It’s been a while since I learned I couldn’t act. At seventeen, my role as Cornelius in a high school production of Hello, Dolly! filled me with delusions of grandeur, propelling me two years later into my university’s “Intro to Acting” course. But it was there, sitting on a thrust stage in front of fifteen slouching thespians in training, that I lost faith.
Halfway through a monologue as Fick, one of the heroin addicts in the play Balm in Gilead, I was in rough shape. Tapping my foot incessantly, holding the crook of my right arm, rocking slightly, I stuttered: “See I’m on H, I mean, I’m flying and I gotta talk man, but I’m serious now; just a few guys and they’d leave me be … ” It was right about here that I realized I was doing a Dennis Hopper impersonation because I had no idea what heroin was like. A flood of other doubts followed. I felt like a fake, and before I even finished the exercise I knew everyone else felt it too.
Theatre is about faking. But it’s also about believing, onstage and off. That belief is one of the reasons theatre is so moving, and it is what I lacked as an actor. Fortunately, New Century Theatre Company has no such problem. As Bond Huberman discovered while putting together this month’s cover story (See “Fwd:,” page 26), the promising young company continues to believe despite some very concrete constraints – a lack of time, energy and money – while creating art that has helped the city believe in the possibilities of theatre again.
With a group like this out there, I will happily stay slouched in the audience. Lucky you.
Photograph by Andrew Waits for City Arts.