Saturday, October 24, 2015

Twenty-Five Years in the Biz

My 50th birthday is days away.  As I write that I immediately start thinking like an actor.  Hmm, maybe you shouldn't admit that.  You can still play early 40s!  Insert 'LOL' here.  Oh well, authenticity is part of my deal and besides, I often say that as a character actor my best years are always ahead of me.

As Paul in "My Three Angels," 1990
The Big 5-0 feels very significant to me, and has given me occasion for a great deal of stock taking and reflection.  This year also marks my 25th year in the acting profession.  I have been in theatre since birth-- it was the family business; but I joined Actors' Equity during the holiday season of 1990.  I was doing a play called "My Three Angels" at the Worcester Foothills Theatre in Worcester, MA and was offered my card.  Three years later, I moved to NYC with my very first Off Broadway gig, understudying all nine actors and serving as assistant stage manager for "Howard Crabtree's Whoop-Dee-Doo!" at the Actors Playhouse in Greenwich Village.  For a fun blast from the past, check out this public access cable show piece about "Whoop-Dee-Doo!" from '93.

With Goldie Dver in "Crazy World," 2002
I've spent most of my professional career in New York, and what a fascinating and circuitous  journey it has been!  I spent eight years deeply entrenched in the cabaret community, creating four acts as a female impersonator and one, "Crazy World: Songs of Leslie Bricusse" as a vehicle for myself and my friend Goldie Dver, winner of the 2002 MAC Award for Revue of the Year.  All along the way, I did regional theatre and off-off-Broadway; when I retired my cabaret work I went back to grad school for classical acting, reinventing myself and launching a career as a Shakespearean.  Amazing plot twists brought me the life changing opportunity to play Sir Robin in the First National Tour of "Spamalot" in 2007 and a series of incredible musical theatre adventures have followed, including realizing more than a handful of my all time dream parts.

But enough of my resume!  My point is, this birthday has made me feel a real sense of accomplishment looking back on my journey, and I also marvel at how much New York City has changed over my 22 years here.  Virtually every great cabaret I played 'back in the day'--Eighty Eights, Helen's, Judy's, The Firebird, to name a few--are gone; Off-Broadway theaters where I cut my teeth have disappeared as well--places like Actors Playhouse and the Douglas Fairbanks.  Contemplating such losses to the cultural landscape of the city doesn't make me feel old; on the contrary, I just feel lucky to have been a part of the vibrant nightlife and Off Broadway scene of the 90s.  

The legendary 'back room' at Don't Tell Mama
So, thinking 'full circle', as it were, I decided to return to the very first stage I ever appeared on in New York, at legendary Don't Tell Mama, on 46th Street.  Impresario Sidney Myer, probably the most beloved man in New York cabaret, gave me my first chance like so many others, and he has made the club available to me to hold my 50th birthday party.  I am bringing in my chum John McMahon, great pianist and composer who used to hold court at the keys in the lively piano bar at Mama's (oh the many sing-a-longs and gin and tonics I enjoyed in that crazy space) to tickle the ivories, and have made it an open mic, inviting performer friends to get up and offer the greatest gift they bring to my life, next to their friendship--their talent.

What will the next half century bring?  Ha ha!!  Well, you know the old saying--"if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans."  My story thus far in show biz has been equal parts creating my own opportunities and miraculous strokes of luck.  I am able to announce my next gig!  I will be playing roles in a double bill of two Thornton Wilder one acts, "The Long Christmas Dinner" and "Pullman Car Hiawatha," the holiday offering at Peccadillo Theater Company, at the theatre at St. Clement's-- a space which, as fate would have it, is just a block away from my first NYC stage, Don't Tell Mama, on 46th Street, and--cue the Twilight Zone theme-- directly behind the old tenement building where I had my first New York apartment in 1993.  Perhaps, after all, there is a sort of magical order in the chaos of a life in this biz--or life in general.