LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE BOYS (AKA THE MEN) OF TREASURE ISLAND
A phone call from gentle genius Marc Robin, the artistic director at the Fulton Theatre, asking me to participate in a workshop presentation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s TREASURE ISLAND that he and his husband Curt Dale Clark (please bottle your creative energy and market it Mr. Clark) adapted into a musical, began one of the happier theatre experiences I have ever had as an actor.
So far I’ve been involved in 2 workshop presentations and a full production. Now I will soon be off to another production of it.
The cast...36 men. I’ve been privy to some murmuring to the tune of “No women in the cast?” It was an artistic decision...made by the people who toiled long and hard to adapt the book, write the music and lyrics, raise the money and then make it happen. I can definitely tell you...there’s no misogyny to be found amongst this creative team...not at all. It was purely an artistic choice.
My gender has gotten a bad rap of late. And with good reason. It was time the whistle was blown. Too many bullies...too much abuse of power...too much disrespect. It happened/happens way too often. So much posturing...jockeying for power. My gosh... can’t we just do the work, wherever it may be, respect and enjoy each other.
My TREASURE ISLAND experience taught me such a valuable lesson. I can’t say I wasn’t a little “Oh jesus...here we go...a lot of testosterone in one place...how is this going to play out?” before rehearsals began. Especially when we were working 8 hours a day when we were in full production.
Well, I will tell you how it played out. Magnificently. From the first workshop through our 9 weeks in full production at the Fulton. In each and every incarnation there was laughter, support, chivalry and huge shards of talent being flung all over the place. Just to hear those voices. Thrilling.
I’ve been involved with these gents only for a short amount of time. I don’t know much about their pasts. But I can attest that all of the men I had the pleasure to sit next to, sing along side, laugh with, share a dressing room with...these are men who make me proud of my gender.
Now, I’m not saying that there wasn’t a splinter here or there. Maybe some gruffness. A disagreement. But hey, that happens everywhere. See the response you get when you try to invade my kitchen when I’m cooking. But I gotta tell you...any kind of snarky behavior was on the down low. We were making something new. We were finding our footing. A little tension is part of the artistic journey.
Generosity abounded...and rarely did it have to be asked for. Running off to make a incredibly fast quick change (I think I was allotted 25 seconds)...our fabulous wardrobe mistress Kelsey Bomba (more on the fabulous women of TREASURE ISLAND, and they were indeed fabulous, in a future blog) was there waiting...but also, without being asked...and not his job...was my pal David Girolmo. Playing a big ole part in TREASURE ISLAND...he didn’t have to make his entrance (and nobody makes an entrance like David Girolmo...the dude knows how to make a star entrance) for another 15 minutes. But there he was...with my shirt...cane...hat...whatever it took to help facilitate. Gotta love the guy. He and Ms. Bomba should patent their combination...Sonny & Cher...not even close second to them.
The day of our opening of the full production...I came down with post nasal drip/voice completely gone thing. I had to miss our final rehearsal. I WAS NOT A HAPPY CAMPER THAT DAY. Drugs helped (thank God for urgent care facilities when you’re out of town working and can’t get to your own doctor) but the concern and care I got when I got to the theatre that night touched my heart. If you’re looking for a substitute Jewish mother Brandon Contreras is your go to guy. He had a vitamin mix on my dressing room table in no time at all. More people stopped by my dressing room to check up on me then there were moviegoers at BLACK PANTHER.
TREASURE ISLAND is full of swashbuckling. The entire company was required to take part in a big old sword fighting Act One finale. We had a stage combat expert guide us from the first day of rehearsal. And, organically, we found our footing. It’s rare that I get to have a sword in my hand...and it remains that way to this day...I was given a cane with a telescope hidden in it as my weapon (hey, I was playing a high-fashion fop)...but they taught me how to wield that thing. I watched as the entire company of men learned how to take care of each other in that epic stage battle. I watched as our five expert stage combat artisans (Jose, Stephen, Karl, Preston, Ray) and our Jim Hawkins (the phenom Michael William Nigro) had to climb 30 foot masts...slide down ropes...climb ladders. Over and over in rehearsal, when we were on the set, these champions went through, full out, their routine. I stood in the wings in awe. Even with some injuries...no complaints from these guys!!!
There were banged-up knees, a bruised eye...a sprain here...a pulled muscle there. Onward we went.
If I needed help down some stairs...Jose Gabriel Rosario was there to help me. If I need help off a platform...Jason Simon was on hand. They were just there for me. My gosh...it looks like I needed a lot of help!!!! Those who know me...well, there it is.
Curtain call time, me and my magnificent partner in crime (and fabulous dressing roommate) James Patterson shared a bow...but each got his own. From Mr. Patterson, “I can bow first...no problem.” I ain’t stupid...when it’s the amazing Mr. Patterson...come on...of course he should get the later bow. My mother didn’t raise a dumb son. But, again, generosity.
Regarding our dressing room...there were snacks, rum (only after the show...and that’s the truth) to partake in...sometimes we had up to 10 people in their just hanging out and telling some great stories...bonding.
Sundays there were various football games on (aren’t IPads great?). We had Cleveland Brown fans, Redskin fans, and little ole me rooting for (my gosh it was a tough season though) the Green Bay Packers.
One Saturday, a two show day, some of our gents (Paul, Travis, Anson...God bless them) participated in an Iron Man Competition. WHAT IN THE HELL? Flipping monster truck wheels...hauling fire engines. And there they were at the matinee...as if they had slept til noon and had a croissant and a latte for breakfast...which would have been my choice of activity on a Saturday morning.
Understudies went on at a moments notice. Not even a blip in the radar. Everyone knew their stuff and did their art.
Even our mascot, Guinness, the wonder dog was quite a gent. He would come visit all the dressing rooms at intermission...flirt...eat treats...partake in skits...and just bring smiles to all he encountered. Thank you Jeremiah James Schalberg for sharing your pal with us. He is in heaven now bringing that French bull dog charm.
Each workshop and the full production...it was a joy to walk into a rehearsal room, a stage door, a dressing room, a green room (that green room snacks, yahtze, jigsaw puzzles and great fun).
So, regarding the bad rap some men have gotten of late...come visit TREASURE ISLAND and it will renew your faith. I mean aside from the Himalayan talent and being easy on the eye (hell, they are gorgeous and sexy)...they surpass that in heart and soul.
Thank you Marc and Curt for bringing all of these groups together...and thanks to the TREASURE ISLAND co-players for the pleasure of your company on and off the stage. You make me proud to be a part of this profession. You’ve given me something to aspire to...to be a better man.