Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

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I’ve left LA.  For now, at least.  It was a big decision, but one that had to be made.  “The choice may have been mistaken, the choosing was not.  You have to move on.”


16 years on the West Coast.  11 in Manhattan.  Now I’m in West Texas.  I’m grateful to my father for all he has done to make this possible.  I begin the journey into my advanced degree in August.  Who woulda thunk it?  The house was sold with relative ease.  After all these months of arguing with Skank of America, they moved rather quickly to approve the sale.  I’m still deliberating whether to pursue them further for all the heartache, hardship, stress and mental trauma they added to my life due to their machinations.  But that’s a tale for another time.
I left Hollywood right at the beginning of pilot season.  I stumbled into telling my agents.  I planned to go into the office and break the news.  But they called about some technical issue and I had to explain it didn’t make sense for me to correct it since I wouldn’t be in LA after February.
Now I’m in suburbia – on a street I’ve described to my friends as one waiting for Drew Barrymore and Henry Thomas to cruise by mid-air on their bicycles.  I’m contemplating buying a Big Wheel to take advantage of the open sidewalks.

The West Texas weather is nuts.  I know this is no surprise to anyone familiar with this part of the country, but I’ve never lived in this part of the state.  I kid you not, my first week here I experienced 70 degree temperatures, hail, 60 mile an hour winds, snow and rainstorms.  In a week.

I’m excited for school.  My first goal is my Masters in Theatre.  Eventually I would like to have my PhD.  Doctor Rapstine sounds good; it has a certain elegant ring.  And I’d be the first “Dr.” in the family.  Just not, as my friend J pointed out, the kind that helps people.

School will be a challenge, I am sure.  But it’s a challenge into which I am ready to enter.  I find people who state “I’m taking some time for ME” to be really tiresome.  But honestly, returning to school is a selfish act. After all I’ve experienced in the last ten years, I had to re-examine what brings me happiness.  The answer was and is: a life in the theatre.  I re-discovered how it nourished me when I was 14.  Yeah, yeah – I started writing plays and producing them in the living room when I was still in grade school.  But it wasn’t until I had my first REAL acting role (John Worthing in Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest,” directed by my first high school drama teacher Mr. Hamby – those of you who know me well will see how it comes full circle) that I found HOME.

I love the social aspects of theatre.  I love rehearsal.  I love showing up to rehearsal early and gabbing with colleagues.  I love discovery.  I love script analysis.  I love solving technical problems of blocking and business.  I love tech.  I love costumes, and costume fittings and seeing renderings of sets.  I love sneaking into the scene shop to watch the design springing to life.  I love cue-to-cue lighting rehearsals.   I love costume fittings, seeing a concept moving from lines on paper to clothing that informs character.  In my undergraduate days, the genius costume historian and faculty head Paul D. Reinhardt used to insist on “Costume Parade” as part of tech rehearsals.  Do folks still do Costume Parades?  For PDR, it was a chance to see all the work together on the set, under the lights and on the actors.  He would critique and adjust, coordinate with the lighting designer and director in order to insure the costumes did what they needed to do, looked how they needed to look and served the actor in all the right ways.  I LOVED Costume Parades.

I love tech rehearsals.  If I’m the director, I love seeing what the designers have done to realize the vision we have found to express the play.  If I’m an actor, I’ll sit in the audience to watch the magic of the lights and scenic elements as they are added to the production.  I’ll see what the lights can teach me about how the director and designers understand the project – how can that inform my work?  I always learn something new.  Another great teacher I had in undergraduate school, Dr. David Nancarrow, taught me the power of lights and reflection for an individual actor.  He instructed us as to the reflective possibilities of an actor on stage – he saw us as instruments OF light, not just actors TO light.  That concept has served me well.  Seeing the other actors in costume from the audience can inform the choices I make as an actor in scenes with them.  Can their costume inspire new pieces of business, the nature of our relationship, what I want or need from them?  Seeing the set under lights from the audience perspective can inform entrances, exits, business, character . . . yeah.  I love the process of theatre.  I had to spend some time in Hollywood to discover that.

 

So school.  Yes.  Hell, YES.  I’m nervous and excited and ready.

But first, six months of spring and summer and adjusting to a new home.  The adventure begins.

People are debating a new Gypsy Movie with Barbra as Rose

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I agree with A. Laurent’s assessment of Babs’ having the temperament.  Its well documented her Mother’s attitude toward little Bar so I think that is true.  And ultimately, physical type has never been a consideration – much to some of the real-life characters’ chagrin.

I worked with June Havoc one summer, and as we got to know each other better I felt more comfortable asking more “personal” questions.  When the topic of “Gypsy” (the musical, not the sister – although June always called her “Louise” or “Hovick”) was finally broached, Tyne Daly had been the most recent Rose.  I asked June about it and whether she felt Tyne got her Mom’s personality right.  “Not really,” June said.

First off, she said, she enjoyed the skill of the musical but it wasn’t REALLY autobiographical.  her mother and Louise were such tall tale tellers that a lot of the “legend” was accepted as truth.  They talked to June, but she didn’t originally like the idea of her family’s circus being staged – she had divorced herself in many ways from the Hovics by that time, so stayed out of it.  Once it opened and was a hit, she kept her mouth shut or was vague when asked.  No dummy, she never turned down royalties.

When I asked why she felt Tyne was wrong, she said that everyone always wanted these loud Jewish “broads” to play her Mom.  Like Merman, I said, to which she said Yeah, I guess.  maybe that’s where it comes from. Ethel was like a trucker in a dress.  But they didn’t start with Merman in mind; she’s who got the part once the show was gelling.  And Merm was such a success, from that point after everyone thought that was Mama and followed suit.  You got Roz Russell, and Merman and Tyne Daly . .  .

When I asked June “what was your Mom really like.  If you were picking someone to play her, who would you choose?  she liked the question.  After some thought, she said “Helen Hayes.”  I laughed. but then she said, “I’m serious.  Mama was tiny and Norwegian.  That’s what they all forget.  Mama looked a lot like me.  (June was tiny and blonde and blue-eyed).  “Louise was tall and dark, and once she became Gypsy Rose Lee she kept her hair dark, so folks assumed Mama was like that.”  I said, but she was so loud and intimidating from the stories . . . ” June answered, that’s right.  That’s what threw people off.  This dainty lady with her cute little pin-curled daughters would show up to audition.  Mama would sit in the back, then before you know it, this huge voice was filling the space, sounding like a truckdriver coming up the aisle. It came from a tiny little loud ‘lady’ who would not take “No.”  THAT’s what I feel they’ve missed in my Mama.  She WAS an actress, and she was tough, and she COULD have been a star.  She played roles ALL the time and was good enough to get what she wanted most of the time. ”

I’ve never forgotten that story anytime that Gypsy casting is mentioned.  Never saw Bernadette, but when I heard she was doing it, I thought “June will be happy.”

Lunch with Wendell and Gretchen

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What a wonderful way to spend an early afternoon. Met two college pals from UT Drama, Wendell G and Gretchen G, for pizza at one of my favorite neighborhood joints. It was so great to reconnect. It’s been over a year now since we lost our dear friend Becca; it was her passing that reconnected the whole San Gabriel Estate gang. Since then we’ve exchanged laughs through Facebook, shared recipes and jokes through the Dave Hime-created San Gabriel Estate website, and reaffirmed love and the meaning of good old friends. Feeling very lucky today.

From Here to There and Back Again

Hi Everybody!ACT I

Panhandle.

Flat dusty horizons and broad treeless plains

Small town prince in a suburban life

Weekends in farm country kissing on cousins

Playing in mud with just us boys

Dirt under my nails and dreams in my head.

ACT II

Gulf Coast.

High school with cool kids who loved to be learnedTeen me

We were the “A Team” on the broad coastal plain.

Beaches and Boone’s Farm and Bluebonnet Balls

dances on Thursday or else nothing to do

Girlfriends and third base and playing at straight.

 

headshot Johnny smallerACT III

Capital city.

Austin discovery of me and new family

Boyfriends and sisters in a historied estate

Suppressed desires and main stage attractions.

Drama and loving, cotillions and all.

 

Later the Apple, then a City of Angels

But Texas shaped and made me and drew me back again.

 

Meanwhile, back at the Webpage . . .

Me MFA grad

Wow it’s been a long time since I’ve visited this website.

CUT TO: Three years later.  Randall has completed his MFA at Texas Tech University with an emphasis in Performance & Pedagogy.  He has become a Fellow of the National Critics Institute at The O’Neill Theatre Center.  He has performed in numerous productions, traveled twice to The Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theatre Festival (where he presented his in-process original adaptation of the Williams story Mother Yaws as the first-ever scholarly presentation at the Tennessee Williams Institute).

And now I’ve been granted an AT&T Chancellor’s Fellowship to continue my studies at TTU in the doctoral program, with an emphasis in Playwriting and Theory/History/Criticism.  I start in August.

The decision to recalibrate my life after the enormous changes thrown my way in 2010 was a wise one.  I’m extremely grateful to my family and friends for their enduring support and assistance, and to the faculty of The School of Theatre at Texas Tech University for their welcoming embrace and tireless support. Onward and upward!  (and perhaps now I can be a bit more consistent in posting here.)

Reasons I love living in Southern California, part 347

This weekend I went to my local market and bought fresh pineapple for 2 for $1.99, a pint of fresh blueberries for .99, one granny smith apple for .15, tangerines for .69/lb.  Came home, cut up the pineapple, washed and cleaned the blueberries, added chunks of the granny smith, squeezed two tangerines into the mix, added a tablespoon of honey and 1/2 teaspoon of lavender syrup.  Chilled.

Ambrosia.

In Regard to the Year of the Ox

 

I learned a house is not a home and a job is just a job.

I learned I’m not a failure for trying, even if I tried and failed.  That is hard to understand when applied to juggling, but it made a lot of sense once my heart had been broken.

This year I won’t try so hard.

Fireworks

After a year of pain and heartache and beds of nails that I built for myself, I learned to protect myself from my own worse impulses.  And the people who inspire me to exercise those impulses.