Tape, The Play

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

A journal of my experience rehearsing and performing the play 'Tape'.

TAPE
“Eat my ass you fucking cunt!”, Larry screamed murderously at Gudrun, who looked at him, tears welling up in her eyes, and said in her fading Swedish accent “no one has eva talked to me like that!”, as she jumped into her Honda compact and sped away.Larry scurried off down the sidewalk towards Hollywood Boulevard, where I was sure he’d end up at Boardners getting bombed on Martinis.We all have.I turned to Owen and we shared a speechless moment of “holy shit wasn’t that great”.John Kirby then shrugged casually and muttered something like “ah, they’ll be fine”, but inside John was roaring with exhilaration.He knew damn well that he just witnessed brilliant theatre without the stage, set in real life with no acting and no bullshit make-believe circumstances and that he as an acting teacher had just received a delightful morsel which he could add to his marvelous observations of humans in peril which would enhance and deepen his understanding of the human condition.As if Kirby really needed any more insight into our condition.John said, “come on, let’s rehearse” as he took a swig from his gigantic bottle of Kampuchea Diet Peach drink, probably his fourth of the day and not his last.And this was another day rehearsing for the play “Tape” at The Kirby Studios, directed by John Kirby.
“Tape” was performed by two separate casts on different nights.Owen, Merry, pronounced Murray, and I performed on Thursdays and Fridays, and the second cast including Larry, Gudrun, and John, performed on Saturdays and Sundays.We were midway through our rehearsal process when Larry uttered the vicious words, sending the other cast into a deep abyss that I’m sure they never recovered from, which was ultimately confirmed when I saw their show one night.The absence of chemistry between Larry’s character and Gudrun’s which shocking and this finally proved my theory that the “fucking cunt” insult destroyed any future connection between the two.I believe that to this day, as Larry is now doing pretty well as a character actor and Gudrun is a film producer, they still whisper in their sleep “fuck you Larry….”“Gudrun you fucking cunt…”.
Our cast never came to lobbing such verbal harpoons, but I did experience moments of wanting to strangle Owen throughout the rehearsal process and performances.Merry?Well, Merry did her thing, which was to do minimally brilliantly, and that of course only makes sense to those who know Merry or who’ve seen her perform, so there’s no point in going on about that.But Owen was entirely a different issue.You see, Owen decided, because he was playing a real nut case, a real asshole, that he’d do the Method acting technique.So Owen slowly morphed into Vince, and this sincere, good, and occasionally obnoxious guy became a total dick. And that was Owen, who as one of my closest friends and confidents in Hollywood, suddenly vanished and what appeared before me was some guy taunting me all the time.He was ascraggly haired, smelly, punk who smoked too much pot and didn’t bathe regularly.And for several months this dickhead never went away, he kept appearing in many places:in class poking my back with a sharpened pencil, punching my arm randomly, yelling for no reason, getting high and going into his philosophy about how my life, or my character’s life of being a filmmaker was a bunch of bullshit, and one day he even stalked me around town. Stalked me! I guess he waited in his car outside my apartment and then followed me around town as Iran errands. Really creepy shit. I’d just sort of go “yeah yeah yeah” and try to ignore him, barely controlling my urge to slap him.Sherry, his girlfriend and now lovely wife, was the real victim.I could escape Vince’s wrath, but Sherry had to live with him.He drove her nuts with his slobbery and I’m sure they almost came to another one of their many break ups. Ultimately this approach worked for Owen because he really was Vince on stage and it was fascinating for me to be up there with him. He seemed dangerous.
I’d show up to Merry’s house in the Hollywood hills to rehearse and find Owen as Vince in his van getting high before doing a line through.This was a very mellow version of Vince and far more bearable than when Vince was on another soap box. Merry would greet us with her gigantic bowl of fruit she’d eat during the rehearsals.She had a rather cynical attitude about the entire process and was always annoyed at actors taking themselves too seriously.And that again was Merry’s approach, learn the lines, know the circumstances and just be in the moment, sort of like a David Mamet approach.So as Merry proceeded with this attitude, and Owendid theMethod, I decided the best thing for me was to create awful images for myself so I could reach the emotional point of devistation in the play.
You see, my character, John Saltzman, raped Merry’s character, Amy, in high school and Vince, who was John’s best friend in high school and always had a crush on Amy, invites John over to his hotel room in Lansing, Michigan, where John’s new film is showing at The Lansing Film Festival.But Vince isn’t there to support John, he’s there to trap him into confessing that he raped Amy, and during this confession Vince tapes it, thus the title “Tape”.And to really destroy John, Vince surprises him after his confession with a guest, Amy, who appears at the hotel unaware of Vince’s plan.As it turns out, not only did John rape Amy, but she became pregnant and was planning on having the baby.But Amy became sick so she had an abortion and was unable to have children for the rest of her life.Really tragic stuff.The play climaxes into a bawling John apologizing to Amy and all hell breaks lose.
During the early rehearsal process,Kirby had told me he wanted me “groveling on the floor” during the confession, which scared the shit out of me as an actor who never really played such dramatic circumstances, being from the comedy world.So my approach was to create these heart wrenching images of Amy when she was pregnant. I’d envision Amy setting up her baby’s room with beautiful, bright colors and bunnies painted on the ceiling and a cute little crib full of teddy bears in the middle of the room.And how after she lost the baby she went into the empty room, looking around at what would never be, and cried herself to sleep, holding a teddy bear.It’s hard for me to recall this preparation because it makes me sad,but such an image is what ultimately worked for me as an actor.And I guess the fact that inside I was still reeling from my dad’s death a few months earlier.I didn't enjoy thinking of such depressing things, but I had to bawl on stage! Lets move on past this dark stuff shall we?
After John shows up at the hotel room and Vince and he are still in a friendly state, they smoke some of Vince’s pot from a bong.And after the pot begins to grip John is when Vince starts to hatch his plan.My god, what a nightmare it would be to actually be stoned out of your mind in that initial paranoid state and have your so called best friend accuse you of rape, a rape that you actually did and have been trying to forget for many years because the reality of what happened and the guilt from it is overwhelming.So during the rehearsal process, we weren’t sure what to do with smoking on stage, and what to smoke.We finally decided that Cat Nip was the perfect pot substitute.It looks like pot, it’s very mild to smoke, and oh shit, it gives you a slight buzz.So every night, after Owen and I would take a couple huge bong rips, we found ourselves slightly high on stage, which was interesting.During one rehearsal, Owen, or Vince, or whichever one, maybe an evil combination of the two because the lines between who was who became very blurry, but one of the two thought it would be a good idea to mix in some real pot with the cat nip.And as we rehearsed in front of Kirby, just the two of us, I found myself stoned.And for the rest of the day I kept forgetting my lines.Later I asked Owen if he put some real pot in the bong and he laughed as Vince and said something like “yeah, you like it, wasn’t that great man!”Later Owen and I concluded that Kirby knew that we’d smoked pot and was quite happy with our decision, because we were experimenting and this showed a level of risk and commitment that appealed to Kirby.At one point he even suggested that we might want to try smoking some pot during a rehearsal to “explore”.And this is the brilliance of Kirby.He’s a Christian man who doesn’t drink or do drugs and is very disciplined about his diet, but he’s willing to try anything to serve the author’s intention.As a matter of fact, Kirby’s Minister showed up to watch the play one night and was angry with Kirby because of the amount of profanity in the play.John told him calmly, “it’s reality, and you have to be truthful.”I loved that.
On the night of our last performance, after dealing with Vince for several months, I hatched a plan for revenge.In the play, Vince pulls out a tape recorder and informs John that he just taped his confession of raping Amy.John tries to grab the tape and they ultimately end up wrestling on the hotel bed for the tape before Amy knocks on the door.Owen had purchased a very ugly, vintage sport coat that was perfect for Vince.He’d put it on before Amy’s arrival, slicking back his greasy hair and looking at himself in a mirror on stage.And my plan on this last night was to rip his sport coat to pieces after attacking him.So, during the performance in front of a full house, I attacked Owen, or Vince, and begin to slowly rip his coat into pieces.I started by grabbing the collar and ripped that halfway off his body, and then I grabbed a sleeve and nearly ripped it off.Before I was done Owen’s prized wardrobe piece was in shreds and his face was lit with rage.He began swinging at my face, trying to really punch me.I dodged each punch by inches, and we finally began wrestling violently on the bed, nearly breaking the damn thing (which we did in an earlier performance) before the knock on the door.I’ve often wondered if the audience appreciated this or concluded that we were a couple out of control actors.Either way, I know Kirby loved it.After the curtain call, as we headed back into the green room, Owen dumped his shredded sport coat along with Vince into a trash can at The Kirby Studios, and that was the end of “Tape”.We spent the remainder of the night at Boardner’s getting ripped on Martinis and laughing at the absurd moments of our saga.


Submitted: January 07, 2009

© Copyright 2020 Ryan Anglin. All rights reserved.

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