Notionpost 1: the local actor from out of town

The following few posts will draw from my experience in Portland Oregon working on Aaron Posner’s adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel Sometimes A Great Notion. I play Evenwrite and others.

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I had the unusual experience today of being one of the out of town actors. I sat at the initial rehearsal of Aaron’s adaptation of Sometimes a Great Notion and watched as the local Portland actors laughed together in that familiar way I laugh with Philly actors. I listened to them chat about local shows and compliment each other about recent performances. I didn’t feel left out or excluded. It only affirmed my own artistic community and the healthy state of this one. Portland is a place I could be happy in. It didn’t hurt either that a young actor in the company, hearing that I was from Philly, exclaimed “I just read the coolest book about the theatre scene in Philly – The Actor’s Way!” I’m buying that guy lunch.

The Gerding Theatre, Portland Center Stage’s new space, is an astonishing makeover of an old armory. It’s a bit like the city in microcosm: rugged red brick and stone on the outside, but tricked out to the nines inside with high fashion, eco-friendly design and state of the art everything. There’s even a continually operating barista in the lobby, may the Gods be praised. The rehearsal room is on the top floor, behind a galley kitchen/lounge with trendy lunch counter and bar stools, surrounded by the admin and design offices built into the horseshoe that surround the rehearsal room. Skylights everywhere, and some office and conference rooms look out through glass over the mezzanine and lobby.

The play tries to capture the energy of the rushing river, a central image in Kesey’s novel. And as we dove into it with abandon today I thought, I’d be happy if all I ever did was the first read throughs of plays. The air just crackles. With a good company of actors and an inviting director, there is a crashing together of discovery, excitement and just a bit of vanity – actors aware of being seen and heard for the first time by their play mates. Not that there’s anything especially stage-worthy about it, but more and more I am becoming focused on the drama of what happens to us when we create theatrically together. The drama of making the drama, maybe.