Last Tuesday, after a day of errands and audition prep, I went to Theatre 80 in the East Village for that week's installment of Naked Angels' Tuesdays at 9. This is a cold reading series (the longest-running in New York, in fact), where new work is workshopped each week with a cast pulled from that week's attendees - some regular members, some brand new, all seeing the words for the very first time that night. A few excerpts of my work have been read there; usually I'm there as an actor. And when I do read, which is sporadic, it's most often small parts or stage directions. (Not a complaint - there's over a hundred people a night in attendance, and the wealth needs to be spread around.)
This evening, however, I was presented with a marvelously juicy and convoluted piece of work. A historical fantasy about Ernest Shackleton, in which I got to portray the personification of the Empire for which Shackleton toiled and suffered - Winston Churchill. Not a part I ever expected to play, and not one which I thought I could play - until I felt the plummy, rumbling baritone coming out of me and thought, okay, maybe I can pull this off.
My friends complemented me, at least, and drank with me after the reading (there's a marvelous old bar attached to Theatre 80 - seriously, you should check it out one of these days). When we were done carousing, I started home, and since I hadn't done so for most of the day, I pulled out my trusty iPhone to check my emails and Twitter feed.
And discovered that American history had changed.
While we'd all been reading, the news had broken that former FBI director James Comey had kept written records and memos of all of his meetings with President Trump. Memos which directly contradicted statements made by the administration, and which supported claims of obstruction of justice. Memos which, once made public, led to the appointment of Robert Mueller as special prosecutor. (Yes, this all happened less than a week ago - keeping up with this stuff is hard.) Which means that, what ever the ultimate end of this adminstration might be, the path to that ending can said to have begun Tuesday night.)
While I was busy playing Winston Churchill.
I've written frequently about the need for artists to confront the times in which they live, and try and exert what influence they can. I've frankly been itching for a fight with this administration, and the social forces that gave rise to it. I've talked a good game on the subject. But now, at the moment the fight finally came, there I was completely unawares, drinking my customary weekly post-show Smithwick's.
Part of me worries that I've missed out. That at the moment of truth, I was somewhere completely different showing off my RP accent. That I might even be a bit of a fraud.
But then again, the piece I was reading concerned itself with the demands and drawbacks of Empire, and the compromises made in its name, and the effects the sins of our leaders have upon the rest of us. And those are certainly worthwhile issues to be considering at this particular moment. So perhaps, last Tuesday night, I was where I was supposed to be after all. And if not, it seems clear that this administration will give us all many more opportunities before all is said and done.
(Plus, it turns out that my Churchill is indeed rather good, so if perchance you need such an impression for an upcoming birthday or bar mitzvah, by all means let me know.)
Posted on May 22, 2017
by Michael C. O'Day