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Day One - The Actors' Gang.

1984 at the Gang -

Got up at 4:00 am to catch an 8:15 flight. Kiss Velina and a sleeping Zachary goodbye, and I'm off. I decided to take BART to SFO to give me time to transition. I'm still wrapping my head around this, and I figure a predawn busride with strangers will clear my mind - Tim Robbins is directing my show at the Actor's Gang.<p>I land at LAX hours before rehersal, and hours before I can check into my hotel, so I wander around Culver City. Seems like a nice place. But I can't distract myself from what's about to start. It's been about two years since I started work on 1984. It was after another scenario meeting at the Mime Troupe, where I once again was proposing a 1984 inspired summer show - some wacky take-off on a repressive police state, with songs. This was like the third time I'd used '84 as inspiration for a show idea. Once was combined with Dracula for "1600 Transylvania Avenue," and then it influenced the Gestapo-like America in "Veronique of the Mounties." But I always wanted to do something closer, a real adaptation, which I knew may not be a Mime Troupe summer show. So I was on the road with Veronique and I twisted the hell out of my ankle. I wasn't in the show - I was along as the director, and to watch Zachary while Velina performed - so, suddenly bed ridden for two months, I decided to tackle 1984. From there it was readings in a living room in Denver, the two in SF. Then one day Amos at the Troupe says he's been in touch with Tim Robbins about organizing some common political theatre front for the mid-term elections. That doesn't work, but Tim asks if the Troupe has anything for possible co-production. No, but our headwriter does have a script... I send it off, a week and a half later Tim calls, interested. After that 18 months of wrangling about the rights, calls to London, the Orwell Estate telling me it is going to take a great group of actors to pull this adaptation off, me saying I think I've found one, meetings in New York...

Anyway, I finally go to the Theatre. It's raining, windy - in LA - but I'm ready to start! And I find out they've started an hour ago. "Didn't you get the e-mail?" No. "Oh. Well, we'll get you that."

Actually, the actors have been working for a few days without Tim, getting lines and basic blocking. See, they have a different way of doing this at the Gang. Besides the workshop presentation we did last summer, during auditions they workshop through big chunks of the script for a week, finding who resonates with the whole character, not just some highpoint monologue. It's interesting, and it means all the actors are very prepared when rehearsals actually begin.

I've met a few of them already - last summer - so we don't do introductions. Tim walks in, and we start. It is indecribably cool to see words you've written made real by actors. I know we'll have some changes to make, but right now, wow.

After rehearsal Tim and I go out for some dinner at a sushi place down the block. Well, first we get to Tim's car - a silver Jag - which he assures me was not his choice! He wanted something more sensible, but the rental place was out of Volvos, or something. He seems like a really nice guy. But quiet. Real quiet. Not stab-you-in-the-head-when-you're-not-looking quiet. Just quiet. Or maybe he's just quiet compared to me - blabbing along about whatever skates through the frontal lobes. I'm trying to not say the wrong thing - the thing that willl make him slam on the brakes and scream " Get out of my rented Jag - that I didn't even want! What was I thinking picking this play! You sir, are an idiot!" I think in trying trying to not be offensive - which really is my outstanding talent - I end up being stupifyingly dull even to myself. All I can think is "What should I say to Tim Robbins? The Hudsucker Proxy himself? Instead of being myself, I let my representative talk. And that guy should be fired. But I guess I don't say the wrong thing - though when he tells me he had dinner with Nelson Mandela, I was strangely stumped.

After Sushi Tim asks me if I want to see a play. The Gang's touring production of " Exonerated" is playing downtown, so we go. Great, disturbing play about deathrow inmates wrongly convicted. All true stories. And on the heels of the Tookie Williams execution, that much stronger. A couple of ex-SF actors are in it. Oh, and I ran into Michael McShane and Judy Moreland at the theatre. Judy looked the same as she did back at ACT in SF, but McShane has lost a, well, he basically lost a me. Looks healthier, but less of him is a lot to get used to. I knew Mcshane before his Friar Tuck in Costner's "Prince of Thieves" and "Who's line..." Back in SF there were a couple of summers where my gig was having Michael chase me around in Shakespeare plays. And I finally met his wife! Nice woman, and it's good to know she exists. Up 'till now I only talked to her on the phone.

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