Friday, September 26, 2008

My Friend, James Ricks.

I have to tell you about my friend James. He is perhaps the hardest-working, motivated and knowledgeable person I have ever had the pleasure to work with. And I am very proud to call him my dear friend.

A few years back, when we were doing the run of SCAPINO!, James pitched the idea of directing a multimedia production of RICHARD III, and asked if I would be up for it. I jumped at the possibility, and hoped that one day it would become a reality.

James then wrote up a proposal, solicited my input, and shopped it to Theatres all over town --and beyond. He literally burned down the phone lines to producers and Artistic Directors daily, traveling back to Richmond from DC on his lone day off per week to hold meetings, craft budgets, and plan strategies for making this thing happen. He slept on countless couches, endured bleary-eyed late-night jaunts back & forth, lost sleep, called or texted me in the middle of the night with an amazing new takes on scenes, or TV Spots, or monologue choices; He e-mailed dozens of script edits and probably drank 100 gallons of Starbucks coffee. Everytime I would see him, he would be wrinkled, unshaven, slightly crazed, but always possessed of an easy smile and the same incredible sense of fun and possibility.

Through tenacity, perseverance, timing, and luck, he finally found the right theatre (Henley Street) found a video producer (G2 Productions) and assembled a first-rate cast of some of Richmond's finest acting talent. Next thing I knew, we were shooting the multimedia spots that James came up with. less than three weeks later, we were in rehearsal. As I write this, we open in just under three hours.

I am amazed, and know not what to say.

James Ricks is the backbone of this enterprise; He is the beating heart at the center of this project, the 'Straw-that-stirs-the-drink' as it were, and the guy who keeps us honest onstage. His self-motivation and determination stun me, and his love for Shakespeare and good storytelling are infectious. We have all been given the gift of James' time, talent, humor, and brilliance.

One thing about James that strikes me is his immense heart. This fellow has a personal humility and a warm friendliness that puts all of us at ease. He also inspires us to do our best, motivates us to take risks an make bold choices. I have no doubt that James is going places, as both an actor (a brilliant, first-rate one, at that) and as a director. I could totally see James as the AD of his own theatre someday. The community that lands him in that position will be a very lucky one.

So tonight, all of our efforts go towards making James' vision of RICHARD III a reality. I am so thrilled and blessed to have found such a true, dear friend in Mr. Ricks. I can only hope it is the latest in many future collaborations with him.

Thanks, James, and enjoy your drunken stupor tonight, my brother-- You've earned it.

And, Go Canucks!!...That is, until my Bruins beat their asses red.


Blogger Frank Creasy said...

Scott, I know you and I and others in the cast left opening night's performance deeply grateful (and more than just a little surprised) at the effusive response, capped by a standing O. We've spent so much time fine-tuning scenes, focusing on our performances and the character relationships and the minutiae of the show that, as actors so often do, we had no idea if it all would work. And yet, there seemed to be a collective recognition just before we went onstage to start the show that, "Hey, wow! We DO have a good show, let's show 'em what we got!"

It certainly helped that we had an intelligent, theatre-astute audience in the house. They "got it" from the start, recognizing a drama can include plenty of humor and that it's OKAY to laugh. They drank in the high stakes drama as Richard's body count began to rise. And the energy crackled through the too-warm space right up until curtain call.

I'm not certain I'm ready yet to call myself a "Shakespearean actor". I do know, however, that Shakespearean performance has been a blessing in my life. Were it not for Richmond Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at Agecroft Hall in 2005, I might not have met you, Scott, and made such a dear friend. This "Richard III" has blossomed into not only a well earned showcase for your own talents, but also an unexpectedly incredible ensemble piece; without both formidable foes and brilliant accomplices, the Duke of Gloucester's machinations simply fall flat, and the house of cards tumble down around the show. That has most definitely not been the case. In addition to working again with some friends whose work I greatly respect and admire, I'm getting a chance to work with others whose talents I've enjoyed from the audience in prior productions, and who are helping to make this show something truly special.

I haven't been witness to the whole history of bringing this project to fruition. I'm just grateful I got to be a part of it, and to finally work both with you again, Scott, and with James for the first time - having already admired both his work as an actor (Henry IV, Part I for Richmond Shakespeare) and RST's subsequent fall production of Richard II.

Thanks so much to our opening night audience, which included many of our Richmond Shakespeare friends from the cast of their upcoming production of Hamlet (we'll return the favor and go see THEIR show!)

The dream has become a reality for you now Scotto, thanks to James Ricks and Henley Street Theatre and a host of others who believed in what this could be. It's a very good day to be in theatre, and I'm very grateful to be a part of this special, visionary production.

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