Last night I went out to Fanshawe Pioneer Village on the NE edge of London, Ontario, to see Jason Rip's original script about the impact of WWI on a small southern Ontario town. The play is "The Big Lad". It was amazing. There is one final performance tonight. Go see it!
The story is about life in a small farming community from 1914-1917. Young men wanted to go to war, but some were turned down for various reasons while others did go. Meanwhile xenophobia reigned as Canadians feared and resented the Germans in their communities [digression: indeed, the people of Berlin, Ontario, renamed it Kitchener]. Rip, the playwright, and the actors captured so many facets of all these emotions, and more, in a play that lasted only about an hour.... It doesn't matter that it was only an hour --- it was brilliant.
All of the acting was good. I knew two of the actors (Demis Odanga and John Turner) and fully expected the high quality performances from them that I saw; I wasn't disappointed. And I had seen Taylor Bogaert recently and was pleased to see him more than live up to the standards of Alvego Root Theatre (the company that produced the play). But most impressive for me was Shayne Coffin who played the title role, The Big Lad. He was truly brilliant in the role.
Adam Corrigan Holowitz directed and produced the show. His direction and staging were beyond brilliant. The venue is an old barn set up in a mini-proscenium style. It is not the set that amazes, though, because it doesn't: it is simple. It's what Adam and the actors do with the set, the 8' x 8' angled proscenium, the entrances, the exits, and the actions. Just wonderful.
[by the way, I saw this play on the evening of the hottest day we'd had so far in Ontario, and the venue wasn't at all uncomfortable.]
I have seen other plays about WWI and southern Ontario, and I have thought they were really very good. The Big Lad was better.
There is one more performance of this play, tonight. It's only about $17 (with taxes) and well worth it. There are plenty of seats available, so you can buy tickets at the door.
Go see this play. You won't regret it.
Shakespeare without words? Gimme a break. As my Shake-o-phile grand says, "His language is perfect." or words to that effect.
In Act 5 of “Love’s Labor Lost,” one character scoffs at pedants: “They have been at a great feast of languages, and stolen the scraps.” The latest Shakespeare fashion, at least in the Washington area, is to invite people to a feast of language and serve nothing but grunts, grimaces and grins—with a few gyrations thrown in for dessert.
The Synetic Theater has harvested a bushel of Helen Hayes Awards (the local version of the Tony Awards) for its Silent Shakespeare shows in the past dozen years. The company (whose name blends “synthesis” and “kinetic”) is run by a husband-and-wife team who were raised in Soviet Georgia and pride themselves on making Shakespeare “very accessible.” Paata Tsikurishvili, described in a Synetic video as a “visionary director,” explains: “Why I do Shakespeare, like this with less text, is because we have that vocabulary to express without the words—like crying and laughing; I take it to the next level.”
And the conclusion is really spot on:
Still, Silent Shakespeare is akin to mental nouveau cuisine with more flourishes than calories. The fact that many Washingtonians consider Silent Shakespeare an improvement rather than an oxymoron reflects unkindly on the capital’s cultural pretensions. But perhaps we should not be surprised that the city that pioneered obfuscation is now exalting expunging English altogether.
The photo that accompanied the article:
Last weekend I officiated/officianted at "the Wedding of the Decade," a fund-raiser put on by Murder for Hire for The Sunshine Foundation.
Most of us involved in the wedding wrote our own speeches. The best line of all the speeches was one from the vows written by the "bride" who said, quoting the famous Doris Day song,
When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother, what will I be
Will I be pretty, will I be rich?
Here's what she said to me.
I made plans to see "The Library" at the London Fringe Festival last night because two of my friends were in the cast. It turned out they had both withdrawn from the cast "because of schedule conflicts". Good move on their part.
The play was performed in the basement of a vintage clothing shop. No fooling. Basement. Rafters, cement floor, posts, stairs in the middle, bare lightbulbs, zero sightlines, hard chairs or seating on the floor. It was a basement.
Before we went down the stairs, we were warned that there was incense and turmeric being burned during the play. I joked to my friend, "Yeah, sure. It's dope." I wish it had been. I might have enjoyed the show if I had been under the influence of second-hand dope smoke.
After the announcements, we were allowed to go down the stairs to the venue in the basement. The stairs were none-too-great for older people with trifocals, that's for sure. And no handrail on the upper half of the stairs. Nevertheless, I made it down ok, and grabbed a chair in a place where I hoped to be able to see most of what was going on.
The play opened with some young woman, dressed in a tight white one-piece thing (a teddy?) wearing a massive cod piece.
Okay, more weirdness, I'm thinking. Then she started conversing with a guitar player who was at the other end of the basement, and some guys dressed in yellow came down the stairs.
After about 2-3 minutes I noticed people across from me rolling their eyes. Despite the fact that the actors were using the stairs all the time, those folks left after 20 minutes. I would have, too, if it wouldn't have been so frickn obvious from where I was sitting.
What the heck was the play about? My best guess is that it was about people wanting to explore different sexual pleasures but constantly being thwarted by some morality cops who got theirs in the end.
So we got to watch all sorts of simulated sexual acts. Sorry folks, but it didn't work for me. What I saw only vaguely showed what the programme promised: Bollywood drag queen, executioners, musical passion. Huh?
But the acting was spotty (at best), the dialogue (if you can call it that) was often inaudible, the music was egregiously too loud about half the time, and the script was horrible. It seemed like self-indulgent nonsense.
I will grant that I am from a demographic cohort that probably is not the target audience for this type of play. But the folks who walked out (oh, why couldn't there have been an intermission after 10 minutes so I could have left somewhat discreetly?) were all young adults likely in their 20s. I later heard that people walked out on other performances as well. I don't blame them.
If you want to support daring, sloppy, and self-indulgent, you may want to see this. But for me it was the worst theatre experience of my entire life.
I'll give it 1.2/5 as a rating. The .2 is for the positive things I listed above, but I wish I'd stayed home to watch the Jays on television.
And that reminds me. I think Ian Klymchuk got off easy with the show he saw but didn't like.
Tonight we saw Jason Rip's play, Last Blast: Chet Baker Checks Out. It is a 90-minute entry in the London Fringe Festival, and it is spectacular. I'd give it 4.5/5.
What was so brilliant was the script in combination with the staging, coupled with the acting, especially by the two leads: Chris McAuley and Franklin Davis.
The story has a somewhat unforgiving angel (Davis) visit jazz trumpeter Chet Baker (McAuley) in a hotel room in Amsterdam shortly before Baker is going to die. The angel drags Baker through all his miserable relationships and his drug addiction before Baker dies. It is an interesting way to do a biographical/historical script.
The script itself is witty. Rip shows himself to be a premier wordsmith and an extremely knowledgeable playwright once again. This is one of the best things I have ever seen that he has done.
In the wrong hands, the production of the script could have been a boring recitation. Fortunately, Rip, who directed the play as well, brought life to the script with unique staging and excellent casting. The roles played by the women in Baker's life were cast with actresses who captured a wide range of Baker's experiences.
Last Blast is an impressive, significant play about Chet Baker. There are two more shows scheduled at The McManus Theatre: Thursday, 8:30pm; and Saturday, 4:15pm. Don't miss it.
Disclaimer: I know and/or have worked with all but two members of the ten members of the cast as well as several members of the crew for this show.
I just saw "Underneath the Lintel" at the London Fringe. I'd rate it at 3/5 stars.
The play is about the adventures of a Dutch librarian as he explores the mysteries unlocked when a 113-year-overdue book is returned through the night deposit box.
The energy of Patrick O'Brien, the actor is amazing. He goes rapid-fire, non-stop for an hour with the show. The props, the slides, the audio are all impeccably organized so that the show flows rapidly from one situation to another with no fumbling and no delays. The energy of O'Brien and the organization for the show were captivating.
The energy and rapidness also detracted from the show. Too many times, O'Brien spoke so rapidly (and slightly muttered) that I couldn't make out what he was saying. That was tolerable, though, because the actions and expressions carried the show through those scenes anyway.
Unfortunately, the show was boring near the end. There was O'Brien on stage, ranting and raving and philosophizing and muttering and trying to make something of a play that had degenerated into superficial philosophizing by playwright Glen Berger about Jesus, the Wandering Jew, immortality, lost loves, etc. My mind wandered and I couldn't wait for it to end.
See it for the energy and production quality. See it for the fun and humour in the first half or so. Those things might make it worthwhile for you.
The Play, "Neville's Island" ended yesterday. It will be nice to have a rest now. I expect the other three who were in the play (and had bigger, more active roles than I) as well as the wonderful crew will also welcome the rest..... and feel a bit at loose ends.
There are some photos that the spectacularly good photographer, Ross Davidson, took of our dress rehearsal two weeks ago here. Here are a couple:
When I think back to how we were performing the show then and how we did it yesterday... Wow, we sure came a long way quickly!
Onward: several mystery dinner theatre shows coming up, including one with a rather large role I haven't played before (a knock-off of Peter Falk's Colombo!).
Neville's Island by Tim Firth (who also wrote Calendar Girls) continues tonight at The Princess Avenue Theatre in St. Thomas. Tonight's show is pretty much sold out, but there are still tickets available for Friday and Saturday (8pm) and Sunday (2pm). After these shows, it's done, so don't put it off.
It's a comedy with tonnes of darkness and sarcasm, filled with intensity. It will likely be worth the drive to St. Thomas to see it.
You can get tickets for Neville's Island via Bellsbookbin 519 878 4452 or by Paypal on Elgin Theatre Guild's website.
Last Saturday night, during a scene in "Neville's Island", I twisted my ankle and sprained my knee as I took this pose atop some rocks (yes, those are my bare legs and knees... you'll have to come see the play to see the rest!):
I somehow made it through the rest of that performance and took a megadose Vitamin I (aka Ibuprofen) before leaving the theatre for the drive home.
For the Sunday matinee, I loaded up on Tylenol 3s and Diclofenac, wrapped my knee, and altered my blocking/movements during the play somewhat. Somehow I made it through the show, thanks to the help from Ms Eclectic along with everyone in the cast and crew.
Fortunately we have had Monday - Wednesday off. I have rested a lot, worn a knee brace much of the time, and continued my healthy eating and lifestyle (including lots of protein, fat, and vegetables, and, of course, scotch therapy).
I don't know what has happened, but by now (Wednesday), my knee and ankle seem to be almost completely back to normal. Yea! "It all comes from a clean, healthy lifestyle."
Neville's Island, Princess Avenue Theatre, Elgin Theatre Guild, St. Thomas, Ontario:
You can get tickets for Neville's Island via Bellsbookbin 519 878 4452 or by Paypal on Elgin Theatre Guild's website.
After we had a wonderful preview show to a packed house last night, the official gala opening of Neville's Island is tonight at the Princess Theatre, St. Thomas, Ontario.
Neville's Island is set on Rampsholme Island in the Lakes District in the northwest of England, not far from the Yorkshire Dales. Here is a photo of Rampsholme Island.
The play continues with performances
- 8pm tonight and tomorrow night
- 2pm Sunday
- 8pm next Friday and Saturday (the Thursday performance is sold out)
- 2pm Mothers' Day
Neville's Island by Tim Firth is a dark, biting comedy, full of sarcasm with tonnes of weirdness thrown in. It will make you laugh in some parts, cringe in others, and in still others make you scratch your head as you contemplate the near-total cock-up in the lives of these four men.
When four middle aged men on a team building exercise become shipwrecked (well... rowboat-wrecked?), their pathetic attempts to get themselves rescued are hampered by their inability to co-operate as much as by their ineptitude in the great outdoors.
I play Roy, Finance Manager for Pennine Spring Water Company.
Princess Avenue Theatre, St. Thomas.
April 30, 2015 @ 8pm, Sold out
May 1, 2015 @ 8pm GALA OPENING NIGHT!
May 2, 2015 @ 8pm
May 3, 2015 @ 2pm
May 7, 2015 @ 8pm, Sold out
May 8, 2015 @ 8pm
May 9, 2015 @ 8pm
May 10, 2015 @ 2pm
Eric mentioned in the comments to this post that the Yankees have had a female radio announcer for over a decade. We get many of the Yankee telecasts here in London, Ontario, but not their radiocasts.
Eric then sent me this link, providing the biographies of the Yankee broadcasters.
An award winning journalist, Suzyn Waldman joins John Sterling in the radio booth as the Yankees' color commentator on WCBS-AM radio in 2005, becoming the first woman to hold a full-time position as a Major League broadcaster. Waldman has spent the greater part of two decades overcoming all the obstacles that go along with being a female sports broadcaster, and has risen to the top of her profession. ...
Waldman's life and struggles have been the subject of hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles, and chapters in books, including the "MacMillan Book of Baseball Stories," "You Go Girl" and "That's Outside My Boat" both by Charlie Jones and Kim Doran. She has been profiled on the Today Show, CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, ABC's 20/20 and NBC's Dateline.
But check out her other interests: economics and theatre! Sportscasting, baseball, economics, and theatre: a perfect combination! But I haven't been able to ascertain her views on sabremetrics yet.
A native Bostonian, with a degree in Economics from Boston's prestigious Simmons College, Suzyn spent 15 years on the Broadway Musical Stage, and is proudest of her two years starring opposite Richard Kiley in "Man of La Mancha."
Midsummer Night's Dream, produced by Funeral Pyre Theatre, opens with a preview performance this evening and continues the rest of the week at The Arts Project. A lot of very fine young actors have worked diligently to perfect their craft for this production. The performances dates and times are:
The setting for this production is contemporary with some intriguing staging.
[disclosure: I play Theseus, Duke of Athens, in this production]
For over 40 years I have enjoyed going to Stratford to watch plays, including many by Shakespeare. Before that I saw Hamlet at the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, and King Lear at Carleton College. I've read many/most(?) of Shakespeare's plays, and I even played a Shakespeare scholar in one of my first mystery dinner theatre shows.
I remember quite enjoying reading Julius Caesar in 10th grade and Macbeth in 12th grade in high school.
But never have I acted in a play by Shakespeare.... until now. I will be playing Theseus, Duke of Athens, in a production of Midsummer Night's Dream (The Arts Project, April 7-11).
Here, slightly edited, is my take on this endeavour, as I wrote it to Jack and JR:
Not that you need this advice, but never NEVER agree to do a Shakespeare role. You may disagree with this, but that guy cannot write for crap: his words and word orders are so messed up that it is nearly impossible to learn the frickn lines.
For example, "and as imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown.... blah blah blah. "
I know what it means, but trying to learn those words in that order is quite a challenge (at least for me).
As I said to Jack and JR, "Never again, unless it's a really small role."
I know I have many friends who are likely to disagree with my assessment of Shakespeare's plays; and I know I will likely still enjoy watching performances of them; I might even enjoy (re)reading some of them, but I really do not enjoy trying to learn the lines.
I realize the word order is driven, at least in part, by the "need" for iambic pentameter; but lines like,
"I wonder if the lion be to speak,"
just don't roll off the tongue. And metre cannot possibly be the explanation for this line:
Now is the mural down between the two neighbours.
unless you really want to mess with the emphasis on the syllables:
now IS the MUral DOWN beTWEEN the TWO neighBOURS? HUH?
Maybe it's just the Philistine in me, re-emerging. After all, I am the self-declared chair of the Philistine Liberation Organization.
My friend, Kerry Hishon, posted these questions along with her answers on her blog.
Here are the questions, along with my answers:
1. When did you start getting into theatre? I was 12 years old in grade seven (or, as we called it in the US, 7th grade). I played Pete Thursday in a junior high school mystery play.
2. How many shows have you been in? Difficult question. Counting mystery dinner theatre shows, probably hundreds. Stage shows, maybe 20 - 25. Films, maybe 3-4.
3. Favourite role ever played? Martin Dysart in Equus was an amazing role. I will be forever grateful for having had that opportunity.
4. A tip you always give to new theatre people? Speak up and enunciate clearly. You can tell my roots are in community theatre with this kind of advice.
5. Biggest theatre pet peeve? nah, I think I'll pass on this one...
6. Biggest strengths, biggest weaknesses? Strengths: sensitivity, ability to learn quickly. Weaknesses: getting into the character.
7. Biggest Inspiration in theatre? Several. Dabbs Greer and Patrick Cronin to name two.
8. What's your dream role? Something small and easy, yet with a fun cast and crew.
9. Do you prefer plays or musicals? I would like to be, and have been, in both. I think my singing voice dictates, though, that I primarily do plays or maybe luck out and make it into the chorus for musicals.
10. What is your favourite improv game? I hate improv, which may seem odd, since we do so much of it in mystery dinner theatre. But those shows are different from improv games. In the shows, I have thought long and hard about the background of the character, and though much of each show is unscripted, it is all part of that preparation.
11. What is your favourite show? Play: Death of a Salesman or Equus. Musical: Sound of Music. Film: Three Days of the Condor.
12. What has been your most awkward onstage moment? appearing in female lingerie at the end of "Academia Nuts". That, or trying to jump scenes in one performance of another play (a very embarrassing moment which another actor saved, fortunately).
13. What has been your best off-stage moment in theatre? The amazing cast party put on by the director of Norm Foster's "My Darling Judith". Or maybe the first audition I had in London many years ago.
14. What has been your most challenging role to play? This is going to seem weird to some people. Dysart had over 600 lines, many of which were monumental monologues, but I'm finding it much more challenging to try to learn the role of Theseus for "Midsummer Night's Dream." The words in Shakespeare just don't flow for me.
15. What would you be doing if theatre didn't exist? Undoubtedly writing more about economics and world affairs.
This is a self-tagging game. Play if you wish by posting in the comments here, in a note on Facebook, or on your own blog.
This afternoon I'm playing in a concert with Encore: The Concert Band [2pm, Central Secondary School] in which we're playing a number of really fun pieces.
This evening I'm doing a knock-off of Sean Connery for an event at The London Club.
Tomorrow I begin to hang my photo show at The Arts Project. I've been coasting up 'til now, but life will be hectic for the next three months.
An insightful comment posted today by Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek:
Government is only a business. Past the roads, defense, and sewers, it sells excitement and self-satisfaction to the masses, and charges them an entertainment tax, exacted in wealth and misery. It cannot make cars, or develop medicines. How can it “abolish poverty” (at home or abroad), or Bring About an End to Greed or Exploitation? It can only sell the illusion, and put itself in a position where it is free from judgment of its efforts. It does this, first of all, by stating inchoate goals, “change, hope, fairness, peace,” and then indicting those who question them as traitors or ogres; finally, it explains its lack of success by reference to persistent if magical forces put in play by its predecessors and yet uneradicated because of insufficient funding.
Yesterday my daughter suggested we go to see "Jersey Boys" which is playing in town this weekend. "Jersey Boys" comprises a story about Franky Valli and The Four Seasons along with songs from that era. I listened to a lot their music in my younger days and was interested in see the show, but I told her I didn't really want to shell out $75 or $100 for a ticket.
So I looked online just to see what the prices were.
HOLY CRAP! The tickets are $174 - $223 EACH.
I'd sort of like to see the show, but not enough to give up whatever else I might use that money for. [the fundamentals of "opportunity costs"]
I simply cannot imagine spending that kind of money to see a live show, but all the performances are sold out or nearly so, and I know I have friends who have seen the show.
Ms Eclectic says I am out of touch with how much people pay to see live musical groups on tour. I'm afraid she is right.
Update and correction: Leigh pointed out those were dinner-and-theatre ticket prices. The tickets for the show only range from about $80 - $125 or so. [expensive dinners, eh?]
In late February I'll be playing Sean Connery in a celebrity red-carpet affair. Maybe with careful makeup and some lifts in my shoes, I can pull it off:
According to Wikipaedia,
In 1989, he was proclaimed "Sexiest Man Alive" by People magazine and in 1999, at age 69, he was voted "Sexiest Man of the Century".
Typecast again? Okay, I can dream anyway.
Many years ago, I heard someone say,
One problem, among others, with white elephants is that once you build them, you then find you need to build bigger zoos to keep them in.
I was reminded of that quote today when former student/colleague/co-author John Henderson sent me this:
The city of Timmins finally closed its white elephant Shania Twain Centre. Had never heard of it myself, then again I can't imagine ever listening to a Shania Twain song. This, unusually informative bit, from Wikipedia:
Annual attendance for the Centre was originally projected at 50,000 but never reached above 15,000. Annual subsidies to the center cost the city of Timmins $7 per resident, or $33.72 per centre visitor.
For more on the closing of the centre, see this:
A failed tourist attraction in Timmins is set to become the gold mine the city always hoped for.
The Shania Twain Centre permanently shut its doors Friday.
International gold miner Goldcorp will officially acquire the property in June. The company plans to demolish the structure to make it part of a massive open-pit gold mine.
City councillors decided several weeks ago the centre was too big a money pit to keep subsidizing....
The centre has racked up more than $1 million in operating deficits ...
Goldcorp, which will officially acquire the property June 28, plans to demolish the structure to make the gold-seeded land underneath part of a massive open-pit mine being developed adjacent to the town.
Recent media reports have suggested the centre cost as little as $3.7 million to build. But a May 2011 analysis by PKF Consulting Inc. in Toronto says the figure was actually about $10 million for all construction, including the building, site development and upgrades to the co-located gold-mine tour attraction.
The entire 65-acre site is to be razed, including the gold-mine tour facilities, and added to Vancouver-based Goldcorp's planned open pit.
Here's hoping local politicians everywhere use this as an example before committing zillions of taxpayer dollars to more white elephants.
I will never again groan so loudly or so much when I hear the words, "I would like to thank...." during a major award ceremony or telecast of election results.
I don't know that I have ever won any award or election after which I was expected to make a speech, and so I didn't understand how heartfelt the thanks really are for most people who thank everyone. .... until recently.
Two weeks ago, I was named the "Best Actor" in the London One-Act Festival for 2014 for the role, Ivan, in Unforgiven. I had another commitment and wasn't present at the ceremony. If I had been there, here is what I would have wanted to say. I wouldn't have said all this; doing so would have taken far too long. But this is what I'd have wanted to say:
Thank you very much.
I would like to thank Rhonda Allen, who performed opposite me in the play. She was a joy to work with and a joy to rehearse with. She brought important insights to her role, my role, and to the play. She had and showed a depth of understanding that went far beyond mere acting; she convincingly played the person and moved everyone in the audiences.
I would also like to thank our director Diane Haggerty. She took a risk on a very difficult play, turning it into a show that clearly affected everyone involved with it, both on and off stage. She experimented along with us, trying various interpretations, and she convinced me to play the role the way I did. Without her input, my performance and the show as a whole would not have been the success it was.
I also owe a deep debt of gratitude to my wife, Ms Eclectic, for working with me and with us. Ivan was a very hard role for me, and (as with other shows) she put in many long hours helping me in so many ways.
Also I want to thank Kathleen Sykora for her patience and dedication. She was in the play, but she also served as assistant director and general support person. And Aiden Lee, who joined us at the last minute but who added insight and crispness to her role as well as levity backstage.
In addition, some of the people who have directed and worked with me recently deserve mention. Through their feedback they helped me become a better actor: Steve Stockwell (Out of Sight Productions), Jason Rip (Nemesis Theatre), and Paige Miller (Fusion Productions), along with all the actors I have worked with in those and other productions, including so many mystery dinner theatre shows.
Finally, I would like to thank Maridon Duncanson and all the organizers and volunteers for the London One-Act Festival for their time and effort in bringing about this event.
Thanks again to everyone for everything.
Let me emphasize that the role of Ivan was really hard for me; it was likely the most difficult role I have ever played (including Dysart in Equus two years ago). The word usage was just slightly different for me; and the ideas overlapped within each set of sentences, interrupting the flow of thoughts constantly. Also there was a lot of drama, requiring me to scale back the emotions at times so as not to overdo them.
Apparently, the adjudicator who made the awards said that she had read all the plays and knew from the script how challenging the role of Ivan would be. Also apparently, she talked about how I met the challenge. I couldn't have done that without the help from everyone else. Believe me, I now understand how sincere most of those long, thanking speeches are.
Here I am, holding the "Loafie" [cf LOAF: London One-Act Festival]:
As I said, thanks again to everyone for everything.
Tomorrow evening is our final performance of "Unforgiven", an entry in this year's London One-Act Festival at the McManus Theatre in London, Ontario. Tickets for this (and three other shows altogether) are only $15.
To be honest, I was less-than-enthusiastic about the script when I first read it. But with creative insight from Diane Haggerty (director) and Rhonda Allen (co-star), it has turned into a very moving piece. I will be quite surprised if they don't win awards for their work on this play.
What kind of commission structure is Willy Loman working under in Death of a Salesman? It certainly seems strange to me.
Willy: I did five hundred gross in Providence and seven hundred gross in Boston...
Linda: ... That makes your commission .... $212!....... How much did you (really) do?
Willy: .... it came to roughly two hundred gross in the whole trip....
Linda: Well, it makes $70 and some pennies.
Apparently, when Willy doesn't sell much, he earns a commission slightly greater than 35%. But if he sells a LOT of merchandise, he earns only 212/1200 or 17.7%.
That is a really incentive-incompatible commission structure. No wonder Willy never sold much -- he had an incentive to make more, smaller sales trips. As a result, the company did less business and paid Willy more per hour (despite his growing failures as a salesman). Usually commission structures are designed to encourage salesmen to make more, bigger sales, not fewer or less.
Maybe Linda's math skills are weak?
That, or Arthur Miller (and his editors and publishers) were innumerate.
I have a small role (Charley) in the London Community Players' production of Death of a Salesman, so I claim no credit for this. And I make no claim to being unbiased, though I do my best.
This production is one of the best you could ever see. I'll stack it up against any professional production of Death of a Salesman. And last night's performance was the best yet.
The production takes place in Procunier Hall of The Palace Theatre, a too-small standard black-box-type performance venue, but Jason Rip (director), Steven Mitchell (tech and staging consultant), and Tia Morin (stage manager) have worked tirelessly and flexibly to bring off a tour de force in the venue.
The more we work on the play, the more I fail to see it as a critique of the American/Canadian dream or an attack on greed, success, or materialism. Rather, I see it as an exploration of the early onset of dementia in a man who never faced reality, about himself or much else.
To me, the hero of the play is Biff, who finally comes to grips with who he is and who his father was, after years and years of anguish about it all.... sort of a prolonged identity crisis.
Sure, Charley is a kind, sympathetic, generous guy and in some sense is a testament to the American/Canadian dream that success comes to those who work hard and who are honest and kind. Also his son, Bernard, who grows from being a nerdy (anemic, Willy calls him) kid to become a hot-shot lawyer arguing a case before the supreme court, is something of a hero. But they aren't the real heroes of the play.
Willy, of course, is a tragic hero. You want to grab him, shake him, tell him to stop lying to himself and everyone around him.
Linda (Willy's wife) is a tragic heroine. She lives with Willy's lies, trying to put bandaids on major wounds everywhere, going along with him and not forcing or even asking him to face reality very often. She keeps Willy from going to Alaska, and I'm not sure but what I wish Willy had gone there. Yet there's a good chance that if they had gone to Alaska, Willy still would have been a failure. After all, he was rejected and abandoned by his father and his older brother and likely would not have dealt with the challenges of Alaska any better than he dealt with the challenges of being a salesman in a changing market.
No matter whether you agree with my take on the play, you will be in awe of the performances. The audiences clearly are moved by the performances, and people have used phrases like "stunningly good" or "brilliant" or "mesmerizing" or "deep and moving" when talking about the show.
Rob Faust (Willy) and Deb Mitchell (Linda) are simply amazing, having captured the essence of their characters [not to mention having learned such taxing roles and the physical strain of actually performing them]. And the support from James Roberts (Biff) and Marshall Lemon (Happy), Willy and Linda's two sons, is terrific. Beyond those four main characters, the rest of us have supporting roles. And, to tell the truth, everyone in every role does a tremendous job.
See this play. It is one of the best productions you will ever see of Death of a Salesman.
Here is a photo of me as Charley in Death of a Salesman. The photo is by Ross Davidson taken during Monday's dress rehearsal.
The preview is tonight. We have our official opening tomorrow. Friends who saw the rehearsal last night were VERY moved by the performances.
Procunier Hall, The Palace Theatre.
Here is a short exchange from the play, Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller:
Charley: When a deposit bottle is broken, you don't get your nickel back.
Willy: That's easy enough for you to say.
Charley: That ain't easy for me to say.
Charley is telling Willy to recognize that he can't change the past, but Willy holds onto his dreams for himself and for his son, Biff. Charley tells Willy, "Let him go," referring to Biff. And then Charley acknowledges that it is difficult to give up on past dreams.
It's like the old adage, "Don't cry over spilt milk." You can't undo the spill. You can rue the loss, you can clean up the mess, you can buy more milk, you can even learn to be more careful in the future; but you cannot get the milk back.
It's an example of the sunk cost fallacy that we talk so much about in economics: Costs should be based on forward-looking decisions if people are rational maximizers.
For example, what if I paid $12000 for a used car but then realized I don't like it. What I paid for it is irrelevant. The only things I should consider are my options for the future: should I donate the car to charity to get a tax write-off? should I sell it to someone else? etc. Trying to recover my $12000 is meaningless. Instead, I should look forward, identify my options, and choose from among them.
Humans don't seem to work that way though. Willy can't or won't give up on his dreams; he can't give up on the expectations created in the past. And Charley asknowledges that he, too, had trouble giving up the past and making decisions for the future when he says, "It ain't easy for me to say."
Here is another example of the sunk cost fallacy, from this site.
Hal Arkes and Catehrine Blumer ... asked subjects to assume they had spent $100 on a ticket for a ski trip in Michigan, but soon after found a better ski trip in Wisconsin for $50 and bought a ticket for this trip too. They then asked the people in the study to imagine they learned the two trips overlapped and the tickets couldn’t be refunded or resold. Which one do you think they chose, the $100 good vacation, or the $50 great one?
If, indeed, you think the Wisconsin ski trip would be better (of course you don't know for sure, and so the decision will be based on your expectations), then what you paid should not affect your decision because you will not be able to obtain a refund on either trip. You have paid $150 in total; it's gone, it's sunk. The only relevant questions is, "Now what're you gonna do?"
A "rational" maximizer [homo economicus?] would choose the Wisconsin trip, expecting it to be better. What was paid for the two trips is sunk; the decision should be based on expectations concerning future alternatives.
The example continues,
Over half of the people in the study went with the more expensive [Michigan] trip. It may not have promised to be as fun, but the loss seemed greater. That’s the fallacy at work, because the money is gone no matter what. You can’t get it back. The fallacy prevents you from realizing the best choice is to do whatever promises the better experience in the future, not which negates the feeling of loss in the past.
Willy does this throughout the play. He maintains his dream of being a big-time salesman even though, "He was a happy man with a batch of cement," and would have been much more successful in the construction business. He not only refuses to recognize his own, personal comparative advantage, but he holds onto that dream even in the face of his apparent lack of success. Does Linda do the same thing when she talks him out of moving the family to Alaska? Maybe, or maybe she just has different expectations.
Willy's dreams for himself, for Biff, and for their relationship are like a sunk cost. He could give up the dreams and be more successful, but he doesn't let go of them. Instead of looking forward and making decisions based on his options for the future, Willy keeps looking backward, trying to live a dream that cannot be, even in end.
Note: I play Charley in the upcoming performance of Death of a Salesman at Procunier Hall, The Palace Theatre, London, Ontario.
I'll be in this production of Death of a Salesman playing Charley, the next door neighbour (who seems to be one of the few honest, sane people in the play).
I love this production. The director, Jason Rip, has a terrific perspective which should open some people's eyes. And the cast is amazingly good, especially the two leads: Rob Faust as Willy Loman and Deb Mitchell as Linda Loman.
If you want to come to the $9 preview on the 18th, book tickets early. The other performances are $20, but seating is very limited, so even for those shows it's a good idea to book tickets early. The ticket-booking site is a bit complex because there are two different theatres at the same site, and the other one is doing "Noises Off" (which I'd love to see, if we can work out some way to visit one of their rehearsals).
Questions to consider, for those who know the play:
Performances at Procunier Hall (of the Palace Theatre):
September 18-20 8pm
September 21 2pm
September 24-27 8pm
For tickets, call 519-432-1029