Thursday, April 4, 2013

Smart Alec and Know It All

                                                              I leave it to you to figure
                                                              out who each of us are . . .

There are many reasons why I am so thankful for the opportunity to go home and work this summer, but I'd like to take a few moments to talk about one that I hold very close to my heart.  It's big and there are lots of facets, but I'll see what I can organize to make it clear why it is so important that I finish a trifecta of being directed in Classical theatre by one Brian Joe McKnight.

Brian is one of my dearest friends, one of a small circle of spiritual siblings and I have known him for damn near 20 years.  It kind of blew my mind to realize we've been grating on each others nerves for that long - and we're both still upright!

That is a key point.

It wasn't too long ago we thought we had lost Mr. McKnight for good.

I was all but helpless on the West coast while good folks in our community like Brigitte Ditmars, Josh Horvath and Chris Carpenter did a heroic amount of work to get Brian what he needed and back to Ohio.  I assisted as much as I could from afar, but these great folks, among many others, and his strong family, saw him through and he beat the Big C, as much as one can . . .

Honestly, to no one's surprise.  After the fact anyway.  It was rough going for some time.  That is Brian's story to tell, however, and if you don't know it, I'm sure he'll share it with you.  He is a teller of tales.  That is integral to his genetic make-up.

The particular Trifecta I mentioned started in the Fall of 2007 just after I had moved all of my belongings to storage in Rosemead, CA.  I was contracted to join the In-School Shakespeare Tour produced by the Human Race.  That year's production was entitled Will Power, adapted and directed by Brian.  I stayed with my folks in Xenia, where they still lived at the time and got the chance to take turns at pieces of Hamlet, Falstaff, Tybalt and Petruchio with four other actors as we taught and (hopefully) delighted students at local Miami Valley schools.

It was great fun and a nice stop-gap as I figured out what my place might be in Cali.  Turned out I couch surfed in Temple City for quite a long period of time before landing unsteadily on my feet in Hollyweird. But that's another story.

After the great fun Brian and I had had working on the Folio technique I got the question from him about whether or not I might like to come back to Ohio and play MacBeth under his direction while he taught at Sinclair. Would I?

It was one of my dream roles and as I had arranged the violence for Richard III when Brian played the lead in 2003, I already had a relationship with the faculty, staff and students there.  So in the Fall of 2008 I taught at both Sinclair and Clark State and choreographed, memorized, folio'd and had my crack at the Thane of Cawdor.  Brian had a house at the time and I stayed in the spare room.

I still saw my family, but was able to submerse myself in classical text.  It was great fun.  Many of our old friends blew through town as did one of the biggest (waterless) storms to which I'd ever been privy.  It knocked down a huge tree that narrowly missed Brian's house.  It felt related to the storms in the show somehow.  But that sort of mystical connection tends to follow McKnight around.

A few months ago I was asked if there was any way I could join Brian a 3rd time for some Shakespeare, only this time in concert with Zoot.  Shakespeare and puppets!? Sign me up.

The official season announcement should come down tomorrow (4.5) and I can be far more specific about what I'll be doing this summer, but it will involve Shakespeare (mostly) and Brian directing me.

I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Brian and I have been room-mates, co-conspirators, confidantes, (friendly) adversaries and sounding boards for one another.  I have directed him, choreographed his violence, coached his dialects and sniggered with him from the front row of classes.  He's done the same for me.  In fact we've had the rare chance to work with each other in nearly every combination our skill sets will allow.  My only complaint would be that it's been far too long since we've trod the boards together.  The last time being a short version of Who's on First? for Sinclair.

We must remedy that soon.  I'm thinking it's about time for Belch to his Malvolio if anyone is listening out there in the wide world . . . mayhap something like-ah dis?

Suffice it to say I feel very lucky to spend some more time with one of my most brilliant and dedicated colleagues and friends in what I believe will be a truly one-of-a-kind experience for the performers, producers and audiences alike!

Come see what we cook up if ya can and stay tuned for more information.



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