Getting Back on the Horse
I used to act at Vermont Stage quite a bit. In fact, during my first 8 years as an artistic director, I was in 7 shows (plus Winter Tales), more than any other actor I had hired.
There may have been those who thought I was doing it for personal pleasure or out of some sense of self-aggrandizement, but the fact is, it was often just simple economics - I was usually the cheapest actor I could find to play a role.
Not to say that I didn't have a good time. I thoroughly enjoyed my roles in Art and Betrayal and A Child's Christmas in Wales. But playing the dual role of artistic director and actor started to take its toll. I found I wasn't able to devote the necessary time and energy to my performances, and I felt my work in Copenhagen and Doubt weren't as good as I had hoped, and besides, it was a very tricky act, juggling these dual roles. So I decided to take a break.
So why am I choosing to get back on this particular horse now?
One is that in my entire acting career, I've never enjoyed a role more than that of The Librarian in Underneath the Lintel. And here's why.
I love the script - the language, the ideas, the quirkiness, the whimsy, the sense of wonder, the message of hope and perseverance.
I loved the initial rehearsal process. The fact that Jim Gaylord, who directed me the first time (and will again), is an old friend and a highly-respected colleague was a big part of that. He and I seemed to instantly connect and I remember the process being absolutely effortless. Hard work, to be sure, but very little struggling or suffering.
I loved the response we got. It was one of the first times we had done a virtually unknown script at Vermont Stage, and people loved it. We sold out nearly every performance. The success of Underneath the Lintel gave me confidence that our audience was willing to take risks, which led me to present other lesser-known works like Looking Over the President's Shoulder and ...Young Lady From Rwanda.
Another reason I'm doing the show again is that this could be the last time I get to act. It's certainly possible that I'll get cast in something again, maybe even at Vermont Stage, but this is the last time I can guarantee myself a role, since I still have an in with the artistic director.
And finally, I'm very interested in re-visiting this role, to go deeper into it, now that I have a few more years under my belt. Already, there are some interesting personal resonances I'm finding that weren't there the first time I did the role.
For example, as he starts to tell his story, The Librarian expresses his urgency by saying "and tomorrow I'll be gone...in no time at all...I'll be gone."
In the play, of course, he's talking about his limited time in the theatre he's rented to tell his story. And he's also alluding to the short time any of us have here on this earth.
For me, of course, as I prepare to leave Vermont Stage, it has another meaning as well.