The 24

September 14, 2004

Kurt Gardner, one of the producers of the 24 Hour Plays, calls me at 10 am Monday morning, as I’m shaving. “I’ve got the curveball news of the day,” he said. “You’ve been written into one of the plays.”
So I hotfooted it to 42nd and 7th, where I was to appear with Sam Rockwell, Maria Bello, and Fisher Stevens in a ten minute one act written sometime between eleven last night and six that morning.

It was intense. I really felt like an outsider at first. I was actually IN the script, as in “Sam Rockwell enters with a guitar player.” I thought I was meant to just be a sort of disembodied musical entity, but suddenly I said, Wait. I’m actually, like, CAST in this play, as a PERSON, aren’t I?
So I was acting with Sam Rockwell. What an experience! He was pulling me aside, conspiring with me. “OK, so I’m going to sort of slide out, and I want you to make this motion as if my tie isn’t tied…what do you think? Sounds good?”
Um, yeah, sounds good. I was awestruck to be actually working with this guy, who is just a killing great actor, top of his craft. The 24 Hour Plays traditionally just uses whatever set happens to be in the theater, and this case it was the set of After The Fall–the JFK airport lounge circa 1966. Big curving modernist white forms.
Sam and I were up on a balcony, waiting to enter and walk down an elegant staircase. The story was that he would enter with a guitar player hired to woo Maria Bello, except Maria Bello was kissing Fisher Stevens, as a lark, and Sam exits, despondent. Then we reenter, and I play a waltz while Sam and Maria dance.
So we’re rehearsing on the stage, and we enter, Sam sees the kiss, he exits, I follow. And we’re off the stage, in the wings, and Sam is STILL ACTING. Staying in character, improvising dialogue. I don’t know what to do! We’re in the dark, nobody’s watching, and he is just KILLING with this art and energy. I fumbled along. It was really wonderful.
What was truly impressive was the intensity of performance in light of the tininess of Sam’s role. He had two entrances, a dance, and just two or three lines of dialogue. (Nearly every other actor in the show spent the whole day sweating bullets, running dialogue obsessively) Nonetheless, the guy worked his ASS OFF all day long; pacing, psyching himself up, digging deeply into his character. Very cool. True artistry.
I also got buttonholed by a guy directing a play with Anna Paquin, Matthew Lillard, mUMs (from Oz on HBO), and Gaby Hoffman. He wanted me to be kind of Doughty-Ex-Machina, sitting on the airport balcony above the actor, playing bits of music here and there. The cues were pretty complicated. I cut up the script and scotch-taped the cue-lines to the back of my guitar.
The performance was exhilarating. It’s always amazing to do the show–playing my tunes to a Broadway house–but actually appearing in a couple plays–awesome. The extent of my Broadway acting d