I'm a sucker and I never pass on the chance to play if I can avoid it, so I said I'd direct it.
The play, Pittsburgh!, is an odd little two-hander about a woman who calls a suicide prevention help line and gets put on hold. It is kinda top heavy in places (the character with the most lines is a disembodied voice) and lumpy in others (the voice talks almost constantly while the on-stage character has very little to say) ... but very sweet and, because of the lumpy weightiness, a challenge to produce.
I knew I wasn't going to be able to pull it off with a conventional actor on stage. They'd be swallowed by the voice, or at least driven into the shadows. A bold presence was needed.
So, I roped solo performance artist Alexandra Tatarsky into doing it with me. She did an amazing job in my play Chaos, and Other Worldly Possessions and I'd seen her carry a stage as a solo performer and as a character who spoke word salad for an hour.
The deal was I'd read the voice part from the wings over a microphone and she'd own the stage.
I had also decided that she should co-direct the piece. When you are working with someone who is adept at generating and performing their own work you'd be a fool not to capitalize on the skill set. I may be an idiot and a sucker, but I am no fool.
We had four short rehearsals to cobble something together. My initial impulse, since I had Alex in my pocket, was to go big ... but where? and how?
I kinda left that up to Alex. She started slowly and built up in layers. Occasionally, I would make a suggestion ... but mostly I kept my commentary to bursts of approval at what she was doing.
We ended up twisting a semi-realistic linguistic play into a modified clown piece. I don't think Manny knows he wrote a clown piece (I'll tell him later), but there it was. And it worked ... lumps, bumps and all.
I never could have done it myself ... and this is the take-away of this post. Be smart, but not safe, and always trust your talent. If they are worth casting, they are worth listening to.
Thank you, Alex, for taking the risk and carrying the weight of this project.
Until we work again, remember, you shall be my Soviet Executioner.