The last time I acted in a play was fifteen years ago on Broadway in a very erudite, serious play called Stanley with Anthony Sher that had been at the Royal National Theatre and was being re-cast in New York.
I’d been in New York doing stand-up comedy for five years when this happened and being a part of a play again felt like coming home. I trained as a classical actress in London, I played leads in repertory theater before coming to the States – and doing a play again was familiar. I got to hang out with real British actors, like Anna Chancellor and Selina Cadel and watch John Caird direct. He directed Les Miserables, and I felt like I’d arrived.
In stand-up comedy you can say whatever you want – as long as it’s funny. In theater you have to stick to someone else’s script, word for word, or they’ll fire you. Four months of saying the same lines every night took their toll on my soul – that’s British for I was bored to tears.
The run finally ended. I sighed with relief. I’ve been writing books, performing solo comedy, doing cartoon and film voices, playing with my kids and avoiding theatre ever since.
And then, two months ago, the little boy I gave birth to 11 years ago was cast as The Artful Dodger at the 800 seat Colonial theatre in Pittsfield in a superb community theater production of Oliver! His sister is in Fagin’s gang and Yours Truly is playing the evil Widow Corney.
It’s been six weeks of intense rehearsal for four performances. There are 220 people in the cast.
It’s much harder work than any professional theater I’ve ever done. And much more fun. Why? In addition to seeing my son’s natural charisma light up the stage, I get to yell at 150 kids to ‘GO TO BED!” And they do!