Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Lion in Winter

What an incredible week-plus. Just back in Denver for a few days following ten days of intensive theatre doing ‘The Lion in Winter’ at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts with Thingamajig Theatre Company. Seven days of that was prep for the three performances we did this past weekend, all of which were incredible--even, eventually, the Sunday matinee to cap off ten straight days of exhaustion and immersion in this monster.

Me and Anna Hershey as King Henry II and Princess Alais. My, what big, furry shoulders you have, your majesty...

It was an incredible weekend especially considering the radically reduced rehearsal time-frame. Pat Payne, the director figures we put in close to 60 hours of rehearsal in just 7 days.

What an incredible group of people to work with too.

Imagine taking nine people you don’t know--or, to be fair, of whom there are several individual connections, but who as a group have never worked together before--and trusting them to put together a show as complex and emotionally raw as ‘The Lion in Winter’ from top to bottom in just seven days' time.

If you’re not familiar with the play, do yourself a favor and watch the multiple-Oscar wining 1966 film version, starring Katherine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole; it is incredible. It joins the uber-dysfunctional family of King Henry II for Christmas, 1183-style. But this is no holly-jolly Christmas, believe me.

The set of 'The Lion in Winter.'

Pagosa Springs has an a amazing facility, with LED lights and a huge, beautiful lobby that doubles as an art gallery/reception hall.

The emotional roller-coaster this man and his family go through in 24 hours is frankly brutal to portray. From the final scene of Act One through the end of the play, I (as Henry) get to disown my three sons in a tearful shriek (‘Goddamn you!!’) get told off by Queen Eleanor (who I have kept imprisoned for a decade) nearly lose my lover Alais, narrowly escape death myself and nearly commit murder.

It’s a crazy ride. We are getting great houses and a tremendous response to what we’re putting out there. Tons of audience tears flowing by the end, which I always take as a good sign (in theatre, not in relationships, haha, although the latter seems to occur more often. :)

Anyway, the Pagosa Springs local talent have been peerless in their welcome of us Denver peeps. I’ve been staying at a house that the theater owners Tim and Laura Moore bought (Tim also plays my son Richard). It’s less than a mile to the theater, and has a roof, heat, and a cold Beer Storage Unit...what’s the name for that thing? Oh yeah, a refrigerator. And that is mostly all I need. I go running at a reservoir connected with Pagosa Lake a mile or so away from the house, and the town and surrounding countryside are gorgeous and have been mostly sunny, even in winter.

Myself, David Trudeau and Robin Hebert (they are playing King Phillip of France and Henry’s son Geoffrey, respectively) have had a great time there, and I’m looking forward to more fun as well as another two weekends of shows after Thanksgiving. The show, even over the course of just one weekend so far, has grown tremendously, and I look forward to seeing what we are able to do once it has sunk into our bones even more.

Anyway. Wanted to decompress some of that, so thanks for indulging me. Please come down if you can; you won’t be disappointed. The set and costumes are rented from the Arvada Center’s production of the show, and reflect the nearly $100,000 budget they had for such things.

Aside from that, there is a great deal of talent on that stage, a great deal of honest, genuine emotion, and the show is well worth the drive.

Bonus: You can crash at 'my place' when you come down--just stay the hell away from my Beer Storage Unit. :)

ADDENDUM: Oh yeah, the damn hot springs are AWESOME! How could I forget our late-night adventure at the springs on Friday after the show? After all, it is called Pagosa SPRINGS for a reason...Nothing like frost on the handrails and ice on the paths as you soak in a steaming, 107-degree, sulfur-infused pool. I believe all theaters should attempt to replicate this. Hot tubs for all actors! It's my new crusade! :)

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