I got my The Boys Next Door script back on September fifth but we didn’t begin rehearsing until the 17th, a perfect setup for an insecure, OCD, slow-study kinda-guy like me. Just. Perfect. I zoomed in on my only soliloquy, the one that starts out, “I stand before you a middle-aged man in an uncomfortable suit,” the one I blogged about back on the eighth of September with “Utter and Profound Confusion.” It’s not a terribly long speech and I don’t deliver it until well into Act Two but its presence presented me with a dilemma over where to start my studies.
I found choosing between Act One, the act we’ll focus on for most of September, or studying my speech, which I won’t need to deliver for weeks, vexing. In the end I chose the soliloquy which means I was only vaguely familiar with Act One when rehearsal began, and to ice the cake, we skipped Act One scene one and started with scene two. Just. As. Our. Schedule. Says.
It was vexing to feel unprepared on day one and my squirming viscera were happy to make known the inadvisability of my choice. Even though intellectually I knew I was on solid ground with my “practicing” as Lucien likes to say (Keith is more likely to use the word “study” and has to remember not to let his predilections overwhelm Lucien’s while I’m wearing his skin) I hadn’t narrowed my focus during my 13 days of script perusal which meant that from the get-go I found myself relying on my script more than my cast-mates. (See what happens when scripts are handed out early? Some doggone DAR raises the dag-gum average.)
In addition to studying I’ve been contemplating, thinking, cogitating and ruminating about me an good ole Lucien, my age-mate but generation-previous counterpart. Where did I come from, where and when was I born and how did I develop the damage to my brain all circulated through Keith’s pinball kinda brain and as usual I found a lot of commonality between me the actor and me the character.
The play’s set in Massachusetts so I immediately default to Pittsfield, a town on the westernmost part of the Commonwealth, as my hometown. Why? I did a five day bike tour through Connecticut and Massachusetts back in the eighties and stayed overnight at a campground there. At the end of a long day of cycling we headed to a local pizzeria where we four choked down what still holds the title as the worst pizza of my life. And I was super hungry! Pittsfield will remain ever in my heart as the king of crappy pizza and I’ll always tip my hat to her assault on Epicurus.
In the script I proclaim myself a middle-aged man and as the action takes place in the mid 1980’s math dictates that I have DOB prior to WW Two. If we subtract Keith’s age from 1986, a year near and dear to me, we arrive at a DOB of 1928 which I quickly change to 1929, the year my papa was born. BAM! I have sired myself but what of my intellectual handicap? My self-proclamation of being “retarded” and “damaged”? Spoons. I blame it on spoons.
In the hands of a master the use of forceps can save the life of mother and child during difficult deliveries. Forceps were used on our first son, our ten-pound ten-ounce gargantuan who is slightly autistic. (I do not blame the forceps. Mild autism runs in the family. I am on the spectrum.) Lucien’s country doctor was not an adept user of forceps and while they saved the life of “my” mother their use damaged me and left her sterile. Tragedy? Hang on a minute, I’ve got more!
We know that Lucien’s father is dead, I say so in the play, and Dad’s death is unsurprising since I’m 57 years-old, but my Lucien, the one who is a conglomerate of written page and personal life, lost his father to the Bataan Death March in April 1942, a slight re-write of family history as my uncle survived the Death March but was later murdered as a POW while in the care of the Japanese Empire. (Please see “Unreasoned Guilt: The death of sergeant Bill Kenel” for details.) Lucien’s father had volunteered for service prior to World War Two and was taken from me before I reached puberty, leaving Mama to care for her only child. I became a ward of the Commonwealth with Mom’s death in the 1957 Asian Flu epidemic.
So, when I should have been studying my script I was busy creating my Lucien Percival Kenel.
I gotta go. I got to practice!