a theatrical SUIT column by Chris Jungle
"I don't think I like it here...it's too peaceful."
Way back at the beginning of December, I auditioned for a play called "Raised In Captivity" by Nicky Silver out of obligation. The director, John Hardman, has helped me with my own productions over the years and we'd acted along side each other a handful of times. Although Hardman had directed over 30 plays in town, I'd never been in one of his full length productions, and I wasn't quite sure if I fit any of the characters in "Raised In Captivity."
"I used to think I could make the mouth my canvas. I thought I could create the universe in miniature, but there's no poetry in teeth."
I landed the role of Kip, the disillusioned dentist who becomes a painter, much to the chagrin of his pregnant wife Bernadette. Of the three roles for men, mine was the only one who gets to kiss a woman (the other two actors have to kiss each other). I would have taken any role, for Hardman's sake, but it's nice to be thought of as a heterosexual.
"I saw a painting: The City Rises by Bochionni. It was beautiful. A scene of chaos with fire and horses and people in panic, made up of a million splatters of color. And I stared at it. I studied it. And the colors came alive! Do you understand?"
The main duo are the brother & sister duo of Sebastian and Bernadette, and their stories and issues are too much to go into here. Kip is a quality supporting character in the six-person ensemble. For the first time in my acting career, I got to play the husband. I was not a straight man, but rather the goofy guy on an inner spiritual journey, half oblivious to the plights and concerns of others around him. Kip does get his quips.
"My days were so dreary before I saw, before I understood the journey of my life. I was an idiot marking time, a blind man in the woods."
One aspect I added to Kip was the de-evolution of his hair. He starts out with a pleasant part and well groomed locks. After he becomes a painter, I hit the gel and gave him a mad scientist look. Since this occurs halfway through the first act, my mane looks quite wild and crazy by the end of the play. Sometimes, I think my hair upstages my acting.
"And then, there, by the side of the road, I came upon a horse. A dead horse. It was split open, exploded somehow. Its insides were spilling out onto the black tar of the street. Its stomach and kidneys and guts were overflowing in a puddle of blood. It was a deep, perfect alizarin crimson, reflecting the burnt umber of the coming sun. The organs were all shades of raw ochre and aborigine. The curves of the neck and angles of the legs, the long sloping lines of dead muscle. All of this was beautiful to me. "
Another touch I added was the losing of clothes under my painter's smock. At first, I'm fully clothed. The next scene I don't have a shirt underneath. The next scene, I'm completely naked. No one sees this (I don't think), aside from cast members, but it still makes for an interesting visual. It makes the audience wonder where this guy is going.
"My world has been too small. I want to go to Africa!"
In Act II, Kip meets Sebastian's ex-psychologist, Hilary (who has stabbed her eyes out with a screwdriver as penance for losing all her patients), and she stays with the couple. Kip finds that he is attracted to the blind woman much more than his mood swinging wife. Not only did I get a wife for the first time in a play, I got a mistress as well.
"Sometimes in life, things just snap into perspective. What was blurry becomes suddenly clear. My eyes are hungry for new details. Look at this house! Everything is so mundane. Where did we get this furniture? From a catalogue? We're about to begin the adventure of our life."
By the last scene of the play, I'm jumping around trying to excite everyone about going to Africa, which no one else wants to do. The energy drain is great every night. I'm usually pretty wiped out by the end of the show. Hardman preached the approach of Bigger, Faster, Funnier, and while that sounds easy, it requires a lot of focus.
"Human beings and plants. The earth unspoiled. We can lose our neurosis and fears. We can shed our psychology with our clothes in Africa. It's New Year's Eve and we can remake ourselves, drunk on the beauty that burns the eyes. We're going to die. We're all going to die. At least I am, and I will not spend what's left in regret. Opportunities are all around us. We're just too blind to see!"
I wrap up the final show of the four-weekend run tonight. The final weekend has brought full houses to the theatre. Always nice. "Raised In Captivity" will be my last full-run play I'll do for a few months. My next project is currently growing in my girlfriend's belly. Acting will still be my major hobby, but all my projects for the rest of the year have to be short and sweet. We've been working on this play since mid-December, and it's time to close the sucker down and break free from captivity.
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