Welcome Week

“You’re the photographer from the New Yorker? Jesus, I thought Teddy was just making you up.”

In retrospect, not a good thing to say in front of your boss.

But then again, it wasn’t always clear who the boss was working on The Confidence Man, but then again, maybe that was part of the whole bit.

Between your directors, stage managers, costume designers, set designers, assistant stage managers and fellow actors, it wasn’t always certain who to listen to.

The boss in question in this particular circumstance happened to be a big one: Teddy, formerly a classmate of mine in an aborted improv class, who turned out to be the director of “The Woodshed Collective”, the company that was putting on the play.

My comment was meant as half-a-joke; Teddy had told us that the photographer would be coming by, a feat that we all marveled.

Then again, when you’re on a bot with the chaos of separate scenes, rehearsals, rooms, actors, characters, all in the moment–well, it was easy to not be sure what was really going to happen or not.

But there he was, a 30-something fellow who looked eager and a bit in awe of his surroundings.

I couldn’t tell how the photographer had taken the joke as his next motion was to take pictures of the other actors in costume around us as the sky kicked toward sunset and the surroundings became more scenic.

“Let me know if you need us to do any tableaus.” I told him as I climbed the gang-plank, as Teddy shot me a look-full of shut-the-fuck-up.

***

When I woke up this morning, Brennan McVicar was gone from my house.

It was not the usual routine.

The usual routine involved me waking up sometime pre-9ish, say 6:48 or 8:48 or just 9 on the dot, followed by a sleepy return, followed by a 10:23 awakening in order to face the day before 12, followed by as much video games as I could stand.

As the hour would broach 12-noon, I would stare up at Brennan’s lifeless hunk up in my hitherto unused sleeping loft and decide whether or not I would make fun of him for not being up.

Brennan had ended up at my place not through a lack of me not trying. That is to say, I had offered a few times before he decided to come.

Brennan, a lunky-tall short-haired sound guy, mild-mannered to-the-max, had found himself in that peculiar state of homelessness that one could end up in, in post-collegiate New York City, deciding to stay on but lacking dormitories of any kind or plans.

When we had discussed this over a walk down Bleecker St for Indian sandwiches, he had told me that his plan ranged from crashing on a guy’s couch who was gone but already staying there fairly rent-less, to having a friend charge him weekly for a not-even-a-bed to stay.

“Poppycock.” I told Brennan. “Stay at my place.”

And then with some pride:

“I have a sleeping loft.”

The decision to not sleep in my sleeping loft had made through a combination of bed-familiarity on the part of my oldie, bed-unfamiliarity on the part of the new and unexpected mini-loft and a substantial fear of rolling out of it in the middle of a drunk-off night.

Also, from there, I couldn’t see the TV.

My dad had warned me that a “free bed in New York City seldom goes empty” and, thinking he had a point, I set out to choose at least who’d be occupying it.

Brennan didn’t mind the video games and could be quiet during a morning of hangovers or just late-night-dregs.

So he fit the bill pretty well.

“Welcome Week has started again.” He told me this morning, the week that all the NYU students, the new freshman flood the neighborhood.

“Good.” I told him, trying to get back to some virtual demon-devouring action.

“Good that your neighborhood will be flooded with freshman?” He asked plaintively.

“Good that I don’t give a fuck.” I replied.

Except that I did.

In past years, Welcome Week had been one of my worst experiences at NYU. Not only had I failed to get laid at the inaugural one, but I had failed to get laid at my sophomore one too, moonlighting as a “Mentor” to incoming freshman.

(In reality, I flatter myself as to my skeeziness. I went on one date, not because I planned to, but because it was there.)

But really, the problem with Welcome Week wasn’t a reminder of failure or the crowd of stupid Freshman: it was the idea that these people had time, that life started anew, that it passed you by, et cetera.

You looked at all the kids smiling and congregating and singing in the park and you half-think:

“When was I that dumb” and “I wish I could go over and talk to them, too”.

I dream about it sometimes, being back in that one-room Hayden dormitory with the uncertainty of who we would become, what college and life would be.

I don’t feel much more certain, but when I woke up this morning, Brennan was gone to a film shoot and I was off to the boat for rehearsal.

And life started, again.

***

On a personal note, I’ve been missing writing.

I’ve been missing writing this and I’ve been missing writing my screenplay.

I’m starting to get the feeling that you can write and you can live but that it’s hard to do both in proportion.

I was talking today on the boat with a fellow actor with the comical name, Mike Piazza, about the acting studios at NYU, since he is  a young teacher at Atlantic Theater Company.

We ended up talking about the different studios folding into one another and the tensions between Strassberg and Meisner and Adler, since I had taken several overlapping classes that had talked about “The Group Theater”.

It was a theater company full of mostly middle-class Jews with Cliff Odets as its playwright.

They’d go upstate for the summer and fight and screw and act (before it was all cool), looking to develop their methodology.

In the end, they split up and all founded their own schools and influenced the way we see film and theatre acting to this day.

“It was amazing that they stayed together as long as they did.” I told Mike. “All that seething under the surface.”

“What can I say?” Mike said, suave. “In acting, you keep it together.”

And then added:

“For a while.”

A foghorn.

Rehearsal was on.

The photographer from the New Yorker didn’t need me for tableaus as he snapped and snapped away, while I averted my eyes lest his camera catch me peering in and turn away in turn.

“Wow,” I told the director of the part of the play I was in, the man who cast me, Michael Silverstone. “So people are going to see this thing.”

And he nodded as he walked and turned a corner on the boat.

And the music played.

The show was about to start.

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