Thursday, September 7, 2006
It’s hard to explain the intimate crucible of a full-blown theater production: the stress of rehearsal, the terror and determination that permeates a company of actors and crew locked in the struggle of mounting a theater production.
And there’s a reason drama nerds use the verb “mount” when speaking of theater—much of the time everyone involved is feeling alternately ravished and screwed by the whole accursed process. But when the curtain goes up on opening night and all those hours of rehearsal and passion and fear catalyze into good, strong theater, the long-term effects are magical. The relationships forged on the boards and backstage are life-long.
As our local theater community launches its fall season,
here are profiles of four people who make great (and sometimes
not-so-great) theater happen—three men and one woman who work
tirelessly behind the scenes and also light up the
LJ Brewer of Paper Wing Theater
Theater changes lives, and in recent recollection I’d say it’s changed no one’s life more than the Paper Wing Theater’s LJ Brewer. When I first laid eyes on the six-foot-plus Lloyd he was dressed in fishnet stockings, tight black panties and high heels. Surrounded by a cast of supporting actors almost half his age, Brewer was throwing his big old wide-receiver’s hips into the role of The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Frank N. Furter on the gothic stage of Salinas’ Fox Theater.
If you’re unfamiliar with the role, Frank N. Furter is a transvestite alien who has sex with every character he can get his hands on while singing some of the most classically campy show tunes ever written. It’s a role made famous on the screen by the marvelous Tim Curry and I’ll be damned if, back in 2004, Lloyd Brewer wasn’t doing a fine job of channeling all the perverse mojo and sympathetic lunacy of the original into his performance.
Brewer’s moxie, his strut and his general air of careless, threatening and potent sex was refreshing and vital, so when I found out it was the first major role he’d ever had I was astounded. What’s more is that not long after that highly successful first run of Rocky Horror closed, Brewer won the Weekly’s Best Actor award in our annual Best of Monterey County issue. Just like that, Brewer had transformed himself from father and respectable, productive citizen to glitzy community theater diva.
With his partner Koly McBride, Brewer threw himself into creating theater on the Fox Theater stage, with mixed results. As the emotionally volatile, slightly sleazy and ultimately sympathetic lead in Frankie and Johnny, he was tremendous. As Humbert Humbert in Lolita, rumor has it that he was less so. (The show closed after just a few performances.)
Yet, in the true spirit of community theater, Brewer has forged on, although his newfound theater stardom has not been without a price. Brewer says that many locals in Salinas have openly questioned his sexuality and character thanks to the roles he’s chosen. By confusing Brewer and his roles, they pay him the highest compliment, of course. But it still takes some serious courage and conviction in the power of community theater to don the fishnets again and again every fall.
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, starring Lloyd Brewer and the Paperwing Theater Company, opens for its annual fall run on Oct. 6 at the historic Fox Theatre, 243 Main St., Salinas. For more info call 675-0521 or visit paperwingtheatreco.com.
Stephen Moorer of PacRep Theater
It’s election night in Carmel and Stephen Moorer’s the smooth-looking dude in the Buddy Holly leather jacket and the stylish glasses. He moves seamlessly among mayoral candidates, City Council members, and Carmel’s citizen elite, shaking hands, smiling graciously and effortlessly touching base with everyone in the room.
It’s quite a performance and then, like any great actor, he makes an understated but memorable exit, long before the election results are announced. Of course, Moorer’s presence at the local political event of the year is no accident. His company and the theater he revived from the dead back in the 1980s have become a major Carmel institution—unarguably one of the city’s most important artistic resources.
Moorer founded the “GroveMont Theatre” way back in 1982, renaming the nonprofit theatre company Pacific Repertory Theatre in 1994, when the group acquired the historic Golden Bough Playhouse in Carmel-by-the-Sea. It was a genius play. Not only does Moorer run the only Equity playhouse in Monterey County but he has access to the Golden Bough’s large stage, the Circle Theater’s little round in the back, and the Outdoor Forest Theater up the street.
But Moorer is no mere arts administrator. The man is a tremendous actor (with more than 50 productions), director (more than 100) and producer (more than 350). His performance as Ned in Elizabeth Rex and Edward De Vere in The Beard of Avon stand out as two of the greatest performances I’ve seen during three years of reviewing plays on the Peninsula.
But more than anything, it’s Moorer’s vision and his passion for great theater, particularly the writer(s) he calls “Shake-speare,” that make him the reigning Godfather of Monterey County theater.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK opens this weekend on the Golden Bough Playhouse and runs through Oct. 1. Shakespeare’s MEASURE FOR MEASURE opens Sept. 30 in the Outdoor Forest Theater and TIMON OF ATHENS runs now through Oct. 8 in the Circle Theater. For more information visit pacrep.org or call 622-0100.
Dawn Flood of The Western Stage
When my editor asked if I knew a model who could make a good “blecch” face for the cover of this newspaper a few months back, one person came to mind: The wildly expressive Dawn Flood.
Like every theater junkie, Dawn Flood is a survivor and an opportunist, a resourceful person and a completely committed artist. She also happens to be remarkably, uniquely talented. I have not seen her play a role that didn’t affect me profoundly—sometimes in a very jarring, disturbing way. She is wildly physical on stage. Her movements are often over-expressed in an absurd, haunting way that suggest Antonin Artaud.
But equally telling is Flood’s devotion to the administration of Monterey County theater. When the (much-missed and sadly defunct) Magic Circle Theater closed in Carmel Valley back in 2004, Flood didn’t miss a beat. Within a week of the theater’s closure she had entrenched herself at The Western Stage’s primary press liaison. It was the sign of a woman who lives and breathes theater.
Even when she is not on stage contorting her body and face while delivering the searing dialogue from Tartuffe or The Time of Your Life, Flood is feeding the beast behind the scenes.
TOM STOPPARD’S THE REAL THING opens on Western Stage’s main stage on Sept. 15. For more info visit westernstage.org or call 375-2111.
Gary Bolen of MPC Theater
Gary Bolen is just a really, really naturally funny guy. Watch him work the crowd in between acts in the lobby of the Morgan Stock Stage. He has a satyr’s glint to his eye. Or maybe it’s the way he keeps the top few buttons of shirt undone and brandishes a big piece of swinger’s hardware on his hairy chest.
I don’t know. But the guy cracks me up. Just talking with him in the lobby, you can see him winding up, his impeccable actor’s sense of timing spring-loaded and ready to fire. “Do you know Ryan Masters?” he asks as a friend approaches. “Great writer. This guy can tweak a press release like nobody’s business.”
Ouch. I’m taken off-balance, but when I look back at Bolen I can tell he’s enjoying every second of my discomfort. The man’s a rogue and a trickster and a carnival barker. He’s also a great song and dance man, a fine actor, and one of the main reasons that the Monterey Peninsula Theater Company continues to make great theater while mollifying the blue-hairs.
Bolen may be the smartest guy in the local theater scene. Or the craziest. He keeps the droves happy with low-budget, high quality musical revues by Sondheim and Gilbert and Sullivan, then pulls the rug out from under them by luring them to a full-blown production of something like Urinetown. More than smarts, it takes guts, and Bolen’s got those in spades. You have to either be crazy or full of courage to make a living in the dramatic arts. Bolen is both.
And he can write a mean press release.
ALL IN THE TIMING, A REVUE OF THE WORK OF DAVID IVES, opens in the MPC Studio Theater on Sept. 7. OUR TOWN opens on the Morgan Stock Stage Oct. 19. For more information visit mpcfaculty.net/drama_dept/default.htm.