Excerpt From Another Cat's Diary : Chapter One : An Experiment
This is an experiment. It’s a true work in progress.
Just over a year-and-a-half ago, when I learned I was cast in the then-upcoming Broadway revival of Cats, I did what I always do when I book a new job: I go buy some more books! Each show is an excuse to dive into research, to dive into other worlds, to dive… into more books. Given that Cats had been such a phenomenon and such a long-lasting one at that, I assumed there’d be a lot out there about it. Not so. But there was this one, slim paperback volume I found called One Cat’s Diary: How The Broadway Production of Cats Was Born. It was written by Stephen Hanan who—wait for it—originated the roles of Bustopher and Gus at the Winter Garden back in 1982. Bustopher and Gus, dear reader, are the roles I’m playing in Cats, right this minute.
But right that minute, in the spring of 2016, I ordered a copy of Mr. Hanan’s book.
I’ve read a lot of books on theatre and many of my favorites are rehearsal journals. I’ve also always, always sucked at keeping a journal. Never had the discipline for it. Even in acting school when it was an assigned task, I hated the whole journaling thing. (You can imagine my dread when The Artist’s Way and its “morning pages” reared its tyrannical head in the arts community.) But, that said, I always wanted to keep a rehearsal journal. And what better excuse than the weird adventure that being in Cats was bound to be?
So, I got Mo’s book (Stephen goes by Mo, and now we know each other—he’s a dear, dear man—I call him Mo) So, I got Mo’s book and immediately took it to my then new friend and colleague Mandie Black. Mandie was the SDC observer on Tuck Everlasting, I was in that cast. More on that latter—or would that be earlier? Anyway, that’s where we met. I took Mo’s book to Mandie and said, “Read this. Tell me if I should read it before I start rehearsals or not.”
Mandie reported back that Mo’s book ends at their opening and she thought I should delay my reading of it until I’d reached that point in my own journey. Very sound advice. Advice which I took.
But, the fact that the book existed was a real inspiration to me.
So, guess what? I kept a journal. Now, what to do with it?
So, to the experiment: From the start of rehearsals to the opening night of the revival of Cats was sixty days. We will close Cats at the Neil Simon Theater on December 30th of this year, which is why, I suppose, they chose not to use the old ad copy, “Cats, Now and Forever”, and this time went instead with “Cats, Let The Memory Live Again.” Good call.
But, I digress.
December 30th, 2017 is sixty days from today, October 31st, 2017. Happy Halloween. Here’s what my plan is: over the next sixty days I’m going to release select sections of my rehearsal journal and see if anyone is interested. That’s it. That’s the entire experiment. I think I’m going to put it out there in written form and audio form, as much for my own amusement as anything. And… yeah. That’s it.
So… tell me if you dig it.
Here we go.
Cats : Day One of Rehearsal
Thursday, May 31st, 2016
60 Days To Opening
The First Day of School
“Everything was possible and nothing made sense.”
What to wear?
Singing in the shower.
The beginning of the end of guessing.
New 42nd Street Studios: It was the best of times…
Excerpt: Where The Porn Was
New 42, as those in the “biz” call it (oof), is located on—that’s right—42nd Street. It’s on the north side of the street across from Madame Tussauds and next-door to the Ford Theater. I mean the Foxwoods. I mean the Lyric. It’s one of the gleaming things that used not to be here when porn was.
Meet & Greet & The Great Big Circle
All shows start this way:
And Tiny muffins.
- The Suits Speak, nicely
- Hands Across Broadway - the Shuberts & The Nederlanders
- Trevor Trevors the room
- What’s going to be the deal with Gillian and Andy?
Excerpt: When You Give A Dame A Hug
Toward the end of the first break, now that we had moved into the smaller of the two main studios, I saw Gillian alone for a bit and I walked up and hugged her. I hadn’t spoken with her that day. I had only spoken to her once before in my life, and that was to say, “Hello,” when Trevor introduced us at my final audition. She was seated behind the table then. No hugging. But, today, I did—I don’t know what possessed me—and I said, for her ears only, and—and this I swear—entirely innocently:
“This must be an interesting day for you.”
By “entirely innocently” I mean that I didn’t mean it to be a loaded or pointed question. Really. I didn’t know what her working relationship was going to be with us or with Andy. No one had told us. All I knew was that she was at the final audition, she was here on day one, her credit on the company sheet was—I'm pretty sure—choreographer and associate director [correction: it was in fact original choreographer and associate director], and I figured—given her history of first days on Cats over the decades—that this had to be an interesting one. And so, I said,
“This must be an interesting day for you.”
“It is not one of my better days,” She said, lifting her eyes to mine. Her red-rimmed, slightly wet eyes...
Now, was the state of her eyes a function of her age or anger? Or… oh, god… heartbreak? Or just jet lag?
She continued, quickly, “But we must carry on. Mustn’t we?”
“I suppose so,” I said.
These particular Brits—this Cats team—will look you in the eyes. Deeply. And with that look close the room in about you. Just the two of you. I’d had that from Trevor at my final audition. (As all the actor bios I’d read had predicted I would.) I had it from Chrissie at the meet and greet. Now Dame Gillian did it, too. She took my hand and looked into my eyes and said,
“You know it’s been doing so well, all over the world.”
Is she going to cry? No. She is not. Steeling up a bit, she manages a grim, closed-lip smile before going on.
“We just got enormous raises.”
“I’m so glad,” I said.
“Well,” she brightly shrugged, “we must carry on…” and she walked, alone, back towards the center of the room.
And with that, we were called back from the break by our production stage manager, Ira Mont.
- A circle of chairs with two lead chairs at a table - which two would sit there?
- 7 minutes with Dame Gillian Lynne
- Lecture Time with Sir Trevor Nunn
(To be continued…)
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