Archive for December, 2007

Monday, December 17th, 2007

 

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Theater Camp with the Dream Team, or How the Hell Did I Ever Get Olympia Dukakis?

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

I know what you’re thinking: “Just three months ago his play was canceled in NY and now he’s got Olympia Dukakis directing. How the hell did that happen?” Here’s the Cliffs Notes version. Okay, the semi Cliffs Notes. After I returned fron NY, my general contractor, who was installing two new bathrooms, sidled up to me and asked, “So what are you going to do about the play now?” I said, “I don’t know. Maybe try to put it up in some time.”

”What’s involved?”

“You don’t want to know.”

“Tell me, what’s involved?”

I wanted to be clear, so I said it clearly, “There’s no money in theater.”

Two days later, I was in his office, and I said to him and his son, “Repeat after me, ‘We’re now going to talk about theater and money, and therefore, that makes us (them) certifiably insane.’” That’s exactly what they did. Thirty minutes later I walked out with a significant check.

dreamteam

Dream Team

back row, left to right: Rachel Healey, Jim Leaming, Keith Pitts, Joe Foust

center row, left to right: Rita Pietraszek, Deya Friedman, Carmen Roman

front row: Olympia Dukakis, Todd Logan

missing: Lindsay Jones

Carmen Roman is a force of nature. She is also one of Chicago’s best actors. She’s won the best actor award for Wit and Master Class. Two years ago, she did a reading of BOTANIC GARDEN at American Theater Company. Her husband, Jim Leaming, was supposed to read with her. At the last minute, he bailed because he was just hired for a role in a Steppenwolf show.

After the reading, while we were at nearby joint, sucking down the obligatory post-reading beers, Jim stopped by. Very nice guy. Very good looking. Like Carmen, very tall. I’ve yet to make eye contact with either of them. I asked Carmen how the reading might have gone if she had read with Jim.

“I would have cried throughout.”

That was two years ago. That stuck with me. I tracked down Carmen and Jim at Peninsula Players, the oldest summer stock theater in the country, located in Door County Wisconsin. I made the four-hour drive to see them. They read the play aloud. Twice, Carmen cried. I offered them the roles, and they accepted. One catch: we had to mutually agree upon a director. Reasonable, I thought.The last five years, Carmen has spent most of her time in New York.

“I’m involved with a theater group in New York, and if you wouldn’t mind, there’s someone I’d like to ask to direct.”

Sounded reasonable.

“Olympia Dukakis.”

I kept a straight face. But, if the old Zapruder camera had been on me, I’m sure it would have seen every permutation of laughter, hilarity, incredulity, as in there’s no frigging way that will ever happen. I indulged Carmen.

“Sure, sure try Olympia.”

“She’d really sink her teeth into this material.”

I tried to picture Olympia’s teeth. I couldn’t.

“Carmen, if Olympia isn’t available, who are some Chicago directors you and Jim would consider?”

“Let’s just try Olympia.”

“Just for the hell of it, let’s think of a few names.”

“Let’s not.”

Since we were sitting down, we were able to look directly into each other’s eyes. I saw in Carmen a resolve and strength that, well, frankly, intimidated the hell out of me.

“Sure, let’s just try Olympia.”

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