Playwrights on the horizon
by Frances Brennand Roper
In a recent graduation ceremony Jim Carrey shared this beautiful message:
“You can spend your life imagining ghosts, worrying about the pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what’s happening here, and the decisions that we make in this moment which are based in either love or fear. So many of us choose our path based on fear that is disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it, I’m saying that I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it. You can fail at what you don’t want, so why not take a chance on doing what you love.”
It lead me to think back to when I determined myself to be an actor. From a very young age, I didn’t just have the ‘acting bug,’ I had bubonic plague! I was always acting — in plays, musicals, dance recitals, at home when I didn’t want to go to school, with boys… you get the picture!
I remember telling a career counselor at 13, “I’m gonna be an actor.” And her saying, “That’s not a real job, you need to keep thinking.” And I did… I kept thinking about all the characters I was going to play, and how I’d show her wrong. Looking back now, in a way, she was right. It’s not a job, it’s a great white whale, which you hunt without ever knowing how to catch it. Throwing your proverbial net out into the universe, and waiting… a lot!
But sometimes you get a really big tug in the right direction and when I got the chance to audition for Brad Fraser’s Love and Human Remains, at Playwrights Horizons this summer, I knew this was the opportunity of a lifetime.
The first time I read the play, I just sat there speechless, frightened, hopeful and inspired. It grabs you in this all knowing-can’t get it out of your head-brings up too many memories and could drown you if you let it-type of way. So of course I was desperate to be in it!
I got myself on a plane from L.A. and then there I was in New York… confronted with this mammoth character and no idea what I was doing. All I knew was, to get the role of Benita, I would have to be fearless. She’s this balls to the wall-holds no prisoners-whips you till you bleed-profoundly wise-dominatrix prostitute. The auditions were some of the most liberating and terrifying experiences of my life.
I mean, when do you ever get to pour a liter bottle of soda water over your head in the middle of a monologue, scream bloody murder at the director and kiss a complete stranger while they wrap their hands around your throat?
The play centers around David, a previously successful actor turned waiter and his roommate Candy. We follow them through the cloudy menagerie of their lives in what could be any city in the world, as they try to find meaningful relationships following the suicide of their friend. Along the way we are introduced to friends and acquaintances who only prove to confuse them more. From steamy lesbian sex and mental institutions to S & M foreplay and the deflowering of a young man, these characters are all obsessed with the idea that there has to be something or someone outside of themselves which will save them. But while they are hunting for meaning, someone is hunting them. A provocative social commentary on whether we really ever know the people around us, and are we awake enough to see the truth before it’s too late?
Love and Human Remains has become my very own Melville novel. From the moment our producer Jen Rudolph followed me into the toilet after my callback to secretly tell me I got the job to where we are right now, a week away from opening, this play has forced me to examine every area of my being. From love and sexuality to my own inner American Psycho. For the first time I’ve found that by embracing all of my own imperfections, I can have an even greater compassion for the characters that I play. Knowing that it is ok to be beautifully flawed.
The timeless F. Murray Abraham said,
“Actors represent a danger to society. It’s that discovery of a thing in each of us that we’d rather not examine, we’d rather not touch on. And the better the actor, the closer they are to that truth, and that makes them dangerous. Because it wakes us up to who and what we are.”
It is so rare to be a part of a piece of work that truly examines our obsession with the minutia of life and the society in which we currently live. But it’s rarer still to be surrounded by an incredible cast and crew, while playing a character that you couldn’t write better for yourself if you tried.
So with that I challenge you to come and see Love and Human Remains at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater at Playwrights Horizons. As Broadway becomes more and more commercial, it’s plays like this that keep asking the difficult questions. Not unlike Patrick Marber’s Closer, we’ll get right under your skin and stay there, festering.Tags: Actor, Brad Fraser, Frances Brennand Roper, Jennifer Rudolph, Nicholas Baroudi, Performing live, Peter J. Sharp Theater, Playwrights Horizon, Theater