scenery and sound was 4,500 dollars.  This was NOT the big time.  This wasn’t even small time.  This was a summer theater festival.  I kept joking that even Patti Lapone would have been easier to work with.  I also said that until he had 12 Tony’s, an Emmy and four Oscars that he should probably check the attitude at the door.

At some point during all of this it seems the female actors had had enough.  They realized that he’d hijacked the rehearsal process and made it all about him.  One of them said, fuck it and did what she had to do and kept quiet about it.  The other one not so much.  This one is very much an up and coming actor and is cast in the lead in a famous revival next spring on Broadway.  At one point when she’d had enough she turned to him in the room and said, “So David.  What show are you in on Broadway?  What show have you ever been in on Broadway?  Should I mention that I’m going to play ________ in the spring?”  She’s a spitfire.  I also heard that at some point he said that something about feeling the moment with his vagina and the director finally had to ask him to leave the room because she was yelling so loudly.

Needless to say by the time we got to tech we’d all had enough.  I of course hadn’t had to deal with him at all…yet, but I was not about to put up with him.  My motto at the restaurant is “My mother doesn’t yell at me.  I’m sure as hell not going to let you yell at me.”  I say it to the managers and I’ve said it to a couple of guest.  I don’t get yelled at.  Let me repeat…I don’t get yelled at.  Are you reading this Adam?  So in a moment of advance planning I went to the producers and said the following, “I’m well aware of David’s behavior over the last two weeks.  I also know that he’s treated just about everyone he’s come in contact with like shit.  I’d also like you to know that I won’t tolerate it.  If he speaks to me in a tone that is in the slightest out of line or disrespectful, rehearsal will screech to a halt.  I will stop things and I’ll be as publicly disrespectful of him as he has been to me.  I also want you to know that we won’t start the process again until he has apologized to me in front of the entire team.  I want to make sure you don’t take this lightly.  I’m much to old to tolerate this type of infantile behavior.”  They listened and assured me that it would all be fine.  I told them I hoped they were right.

And so tech started.  And the first few hours were fine.  He was difficult to everyone else but not to me.  Of course during this time I realized something.  It seems the only people he yelled and screamed at were girls.  I had a penis so I was pretty safe to say that I was not going to be yelled at.  There was only one time where I thought he was going to say something to me.  I wasn’t aware of it as my friends were but it seems you could see him thinking as to how to handle the situation.  My costume designer friend I was told later, was saying aloud, “Say something, go ahead, say something, say something, go ahead say something.  Let someone finally put you in your place.”  He did not and rehearsal continued.

We got through tech and the show opened.

And you know all of his antics might have been forgiven if he were good.  But he was BAD.  REALLY BAD.  You could see him acting.  With a CAPITAL “A”.  He was creating art.  It was all about the “ART”.  And he blew.  The afternoon before we opened  we were doing a fight call (it’s a quick review of the fight sequences, that are rehearsed to keep everyone safe), when the future Broadway actress came up to me and said, “This is going to take at least 35 minutes.  Because David will make it all about him and need to rehearse and rehearse.”  We conversed a little more and I mentioned that I hated that I could see him acting.  And she replied, “You should never see someone act.  It should be casual and easy.  I should be able to perform my scene with a martini in one hand, a cigarette in the other hand and never, ever sweat.  It’s not that easy of course but it should “seem” that easy.

So it’s closing afternoon.  And my friend the costume designer arrives at the theatre to discover that the laundry has been done but not everything is quite dry yet.  At this point it’s really not her problem.  Just like me, she opens the show and moves on to the next project.  She is made aware of the problem and goes back stage to see if she can help.  She discovers that David’s socks are not dry and so she approaches him to offer a solution and without even taking a moment to acknowledge her,  he screams, “You can take your fucking socks and stick them up your cunt.”  At this point I would have punched him.  I might have gotten arrested but I seriously think I might have punched him.  The CD took a breath and walked out of the room.  It took about five seconds for word to get around about what had happened.

I don’t think anything was ever said to him.  I do know that I was asked for an email documenting what I witnessed.  The information was being compiled to be sent to Actor’s Equity (since 1989) and to his agent.

The theater community is quite small.  And it’s not segregated between the big time and the small time.  Everyone knows everyone.  And unless you are Patti Lapone, don’t assume that your behavior isn’t going to follow you.  I know several people that can’t understand why they don’t work more when in fact it’s because they are difficult to work with.  I suppose it’s the same in most industries.

On a fun note.  The intern the he yelled at and made cry.  She was responsible for cleaning his tea cup and setting it for each show.  For the closing performance she washed his cup out in the toilet before filling it with his tea and placing it on the prop table.

Always, always be careful who you yell at.

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3 thoughts on “Acting 101

  1. Sarah August 11, 2009 / 10:12

    I’m so glad to hear she filed a complaint against that mysoginist.

  2. Urspo August 11, 2009 / 23:29

    Goodness gracious.
    He sort of Kathleen Battle of the theatre. sometimes people need to be shaken like children as they are acting.

  3. Peter August 12, 2009 / 20:03

    I love the way you give us a view behind the curtain, in the theater but also in the restaurant.

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