A Bad Hair Day (or: A Little Sleight of Beard)


(Once again, lifted from Associate Artist Jim Carpenter’s blog.)

OK. Something is weird in my Universe.

The past 3 nights I’ve gone to bed very tired and very late. This morning I awoke, moaned quietly, rolled over, looked at the clock and saw its little beady LED eyes blinking exactly the same time as it has the previous two mornings.

7:49 AM

I’ve also had some, shall we say alarmingly vivid, erotic dreams and, while I am not opposed to erotic dreaming in any fashion, these seem rather Chekhovian in nature …. actually life in general seems to bear a faint tint of Chekhov for me these days; a sort of double vision, everything seems quite serious and somehow farcical at the same time. I won’t go into the details of my dream eroticism but suffice it to say, it’s fairly ridiculous …

We finished the tech process Tuesday evening, had our first two previews Wednesday and Thursday and will have our 3rd tonight. The first show was largely uneventful with laughs in unexpected places and last night we had a full house with a lovely audience … BUT … my beard came off.

Yep, right at the beginning of my big scene in the 3rd act–the one that has the speech that still gives me that “deer in the headlights” kind of feeling. I’m the deer. The deer with the beard. A magnificent Patriarchal full beard built for me (I couldn’t grow one like this without a good head start) and glued on with the old standby Spirit Gum, applied and aligned by yours truly.

Now I thought that sucker was on. I even gave a cursory inspection–seemed fine, but no sooner had I gotten 5 lines out of my mouth than I got a sudden and distinct sensation of non-adhesion. This was not a good thing–I had a major speech coming up and an argument with Vanya (the inestimable Dan Hyatt) and the last thing I wanted was the audience to be staring at my beard and taking bets on when my little furry would at last topple from my face instead of listening to what was being said.

So I changed my blocking, or rather wound up keeping my right bearded side facing the audience as much as possible, and when I absolutely had to face stage right would do so while scratching my temple and holding my beard pressed in place with my palm to mask it.

Clever, no? A little sleight of beard.

I was met on my brief exit by Howard Swain with spirit gum in hand, tacked the damn thing down again, blotted the glue and walked back on.


Coming up: Will Jim wake at 7:49 again? Stay tuned.


The Rake’s Progress, by James Carpenter

(Lifted, once again, from Associate Artist and Uncle Vanya professor portrayer Jim Carpenter’s blog):

It’s been warm out at the Bruns during our last four days of Tech; our first evening was chilly, the next two sublime, and we finished out the week on Sunday with another brisk evening.

We’ve actually been able to do some work on scenes between the cracks of working on lighting and sound cues but didn’t run the show till last night. Oddly my performance was better in the full sun with no costumes, sound or lights…. I hate it when that happens.

I find myself stumbling on internal adjustments; at the top of Chekhov’s act 2 the Professor and his wife are revealed onstage asleep in their chairs–his gout has been troubling him, the pain keeping him from sleep and as a consequence he’s kept the entire household awake tending to him.

But we have no curtain, hence no reveal; this means that I have to limp onstage through many bustling people who are shifting scenery and moving furniture, plop myself down, read a bit, fall asleep and then get startled awake and at present I’ve barely time to get to my chair and let my head drop before I suddenly jolt awake; the actress playing my wife has a full costume change (she’s in the final scene in act 1) and barely makes it on in time.

This feels odd–we both go from a brief burst of energetic motion to a moment of stasis and I at least have not made my peace with the moment–it feels as if the audience is supposed to witness that silence and non activity for some time — this is not criticism mind you, but more in the nature of dealing with the peculiarities of this particular set; I’m sure we’ll find a happy medium.

The raked stage has added a few challenges but as proved fairly easy to deal with–the cast had a session with a physical therapist who gave us a full range of stretches and provided exercise balls and foam rollers to help counteract whatever adverse affects we might be feeling from the rake and we’ve put them to good use; I’ve had to do much work on my ankle (the one I sprained in Richard III last year) and am using my brace.


Jim Carpenter’s Tech Week Packing List

(The following was lifted, once again, from Associate Artist and Uncle Vanya professor portrayer James Carpenter’s blog):

Tech Week list
-Shaving cream & razor
-Makeup & brushes
-Contact lenses and solution
-Toothbrush and toothpaste
-Goopydoo hair gel
-Sunblock x50
-Ratty white shirt
-Dad’s old cowboy hat
-Thermal socks
-Long underwear
-Shakespeare Santa Cruz sweatshirt
-Ankle brace and exercise bands
-A decent book
-Reading glasses
-Bottle of Scotch (post-show use only)
-Frozen taquitos
-Triscuits and spinach dip



(Finally! A blog by Associate Artist James Carpenter!)

So here I am, ostensibly blogging for Cal Shakes, I’m 3 weeks into the rehearsal process of Uncle Vanya, and have not blogged one single letter of the process…

Why is that? Well, hard to explain.

Excuse # 1. I fear Chekhov. Yes, I’ve a bad case of Chekhovphobia; I can’t always sense on reading his plays just how they function–it’s only in rehearsal, that I begin to see the dynamics of what the author may have intended. So, happily here is a cure for my phobia–I just have to do it. It does, however, lead to some hesitancy on my part on blogging the process. Apologies. And many thanks to Timothy Near, our director, who has helped immensely with my therapy.

Excuse # 2. The role of Professor Serebryakov is a great role, a pivotal one, but he’s got one line in act 1, a big scene in act 2 with his wife (others come in later at which point he leaves), a big scene in act 3, and a small scene in 4. As a consequence I’ve been called in to rehearse for a few hours here, a few there and have only a faint overview of the show as a whole and little interaction with the other actors on stage.

It’s odd when this happens–you’re cast in a role in which you have little to do, or one in which you interact only with a few people in the production and as a result feel almost that you’re in another play. Which is arguably as it should be with this character–he does feel apart, out of his element and alienated.

Excuse # 3. I hate my character. Not the role mind you, but the the man that Chekhov has limned so acutely. He’s spoiled, arrogant, selfish, and conceited; he looks down on all the others and has no tolerance or understanding of their lives and the challenges they face. I’ve known real people like this and I didn’t like them either.

Thankfully though, I once played a character which I found to be thoroughly disagreeable and on expressing my feelings to another actor was told “Well then, you’ll probably never be any good at it, will you?”, so I have a prior lesson to go by on that excuse, and while I’ll probably never ever love this man, I will find a way to tolerate him, at the least.

Excuse # 4. This is a rough one–Many times actors are required to perform in roles that are out of their experiential realm. We have to find ways of accessing those same feelings, perhaps finding experiences in our own lives which engender parallel emotions. I’m playing an older man than myself, one who has health problems and who fears death and stultification. This has caused me to explore some of my own fears so I can perform the role and it’s put me in a bit of a dark spot. Apologies again. I’m better now.

Doing Chekhov seems to have affected my dream life as well; one of my more notable dream sequences had me afflicted with a bout of uncontrollable flatulence–and not just occasional mind you, but a muted continuous “Bbbbrrrrrpppppppttt” which varied in pitch up and down the musical scale and which followed me wherever I went, sometimes stressed in tempo with my footsteps.

It would occasionally cease when I came to rest to pour myself a cup of coffee, say, and would be accompanied by a long Chekhovian pause by cast and crew who breathlessly awaited to see if Jim’s farting spell had finally abated. I knew they were waiting. They knew I knew, but were feigning nonchalance. The air would still and silence reign as I slowly stirred in my sugar and half half, silently, fervently praying for no resumption of intestinal volcanism. And breaths would expel in unison, life unpause and begin anew–albeit with some grumbling on the part of the others (“When is he going to stop?”)–as I strolled away pooting helplessly, apologetically.

I don’t think I want to know what that one means.

Coming up: Hysterical Chekhov stories!