Saturday, December 4, 2010

Survival, Rockaway Style

I've got an idea for a new reality TV show. Throw 8 people onto an island- or a peninsula  - and they must survive by putting on a performance of Neal Simon's "The Odd Couple." Even better, toss in one 65 year old guy who has never performed before amidst a sea of veteran actors and see how long he can go before you have to call 911.

Well, I did survive my acting debut playing Vinnie the card player, the whining, hen-pecked husband – true typecasting other than the part that Vinnie always wins at poker – last night at the Rockaway Theatre Company production at the Post theater located in Fort Tilden.

I've been so involved in this project, with rehearsals almost nightly and on Sundays, I've been neglecting some of my political activities, as Mona Davids pointed out to me the other day. I even had to leave the rally at Tweed early on Thursday to get to the final dress rehearsal - which had more than a few glitches - not exactly a confidence builder going into last night.

I asked my wife to come to the dress rehearsal on Wednesday night as a check that I wasn't making a total idiot out of myself. She thought Act I was great and then left before the disasters of Acts II and III. As one of the co-directors, Mike Wotypka (a long-time member of TJC) said, "We could call the 3 acts The Good, The Bad and The Ugly."

And glitches there were again last night, but no real disasters. I missed a a cue or two as did others - what a relief to find that veteran actors also miss cues.

And, no, in this game the worst performer doesn't get voted off at the end of each performance. Or else I'd be sitting home tonight. The fact is we survived.

Tonight, a whole bunch of my old ed/political pals from the Coalition of NYC School Workers from the 70's and ICE are coming. I'll try not to invoke the names of Albert Shanker or Randi Weingarten during the performance.

Teachers and the theater
I have always been proud to be a teacher and amongst teachers. So one of the joys of being involved in the RTC for the last 3 years as their videographer has been the number of current and retired teachers involved in running the theater and performing. I mentioned Mike W the co-director who works at Leon Goldstein HS. Nora Coughlin, the amazing stage manager (I never had an idea of what an important role this is) is a young woman who teaches 2nd grade. A young man, Andrew Woodbridge, the brilliant lighting director, teaches high school science.

Another young lady, Kim Simek, doing a remarkable job playing one of the Pigeon sisters, teaches 6th grade at a middle school in Brooklyn. Every single spare moment backstage Kim is doing school work. Kin is planning a big production at her school with the kids.

Jose Velez, Murray the Cop, also works in a school. Music teacher Jodee Timpone, a fabulous singer and actress in her own right, has taken on the job as Assistant Stage Manager for this show and works as hard behind the scenes as she has done on stage. And the entire RTC operation is co-managed by retired teachers Susan Jasper and the Artistic Director John Galleace.

Frank Caiati, my 24 year old acting teacher, sent a wonderfully encouraging card backstage before we went on and  was in the audience with his mom and girl friend. Frank is a professional actor and director and a natural teacher who has worked with so many people since he was a teen at Goldstein HS.

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