Plan for Professional Actors Scores a Run
Wichmann's performance in 'Rounding Third' showed talent & versatility
By Rich Copley
HERALD-LEADER CULTURE COLUMNIST
Rick St. Peter's effort to import fully professional actors and directors to Actors Guild of Lexington has been spotty thus far.
Frequently, the efforts have left the door wide open for local naysayers to complain that they could think of a Central Kentucky actor or director who could have done just as well or better.
Scott Wichmann's turn in Rounding Third might be where St. Peter makes his point.
In the show about an odd couple of Little League baseball coaches, St. Peter has his actors trading off the roles in the two-person play each night. Richmond, Va.-based Wichmann is paired with Adam Luckey, whom St. Peter calls "Lexington's leading man," and he gets no argument here.
But Luckey struggles with the transfer, while Wichmann seizes all the possibilities of both characters. Now, we have to qualify this assessment with a few things. Luckey was coming off a demanding and well-received performance as Jack in AGL's The Importance of Being Earnest.
Also, the subject matter of Rounding Third, baseball, is right in Wichmann's strike zone, while it's a bit more foreign to Luckey. Yes, an actor has to morph into a lot of characters, many of whom have nothing to do with him in real life. But actors are human, and it's not surprising that they might cotton to some characters more than others. In Rounding Third, Luckey excels as the character less interested in baseball but isn't as convincing as the baseball-obsessed man-child.
Wichmann, meanwhile, brings energy and conviction to each interpretation.
Now, does this mean that Wichmann is a better actor than Luckey? Not necessarily. Put these two in another show to role-flip, and you may well get an entirely different result.
But in Wichmann's performances, we get a look at how complete and well rounded a professional actor can be, and it's hard to think of an argument for a local thespian equalling or bettering Wichmann's imaginative performances. It leaves you anticipating his Tartuffe at Actors Guild next spring.
But it probably won't change some of the angst over importing professionals as opposed to casting locals.
Building Actors Guild into a professional company using actors who are members of Actors Equity, the stage actors union, was one of St. Peter's mandates when he came to the theater.
It might not have been the fairest thing to do to a young, first-time artistic director. In a town where only a few Equity actors live, bringing in the pros might mean some local favorites don't get roles they might otherwise have gotten, and that requires diplomacy and a delicate balancing act.
Shaking things up is not necessarily a bad thing.
Many a theater troupe has stagnated under cliques that dominate the cast lists. But if you're going to displace the locals, the pros have got to bring it, which hasn't always happened. In the St. Peter era, Actors Guild has yet to pull away from the local-theater pack in terms of consistent quality.
Because of a financial crisis, AGL had to scale back its pro ambitions this season, and St. Peter has done well with the challenge, imaginatively using the local talent he now knows better.
Lexington's indigenous talent base is too good to just toss aside in the name of progress.
But if you love theater, you have to be excited by the prospect of Lexington one day being home to a theater that consistently presents fully professional shows. And if that comes to fruition, the theater can be a launching pad for local actors to get their professional credentials, and give some of our resident Equity actors a place to play.
Of course, a key to ascending to the next level is a theater-going public willing to support the work with money at the box office and in contributions. In Lexington, the jury is still out on that.
For folks who are interested, Wichmann's turn in Rounding Third gives Lexington a taste of what a professional performer looks like on a local stage, what that future could look like.
It looks good.
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Here is a small feature on 'Rounding Third' in the sunday arts section of the Lexington Herald-Leader here in Kentucky. We open this friday, April 21st...
Two-man show's actors swap parts each night
By Rich Copley
HERALD-LEADER CULTURE WRITER
With a play that has several strong leading roles, it's fairly common for an actor to walk away with a desire to play one of the other parts somewhere down the road.
That won't happen with Actors Guild of Lexington's production of Richard Dresser's Rounding Third.
Each night in the two-man show, actors Adam Luckey and Scott Wichmann will play the opposite character from the ones they played the night before.
Intriguing look at theater for AGL patrons?
Wichmann, Luckey and director Richard St. Peter claim all of the above.
"Hopefully it will show people who don't normally come out to theater what is possible when you just have two guys and a script," Wichmann says. "It becomes a completely different experience when we put the different roles on."
The play is about Don, a win-at-all-costs little league baseball coach, and his new assistant coach, Michael, who has no experience and is in it for the fun. "If this isn't as serious a commitment as you make to your job, your marriage, I respectfully suggest that you bow out," Don tells Michael in the first scene.
Michael refuses to step aside, setting up a turbulent season for the team, particularly when the team makes the playoffs and Don decides to cheat to win.
"Taken in and of itself, it's not a great piece of dramatic literature," St. Peter says. "I don't think we'll be studying Rounding Third 200 years from now.
"But when you put it in the context of its time, I think it says a lot about where we are as a society and what it is that we stand for. What do we want to accomplish? Are we breeding the next generation of Enron CEOs, or are we going to figure out some way to instill some empathy within our children, which we seem to have lost as a society?"
The play is close to St. Peter's and Wichmann's hearts, as both are baseball nuts, and St. Peter once seriously aspired to a professional baseball career.
Luckey admits that a lot of his cohorts' baseball repartee flies over his head, but he sees parallels between theater and team sports in that both are small groups of people who come together for a set period of time to accomplish a goal and then go their separate ways.
This goal just happens to be a bit more daunting, as both men basically have to learn the entire play and play very different characters every night.
For Luckey, it was a particularly arduous undertaking as he started Rounding Third rehearsals while he was playing Jack in Actors Guild's production of The Importance of Being Earnest.
"There are times you think, 'What am I supposed to say next?'" Luckey says. "'Who am I?'"
St. Peter says he was inspired to do the role flipping after John C. Reilly and Philip Seymour Hoffman did the switch-off in Sam Shepard's True West on Broadway in 2000.
"For me, the challenge was process," St. Peter says. "How would you rehearse it, how would you make it happen. In a commercial setting, they have as much time as they need for rehearsals. Could we make it happen in a non-profit setting where we have four weeks?"
As opposed to each actor just stepping into the character's blocking, the actors and director say, it's like producing two plays.
"It was important that they brought their own individual impulses to each character," St. Peter says.
Luckey notes, "There's a different physical relationship," as he is a head taller than Wichmann. In a rehearsal, as the two trade off the opening scene, it's apparent that Luckey's Don uses size to intimidate Michael, while Wichmann's Don is "a bulldog," St. Peter says.
Referring to his stars, St. Peter says that if the production had been done with each actor set in one role, "it would have been a great show. But why not stretch ourselves? Why not challenge them, challenge us, challenge the audience and take a step forward and say, 'Look, we're capable of doing this.'"
When: April 21-May 14, performances at 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat. and 2 p.m. Sun.
Where: Downtown Arts Center, 141 E. Main St.
Tickets: $24 general admission, $18 ages 65 and older, $15 students with valid ID. Available at the Downtown Arts Center box office, by calling (859) 225-0370 or at www.actors guildoflexington.org.
Preview performances: There will be previews, essentially final dress rehearsals, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday's performance is "pay what you can," and Thursday's is $20 general admission, $15 ages 65 and older, $12 students with valid ID, $6 student rush (available five minutes before curtain).
Reach Rich Copley at (859) 231-3217 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3217, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
Are you a child of the 70s 80s or 90s?
I was born in '73, so I got to experience the best of the seventies: Star Wars, Jaws, Superman, Disco, Freddy Lynn, The Muppet Show, 'Magic Garden', The Electric Company, The Sweathogs, The Banana Splits, Olivia Newton-John (DAMN sister was fine...) 'Reggie Bars' (even though I hated Reggie Jackson) Roller-Skating, and playing outdoors all day long without anyone being afraid I was gonna get stolen, shot, stabbed, sold or hooked on crack.
Then in the '80s I discovered Atari, comic books, Dungeons & Dragons, Hip-Hop music, Slasher Flicks, Rubber Cement (That shit will FUCK YOU UP!!) parachute pants, Knight Rider, 'The Greatest American Hero, and, eventually, the opposite sex.
Unfortunately, the above list of interests caused 'the ladies'*TM to delay their interest in me until their late twenties, when most of them turned around, noticed they weren't getting any younger and their options suddenly began drying up.
Then I looked pret-ty damn good...
(*To be read with a very deep, sexy voice. No-- deeper than that. ...You disgust me.)
Where were you born?
Pittsfield, Massachussetts-- the 'pregnancy-alcoholism-lottery-ticket-sales' capital of the galaxy. And there's a Dunkin Donuts there, too....two, actually...
If born in another country, when did you come here?
What city did you grow up in?
-Bellows Falls, VT
-....and back to Pittsfield, MA.
The Hawaii part is true. I nearly drowned in a pool at age four.
Fuckin' Brady Kids...
Did you enjoy your childhood?
Hells yeah. except for my first childhood job --the indentured servitude of scooping up Ewok shit at the Endor national Battlefield Park, Museum & Taffy Factory.... WHAT DO THEY EAT???
When you were a kid what did you want to be?
This may sound funny, but when I was like 8 years old, I wanted to work for McDonalds. No shit. Apparently I was inspired by their corny-ass TV commercials:
-the one where it's the old guy's first day on the job; (Incredibly touching-- apparently this was before they started melting the elderly employees down into the 'McSoylent Green Shamrock Shake' mix-- you could look it up)
-The one where the kid's dad takes him to Mickey D's after the traumatic experience of having to endure his first haircut (The kids all crying & carrying on, and supposedly all it takes are some fries to calm his paralytic fear that some inept, liqured-up Mayberry barber will accidentally slice off one of his Jinormous ears)
-The one where the kid goes to McD's after dunking in a game for the first time (In the interest of full disclosure, the kid is white, so we can all safely assume it's a complete fairy tale)
-I am a total, complete and utter retard.
-actually I really just wanted to smoke a fatty with the fry guys and chill listening to some 'Bob Marley & The Hartford Whalers.'
....So, LSS* when I was fifteen, I got a job at McDonalds and stayed for four years. it was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. I'm gettin misty just thinking about it.
I also wanted to be a Comic Book Artist, The Red Sox second baseman, Spider-man, the fourth Beastie Boy, and the world's first Musical-Comedy porn star. There's still time, and I'm still stupid.
(*The even shorter version of 'Long Story Short.')
What was your favorite toy when you were little?
...and the Millenium Falcon.
Both were made by KENNER.
What was your first best friends name?
Satan. He ate my set of Fat Albert Shrinky Dinks.
Are they still your best friend?
Oh yeah-- but he has the whole Real Job/2 kids/Mortgage thing, and I'm still mad about the Shrinky Dinks, so it's hard for him to have a grown-up conversation with me.
If not, who are your best friend/s now?
Zac, Steve-O, Rick, Steve Bryson, Jennie
How did you meet them?
-Zac was placed in a wicker basket on my doorstep at age fifteen. After we spent two hours getting him out of the basket, he just stayed with us.
-Steve-O and I were separated at Birth.
-Rick found me drunk in his glove compartment in '97.
-Steve Bryson carried me like Samwise Gamjee for like four years.
-Jennie is using me for sex.
Can you name all the schools you ever attendeded?
Berkshire Center for Families & Children
Lenoxdale Elementary- 1st & 2nd Grade
Lenox (Cameron) Elementary(MA)- 3rd Grade
Westminster Elementary (VT)- 4th & 5th Grade
Factoryville Elementary- (PA)6th Grade
Lackawanna Trail JrSrHS-(PA) 7th, 8th, 9th Grade
Pittsfield High School- (MA) 10th, 11th, 12th Grade
Who was your first crush?
Helen Slater from the 'Supergirl' movie (Pictured above. Dreamy, huh??)-- I kept waving at the screen but she never noticed me.
Were you a shy quiet kid or a very wild and roudy kid?
Do you mean 'Rowdy?'
Jesus, MYSPACE is hiring MFA's to write these things, huh??
Both. I would go off like the class clown and then be all like, "Don't approach me... I'm about to be brilliant," then withdraw and begin eating paste.
That was during my senior year.
When you were little what did you do for fun?
Black tar heroin.
Were you closer to your Mom or Dad as a kid?
Mom-- she was my supplier.
Do you have any embarrassing school stories to share?
Yeah, this one time Fonzie had to show up at the High school to rescue Richie Cunningham from this bully-- You should have seen the look on the bully's face--
oh, you meant me.
Well, I lost my lunch money to Theresa Bauer on a bet that the Sox would win game 7 of the 1986 world series. So not only was I heart-broken when the Sox lost, but I went hungry the following day (tuesday,October 28, 1986). But she was smokin'-hot so I really didn't care. That was the first time I gave a smokin'-hot girl money to make me feel bad.
Now I do it at least twice a week.
What was the first record, tape or CD you remember buying?
Culture Club's 'Coulour By Numbers.' I played it like 292,867 times. By my calculations, I'll probably be gay any minute now.
How old did you want to be when you got married?
Older than 30. It was real close-- I was 29 when I tied the knot. My wife said she loved me just before the last rose petal fell.(We're still waiting for me to transform...)
How old to have kids?
I'm gonna say somewhere in my seventies, like Tony Randall.
Were you scared of anything?
Max Schreck's NOSFERATU, The film MAGIC with Anthony Hopkins, and ventriloquist dummies in general, except for Willie Tyler & Lester... They were too cool to make me afraid.
What was your favorite class in school?
Gym, Art Class, and Naptime, although I'd wake up with my face stuck to the little blue mats we slept on... covered in someone else's blood...
Did you buy school lunch or bring your own?
A mixture of both-- sometimes I sold my lunch to keep our school arts programs up and running.
Broke any bones or had any freaky accidents as a kid?
Yes, the high-stakes world of second-grade NHL Wagering is the seedy underbelly of the elementary education system. I can't say more than that because I owe Two-Grand to a Brownie on accounta the San Jose Sharks lost last night... Keep an ear to the ground, willya?? If a three-foot chick flashes a Merit Badge, RUN!!
Were you a meanie head or miss priss?
I was a nice, normal kid with a healthy dose of self-loathing and low self-esteem, but the cult took me in and put me in charge of the Drive-Thru Window. Problem solved.
Favorite board game of all time?
'Naked Hot Lesbian Jello Twister' From HASBRO
Did you play house or pretend to be a super hero?
Both. I orchestrated elaborate super-domestic scenarios such as 'Superman Making a corned-beef sandwich', 'HULK's Crushing depression,' and 'Green Lantern breast feeding Sinestro'. My favorite was 'Captain America injecting performance-enhancing drugs in the bathroom while somehow keeping it a secret from the media & his immediate family'
Random memory from when you were a kid.
That time I said 'Huey Lewis & the News are the greatest band EVER.' I MEANT it.
The 'heart of rock n' roll' is STILL beating.
Seriously..are you still just a kid at heart?
I WANT PINEAPPLE JUICE!!! DOODY-HEAD!!!
Any more questions?? Where are you going??... punk bitch...
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
I just finished reading Game of Shadows by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, and I have to say that I am disgusted by the steroid controversy that has seemingly engulfed major professional sports. The new book chronicles the investigation into illegal steroid distribution by Victor Conte, the founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-op, (BALCO for short) a front-business which supposedly dealt in 'Supplements' and 'Mineral Deficiency Testing'.
Conte is portrayed as a spotlight-hog with a used-car-salesman style; A twenty-first century snake-oil salesman with a 'Boris Badonov' mustache & a passion for 'creating' elite athletes. At once described as a 'Jock-Sniffer' Conte has a pathological need to cozy up to athletes in the spotlight, and he designs a system of building championship athletes through a carefully constructed regimen of new, undetectable 'designer' performance-enhancing drugs.
Track stars Tim Montgomery and Marion Jones, NFL Linebacker Bill Romanowski, and many others associated with BALCO are exposed as outright frauds caught in a corrupt, world-wide culture of sports doping, and the authors have done their homework. By meticulously re-constructing events through e-mails, wiretap transcripts, interviews and grand jury testimony from IRS agent Jeff Novitzky's sweeping ivestigation into the corrupt inner workings of BALCO, Fainaru-Wada & Williams paint a vivid picture of the dark heart of the high-stakes, big-money world of competetive athletics.
Yet the focal point of the story (And, one could argue-- from a narrative viewpoint-- almost vindictively so) is San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, who, at the time of this writing stands only a few homers shy of eclipsing Babe Ruth for second place on the all-time MLB home-run list. Bonds is portrayed as a selfish, petulant, arrogant, violently moody superstar whose ire over Mark McGwire's steroid-fueled record-breaking single-season total of 70 homers in 1998 motivates him to cycle onto what he calls 'The Shit.'
Bonds forms a mutually beneficial working relationship with longtime friend and trainer (and small-time steroid dealer) Greg Anderson, whose ties to Conte's BALCO labs give Bonds just the right resources he needs to fuel his pursuit of Big Mac's tainted mark. Bonds agrees to promote Conte's products in return for a regimen of illegal performance-enhancing drugs, which include Winstrol, Epitestosterone Decanoate (The 'Cream'), The undetectable Human Growth Hormone, Norbolethone (The 'Clear'), The Narcolepsy Drug Modafinil, and even Trenbolone, a drug used in beefing-up cattle. Thanks to Conte and Anderson, Bonds gains fifteen pounds of muscle in just under 100 days, and his Giants teamates take to calling him 'The Hulk'.
Bonds then almost doubles his career homerun output past the age of 35-- the five best seasons of his career come after most other ballplayers start breaking down-- (Could one view Roger Clemens' post-'twilight' success in a new way??? hmmm) --and he hits 73 home runs in 2001, shattering McGwire's record with an offesnive explosion that would propel him past some of the greatest names to ever play the game.
Along the way, we are given glimpses into Bonds' inner world, one where he is in complete, obsessive control of the people, places & things in it. Anderson, his trainer; Kimberly Bell, his longtime mistress; even Giants owner Peter Magowan, who defers to Bonds wishes in every way, ostensibly because, as Bonds tell him "Without me, you don't make no money."
Conte puts Bonds through several 'Test Run' drug screenings, in an apparent effort to judge the efficacy of his undetectable 'Clear' designer steroid. Bonds is tested privately on two separate occasions; These test-run screenings would come back to bite Bonds during his grand jury testimony, as he is unable to account for the suspect prescence of 'unusually high testosterone levels' in his body as a result of one private drug test through BALCO (as part of a 'test run')on december 2, 2002.
Eventually, Bonds' ties to Anderson & Conte (and his ever-expanding statistical successes) become tantalizing to other MLB players, such as then-Giants catcher Benito Santiago, and Yankee All-stars Garry Sheffield and Jason Giambi. These MLB stars get involved with BALCO in order to ramp-up their offensive output. Some, like Santiago, just want to hold onto a roster spot; Others, like Giambi and Sheffield cash in on their newfound 'pop' by selling their services to the highest bidder, the New York Yankees, in free agency. As Novitzky's investigation nears it's critical phase we are also given a look at the corporate and political spin machines as they try to minimize the damage done to the sport's perception. The USADA Olympic track doping saga is an incredible tale filled with threats, retribution and intimidation-- it reads like a spy novel.
We are given grand jury statements from Bonds which seem totally inconsistent with his seeming control-freak nature, as he claims to be ignorant of the substances--provided by Anderson--which he 'unknowingly' ingested or applied. He also claims willful ignorance of the Bonds-centered drug calendars seized from his trainer's computer. Bonds nimbly attempts to parry the investigators with more such nonsense, but with so much circumstantial evidence it is difficult to ignore what the 'real deal' points to...
And it is sad. Sad because the entire culture of the big-time athletic sytem seems to be dependent on these drugs which can kill otherwise healthy young men and women in the prime of their lives. All to shave off a second, or add ten feet; Turning a second place finisher into a world-record holder and a warning-track shot into a homerun. What's even sadder is the complicty by both the organizations who profit (Say, for example MLB who gladly couted the attendance figures in the mid-nineties when all of this steroid nonsense was brewing) and the athletes who represent the 'product' (Say, for example, the MLB Players Association, whose members play the 'exploitation' and 'victimization' card even though they have more power to effect internal change than just about any other union in the United States) Their inability to take care of each other and police their sport has resulted in this: Bonds, in his 'joyless pursuit of history,' (as Dan Shaugnessy --in a moment of uncharacteristic eloquence-- put it) accompanied by a cascade of boos.
The book seems to crest with the congressional hearings in 2005 (Which Bonds was not invited to, because he was still a 'person of interest' in the BALCO investigation) in which Oriole First-Baseman (and subsequent drug cheat) Rafael Palmeiro wags his finger in the Face of Virgina Congressman Tom Davis and says "I have never. Ever. Used steroids. Period." (riiiiight.) We also see disgraced slugger Mark McGwire wilt under the glare of the spotlight (No more Hardees ads for him) as Sammy Sosa does his best 'Chico Esquela' impersonation, hiding behind his language & his lawyer in an attempt to evade answering any relevant questions.
The appendix to the book is a fascinating look at the chronology of statements, transcripts & other source material-- Not to mention a look at the statistical side of Bonds' acheivements (Which, I must say, I haven't gotten to yet) It would be a difficult task to credibly refute all of the information contained in this volume (Though Conte has 'Promised' to do just that) and I'm very glad that these two writers spent the time to do the dirty work, the kind of work IRS Chief investigator Novitzky does to begin his BALCO investigation; Namely, digging through the garbage of the past to fnd some semblance of the truth.
I was struck by the words of all-time home run champ Hank Aaron when he is asked about steroids. He says, "Any way you look at it, it's wrong." That's kind of the way I feel as well.
I personally feel that Bonds is not a vicim of 100% bona-fide racial redjudice in this case-- although there is definitely a racial component to a good portion of white america' opposition to him. I personally don't see him as a martyr, misinterpreted genius or african-american activist-- Rather, I think he's an idiot. A greedy idiot. I know I'm a Buddhist, and I should be observing right speech, but Bonds doesn't appear to be the sharpest knife in the drawer. Let me explain.
When McGwire and Sosa both broke Maris' single season homerun mark in 1998, that was enough to raise eybrows. Sure, it was fun to watch, but after the euphoria had faded, many folks said "Hey, wait a minute, this can't be real." The rest of the world started catching up to what many in the sport alread knew-- that baseball was dirty, and these totals were probably the result of inflated numbers due to the use of performance enhancing-drugs. McGwire's 'andro' epsode and Sosa's subsequent corked-bat incident years later affirmed that belief for many folks, and turned the summer of '98 into a long-forgotten saturday morning cartoon, one that on repeat viewing just wasn't as good as it was when you were seven years old.
So what does Bonds do?? Is he satisfied with being widely regarded as the all-around best player in the game, even without the single-season homer mark?? No, instead he goes the 'Icarus' rout and decides to juice up for the first time in his life at age 34... when he has incredible career numbers already-- and before we can recover from '98 a season that saw the scaling of the 'Olympus' of single-season records, some 37 years in the making-- BANG!! Bonds eclipses the McGwire total of 70 with 73 of his own just three years later!! Talk about being un-original, short-sighted, selfish, AND stupid... Suffice to say, the lid is blown off... now people know something fishy is going on, and they want answers from Major League Baseball. Then players like '96 NL MVP Ken Caminiti start dying from steroids... Meanwhile, the government is ratcheting up it's pursuit of drug cheats worldwide.. McGwire ducks quietly out of the game... Canseco writes his tell-all book... The congressional hearings become a fiasco... and Bonds becomes the sole object of scrutiny-- The remaining poster-boy for cheating, the symbolic 'juiced ballplayer'-- sitting within striking distance of the two most beloved homerun legends of the game.
So-- How does Bonds react?? He reacts like a victim.
Well, I say he's an idiot. He should have seen it coming. He flew too close to the sun too fast-- He's like the guy who reaches for a few more stacks of hundreds in a heist, when he already has an armful-- and runs right into the television cameras.
Don't get me wrong; As a lifelong diehard baseball fan, I hope they go after McGwire and Sosa-- as well as Bonds-- and get to the bottom of just what was going on with them-- Not just to punish, because realistcally, how can you punish them without punishing the entire industry-- But to find out the truth. A wise man once said 'the truth will set you free.'
Without the truth, this sad saga can't ever have a hopeful resolution.
The book ends as the 2006 campaign is getting underway-- and here we are, on day three of the 2006 MLB season. Bonds' ESPN reality show premiered last night, on an evening when a cascade of boos (not to mention a syringe thrown by a fan) rained down on perhaps the greatest hitter the sport of baseball --or perhaps Victor Conte-- has ever produced.