Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Jimmy Olsen Returns!

This holiday season has been intense - - Friday and Saturday night performances of UGLY BABY, rehearsals every other night for SEUSSICAL, and long days at Season of Concern - - but I am loving it.

I really needed to be back on stage. Rehearsing and performing in Philip's play have restored my faith in my talent. After my last relationship, so many things went away - - friends, gigs, even places where I used to hang out became hard for me to visit. I sort of went away from myself. My confidence hit an all-time low... and seeing as how I've always been a bit lacking in confidence, that's saying something.

And it affects your ability to perform.

People sitting in an audience can sense when someone is afraid or unsure of themselves. I've always marvelled at the fact that most (if not all) actors are shy people with little or no self-esteem, yet the power that comes of an audience's energy drives actors to stand in the middle of an empty space with a huge, bright light exposing their flaws and their vulnerabilites and ask to be judged by others...

Actors even ask politely... "Judge me, please. Please, judge me. I would love judgement from you - - a person who thought that DUDE, WHERE'S MY CAR was a documentary. Please, criticize me. Hit me with your best shot."

Non-Theatre People, or as a former boss of mine used to call them "Civilians," usually have much more confidence and self-esteem than actors do, and yet Civilians would never dream of standing in front of a large group of people to act or sing or dance. Hell, they wouldn't even stand in front of two people and say, "Our soup today is Split Pea." You see, Civilians have a ton of self-confidence to handle the criticism of an audience, but they logically decline the unnecessary judgement that comes with performing.

Its as if the non-theatre people of the world are all Superman...

... They look great (even in lycra), their hair never fizzes up (or falls out), they can heat up dinner with their eyes, crush a piece of coal into a diamond and if they fuck anything up, they just fly around the earth counter-clockwise, reverse time and make right what was once wrong (I wonder if we could reverse time to a time when Margot Kidder wasn't batshit crazy? It's just a thought)...

And the actors of the world are all Jimmy Olsen...

...A little geeky, wearing a bow tie every place they go (including the gym), they work for a grumpy boss who sends them on thankless assignments to take pictures with a camera that was state-of-the-art when Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated and they are vulnerable to anything and everything from plastic sporks to the edge of a piece of paper (One Paper Cut + Mild Picante Sauce = Ouchy!).

Yet, when Superman and Jimmy Olsen are asked to save Lois Lane by going to an old warehouse that everyone knows is a trap which will lead to a battle against Lex Luthor, Solomon Grundy, Bizarro Superman, Parasite and even that fucking Mister Mxyzptlk - - for some reason...

Jimmy Olsen - - the one who isn't faster than a speeding bullet and who is only slightly more powerful than a Playskool locomotive says...

"I'll save Lois, Superman. You go help rescue Mrs. Nussbaum's cat from that 3 foot tree."

Yeah, yeah... I'm way far up my own DC Comics asshole and I'm sure you don't want to follow me up there, but I'm just trying to say that, for the most part, the people who are the least likely to be able to accept criticism are, for some strange reason, the people most likely to willingly place themselves in front of people who will criticize them.

See, when I was a kid, no one ever remembered my name. I was the shy one in my family. Let's put it this way...

My Father, Jim: Voted Wittiest
ule High School, Class of '65

My Mother, Wanda: Voted Wittiest
Rule High School, Class of '66

My Younger Brother, Jeff: Voted Wittiest
Powell High School, Class of '89

Yours Truly, Stephen: Voted Most Studious
Powell High School,
Class of '88

Most Studious?!?!? What the fuck did that make me in high school? Screech? Anthony Michael Hall in any movie from the 80's?!?!?

My father was the most shocked by my High School Superlative. When I told him, he said...

"Most Studious? You never bring home a damn book!"

Who? Me?

Smart enough to move through public school without studying a whole Hell of a lot?: Absolutely!

Sexy enough or funny enough or cute enough or ANYTHING enough to be noticed beyond the daily, "Out of my way, faggot!" in the hallway?: Not at all.

A few years ago, my brother, my father and stepmother, Donna were visiting Chicago...

Note that Donna is also known as "She From Who All Evil Flows."

Donna was Bette Davis' inspiration for her final motion picture - - the must-be-seen-to-be-believed epic talkie, WICKED STEPMOTHER.

I think Bette had Donna's look down just right, don't you?

Anyway, the four of us went to dinner with some friends of mine. My brother was seated at one end of the table and my father at the other. All night, the two of them held court with hilarious stories, incredible jokes and their natural charm - - unending charm.

I didn't say more than, "Could you pass the bread basket, please" for hours.

After awhile, I looked at my friend Jennifer across the table and said...

"Now, do you understand why I'm an actor?"

On stage, I'm funny. In the theatre, people (at least a few people) know who I am. My art gives me the attention that I craved as a kid. Not that my parents didn't give me attention - - they gave me attention and love and cared for me in the most incredible ways - - but I was always the one in the background when I was with them.

At the restaurant we went to every Friday night when I was a boy (Mr. Steak on Kingston Pike - - with a name like Mr. Steak, can you believe it was one of the better restaurants in K-Town at the time?), every time we walked in, the hostess would say, "Hi, Jim. Hi, Wanda. Hi there, Jeff. Ummm... I'm sorry, sugar. What's your name again?" Every friggin' Friday night!

Even when I was a teenager and my parents were divorced, I still went unnoticed. I got a gig singing for this radio station special event and the tape they made of me singing was labeled, "Jim's boy."

Now, as a 36 year old man, I would LOVE to find some man who is older than me, named Jim and who would refer to me as his "boy"...

...not my father, you sick fuck! gross...

...a man like THE RIFLEMAN for instance. Now, that was a clean, wholesome tv show - - not like that smutty 7TH HEAVEN.

Yeah, someone calling me "boy" may sound attractive and a little more than hot nowadays, but when I was a kid, I hated that people never remembered my name...

Cause, that sort of meant they never remembered me.

I know that I'll never be famous and that neither bothers me nor has it ever been my goal as an actor or singer. I've always known that I would work a day job and spend my nights in rehearsals or performance. It's what I love. It gives me strength and power.

It's not about getting a laugh or being recognized or getting a good review. Granted, all those things make me feel good, but that's now why I'm up there.

It's that thing - - that indescribable thing that I felt the first time I "let go" on a stage.

It's the fact that when I'm up there, when I "let go"...

...when I stop living in fear...

...when I put faith in myself and my abilities...

...when I open up...

I become invincible.

I become Jimmy Olsen, ripping open his shirt to reveal a red, Kryptonian "S" underneath.


Alanda said...

interesting analogy....can you read my mind? Don't you know the things you do to me?

Oy, well, I don't see you as a person who could ever be invisible.

You are a tremendous talent and inspiration to me. Thank you!


Stephen said...

Alanda - That CAN YOU READ MY MIND? thing is probably what drove Margot Kidder batshit crazy. She talks the song... come on!

Thank you for your kind words and for always being there for me. You are remarkable.