Acting hasn't been a part of my life for too long, but in the last few years it has been incredibly influential and undeniably eye-opening. As I approach my eleventh production in almost five years, the conversations I've had and the memories I've shared with my theater family have made me realize I don't remember all of my previous productions as well as I had thought. So this blog series seeks to delve deep into the experiences I've had thus far, as few as they may be when compared to those my many people I've acted beside.
For this week's article we'll be looking at my third production, and first ever dramatic performance, in the fragmented, dramatic narrative of the show The Rimers of Eldritch...
Let's Get Dramatic
There is very little that I remember about this production, in all honesty. Even doing a quick search of our local paper - which covers every production - for photos from the set of Rimers returns no results. However I remember I was excited to finally be working in a dramatic piece. I had felt like my comedic performances were solid and reliable, and I was ready to challenge myself with some new.
And wow, was Rimers new. Of my three shows so far, this one had proved to be the most artistic, the one that was written with a message, both grim and somewhat relatable. The plot was centered around a murder in a small town, in which the victim had been viewed as an outsider for so long that when the crime was committed, it was largely swept under the rug. It explored the sort of drama that exists in small, rural townships, drama exacerbated by closed-mindedness and a refusal to acknowledge homegrown repulsiveness.
This show called for a large cast - on par with that of Jack the Ripper - but there were two elements specific to Rimers that made the show extra difficult for the actors.
The Rimers of Eldritch was a play that had a very clear order of events. However, those events were jumbled up, thrown into a salad bowl, tossed around until they were good and mixed, and then presented to the audience. It was a play whose scenes were told in dramatic order, not chronological order, and thus was likely a fair bit confusing for I would guess a large number of our audience. I didn't fully grasp every detail of the show until we were into our dress rehearsals, a week before open. As an artist and a creator, I applaud Rimers for its originality and its unconventional delivery - it is still one of the most satisfying shows I've been in because the way it delivers its fragmented narrative is truly masterful. However, as an actor, it was difficult to really get into the mind of my character as I was trying to parse out which scene - chronologically speaking - followed which other scene.
I played Walter, a drifter who fades into town, lives and works at the local cafe where he nurses a one-sided relationship with the owner, has a dramatic encounter with the murder victim, Skelly (the only person in town who both noticed Walter's selfish plans and called him out on them), and then fades out of town. He helps initiate the series of events that lead up to the death of Skelly, but has no interest in taking responsibility for any of his actions, instead preferring to depart silently in the night.
As if the fragmentation of the main plot wasn't hard enough on the actors, but the play also featured so many small scenes and such intentionally tumultuous transitions that it required every actor to remain on stage throughout the production, standing or sitting motionless when not performing and ignoring the other, inactive players while they were. This meant, as an actor, you were always on. It created a dark mood among the actors because it denied us the normal, between-scene reprieve afforded to us by most other plays. Instead, other than intermission, we were silent and still like the specter of death that presided over the plot.
Rimers wasn't all doom and gloom. It gave me the opportunity to work with a number of actors I hadn't before. Theresa Volk played Walter's initial infatuation, and she was both fun and professional as I stumbled my way through my lines and blocking. And most notably was my experience acting beside Scott Lucas, who played the role of Skelly Mannor. I could tell from the first read through that Scott was an experienced actor, and a man who could perform at an entirely different level than I.
He and I only shared a single scene together, but that scene resonates in my memory as a pivotal moment in my acting career. It was while we were blocking this scene, and Patrick was directing my response to Skelly shoveling shit onto my shoe, that something clicked in my brain. I suddenly became aware of the scene as I imagined it was intended to be seen - it ceased being lines delivered and actions presented, and instead became a living, breathing moment between two people. Not characters, but actual people.
Live Performance - Early 2014
There isn't much to say about the live performances of The Rimers of Eldritch. We opened, ran two weekends, and closed. When the show was over the cast shared that moment of sadness, of not being together any longer, however feeling was largely overshadowed by the relief everyone felt at no longer standing still on stage for roughly two hours, no longer trying to remain motionless while a shotgun was fired, on stage, less than two feet away, and no longer had to act as someone fighting off a rapist.
The Rimers of Eldritch is a show that I am forever grateful for getting the opportunity to do. It was where I first started as a dramatic actor, and it was a formative experience in which I truly feel like I 'leveled up' in my acting career. But after it was over, I was excited to get back into a comedy. What I didn't expect was a comedy like Blithe Spirit. Which we will delve into during next week's blog post.