Here ye he – if you arrrrghhhh reading this, you probably know I’m in Indianapolis working on the Midwest premiere of Treasure Island, an original musical based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. I had the huge honor of originating Jim Hawkins a little over a year ago at the Fulton Opera House, and the show’s creators, Marc Robin and Curt Dale Clark, were kind enough to ask me back for round two. So here I am in Indy, gloves on and ready to rumble… pirate style.
Being a creative genius, I have decided to do the most original thing ever: blog about our show!!! And since life as a cabin boy can get pretty exciting, if the action here gets to intense, you can check out Joe Jackson’s (original Mr. Joyce, Victor Wolf, Fight Captain) brilliant story of his experience with our world premiere, and Eddie Curry’s (Blind Pew / Israel Hands / Ben Gunn) current tale of his experience on board the Hispaniola.
So away we go with… Treasure Island! Oh, by the way, all my current blogging rules still apply. And please accept the judicious sailing/pirate/treasure references – this is after all an adventure of a lifetime! So let me bring you up to speed. It’s already Tuesday (where has the time gone?)… here’s what life has been like aboard the Hispaniola…
On Friday, March 27, I cast away for Indianapolis, the distant village far from life’s troubles in New York City. I couldn’t be more excited to get back to work on this project, but at the same time leaving is always bitter sweet. For one thing, I have a ton of friends that I will miss dearly. The life of an actor is crazy that way; we tend to run in the same circles and it always seems like someone special is just getting back from a gig, or just leaving for one. It’s a hard life of glamour and fame, but what can I say, we persevereJ.
This opportunity couldn’t come at a better time, actually. New York is swarming with what seems like more unemployed actors than ever and it will be nice to “leave the game” for just a little bit; it’s really a vacation of sorts. Plus, this show is a huge deal for me, both personally and professionally. How often do you get to originate a leading role in a brand new musical close to both your hometown and where you went to college? Nearly everyone close to me will have the opportunity to see our wonderful show; I get to work with the most amazing people and the producers are signing me to an Equity contract.
My flight got into the beautiful, brand new Indianapolis airport in early evening and I spent what was left of the day settling into my cozy apartment and going over material.
Saturday was our first rehearsal, which, by the way, was a crazy experience, as most first rehearsals are. Think of it as the first day on the job, except there is .0002 seconds to get acquainted with what is actually going on. That’s actually one thing that is so cool about being an actor; without any hesitation we dive head first into our art. We learned that we would be learning all the music to Treasure Island on Saturday, staging act one on Sunday, and staging act two on Monday. Let me clarify – we learned the ENTIRE show in three days. Pretty awesome if you ask me, and this is brand new material to most of our cast. At least I had the advantage of doing the show once before. Of course we were up to the challenge, and as of this writing, the entire show has been staged!
One of the cool things about working on a premiere is that you really get to stamp your take on a character. Good actors strive for their most truthful take on any character they play, but as our business would have it, we are often fitted into a mold of sorts, even if the form doesn’t quite fit. For example, every Glinda has mirrored, in some basic form, the stamp that Kristen Chenoweth tagged on that role. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it is an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling artistic experience to play Glinda, but nevertheless, that is a role that Kristen created and every Glinda thus far has been cast for their ability to bring a little bit of K-Chen to it.
A premiere is different. With a premiere there is no mold to go off of. This is no holds bar, anything goes. While this can be frightening territory for some, I love it! Room to explore is beyond ample, and it is great to see how one actor’s choice can become ingrained in the life of a show. In some weird way it’s like you have achieved theatrical immortality. This is clearly evident to me through my journey with Treasure Island – many good things that happened in our Lancaster debut have been written into our Indianapolis script. And I’ll admit, it’s kind of cool to read a script and think to yourself, “They wrote my ad-lib into the show!”
That being said, a significant portion of material has changed for this production. Marc and Curt want to leave no doubt in the audience’s mind that this is no children’s show, and they have taken several big steps to accomplish this including villanizing Long John Silver and reworking the first segment of exposition. It has been really cool to see Treasure Island brought to life in a new capacity, and our venue at Beef and Boards is much more intimate than Fulton. I think this, in and of itself, will help keep us honest in our story telling; the audience is right there and we can suck them into our tale.
Anyways, I need to go over some lines, plus Season 2 of The Battery’s Down premieres tonight… so I’ll report back with some juicy pirate gossip later. Maybe I’ll even post a video blog… who knows!
Keep it real folks, till next time. ARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHH!