Since far too often we only publicly say nice things about people when they are dead I’ve decided to randomly pick a Facebook friend every day and say something nice about them.
June 4, 2019
Today’s person: Randall Nakano!
Many years ago playwright/performer Patrick Lee hired me to help him craft and then direct his one-person show “Exotic Fortunes,” about a Chinese-American coming to grips with their gay artist son/brother. I was honored and stunned; honored because he is such a funny, insightful writer, and stunned because I am so not Chinese or gay. It was a leap of faith on his part, but it worked out so well, the show got good reviews and toured, so he hired me to direct his next play, “Hong Kong Memories.” And that’s when I met Randell.
Hong Kong Memories was a story of businessmen and power and nostalgia for a time when everything seemed possible, but the only thing holding a young man back was his fear of his sexuality being exposed and used against him. It was a complex, romantic dramady, and it needed actors that could pull off a lot of intricate emotional twists. Randell played the head of the corporation - a man hard and manipulating, but with a lyrical, romantic side that made him human. Randell gave him a weird sense of unpredictable whimsy which kept the guy from being just another dick in a suit. Every thought was real, every seeming cruelty was justified, every relationship mattered. It was great to direct and watch him night after night.
But I didn’t know Randell before, and so I really didn’t expect to see him much after that. I don’t get out much.
But then, after a Mime Troupe show in Dolores Park one year who runs up but Randell! Turned out he was also a passionate Troupe fan, and a very respected drama teacher with ex-students working all over the country! I felt embarrassed that I didn’t know this before - I was so caught up in trying to not insult the concept of gay Chinese businessmen that I somehow hadn’t noticed that this brilliant actor was known and admired throughout the nation by actors who credited him with their success. National tours, Broadway, regional theaters - Randell has inspired so many artists - including this one.
It’s always a joy to see him in the audience in the summer - not just because he has such nice things to say about my work - and onstage anytime because he is so passionate about the Art, that he feels each part of it so deeply, that he experiences the shows so honestly, that he can be brought to tears by a political farce about racism or economic injustice or environmentalism. I think that’s what Randell gives to his students, and the reason they love him long after they’ve left his classroom - a real sense of caring, and a fearlessness in showing it. And that honesty is what makes his teaching so inspiring, his listening so intense, and the characters he plays so inviting - even when they are corporate bastards. He cares.