Saw Further Than the Furthest Thing at Manhattan Theatre Club. Pretty mesmerizing and harrowing play, with good performances throughout. But I was particularly impressed with Peter Gerety, who did a magic trick in which he made a jar appear out of the blue, or out of his sleeve, or something. By the time he was onto his third magic trick, I was thinking of the semi-trick I'd seen the night before in As It Is in Heaven at the ArcLight Theater: Alana West, playing a resident in a 19th century Shaker community, created a "Jacob's Ladder" out of string to teach and impress a community newcomer.
"You know how to start," she told the lass, while stretching the string between her two hands. "You drop your thumbs, you come over, under, and up. Then you drop your little finger and come over and up. Then you drop your thumbs and you see cat's whiskers. You go over two and up one--then put the strings over your thumbs, loop over the thumbs, and see the triangles on each side? Then put your index fingers through these triangles, turn your hands outwards, and that makes the ladder--Jacob's ladder--that stretches up to heaven."
Now, some may question the quotation marks around these words, assuming that I could only, at best, paraphrase what Ms. West had said. No. That's straight from her mouth, for I called her to see if she knew how to do that Jacob's ladder in advance--which would, I assume, have given her an edge on being cast. Or did she have to learn it once she got the part in As It Is in Heaven?
"The latter for the ladder," she told me wittily. "Actually, Solina McClain, the actress who plays the character I'm teaching it to, is the one who really taught me--well, in a way, because she got this book, 'How to Make String Art.' I learned how to do it in an afternoon." West did admit that, one night during the run, she lost her concentration and found her ladder was missing a few rungs. "I was just talking away," she said, "and I ad-libbed, 'I'd better start over.'" Now that she knows how to do it, the actress said, she expects that she'll be able to do it for the rest of her life. I wonder. John Rubinstein learned sign language in order to portray the teacher in Children of a Lesser God but, about a year after he left the show, he told me that he'd already forgotten much of it. "It's like any other language," he said. "Use it or lose it."
I then asked Ms. West if she planned to put "Can make a Jacob's ladder" on her resume under "special skills." She laughed for a long second or two, as if I was making some outlandish suggestion, but I think I have a point. Ever see what some actors put on their resumes under "special skills?" I grabbed a bunch of eight-by-tens that actors have sent me over the years, some of which have resumes stapled to the backs with "special skills" listed at the bottom. I learned that Janan Raouf can snow ski, Joe Sangillo can bench press 300 lbs., and Michael Ciminera is good at "pizza making." Kristi Elan Carpenter lists "football" (perhaps St. Louis could have used her on Sunday) but also admits to "waitress," in which I assume she has much more experience.
Jan Gelberman says that she's "good with animals and children" and, while that's impressive, it pales next to Jeff Stone's skill at "animal rescue and adoption." Similarly, Reuven Russell says he's a "master balloon sculptor." But I wonder how he compares to Collins Edgewater, who claims he's "the balloon laureate of Albuquerque"? And is Brian Townes wise to list "carpentry/cabinetry" as one of his "related skills"? Bet if he gets a part Off-Off Broadway, very little time will pass before the director has him making the set.
Jessica Faller, after listing "fluent French," mentions "no cavities!" Ah, she was born too late for those Crest commercials of yore, where a kid would burst in the door of his house, holding the dentist's glowing report as he proclaimed, "Look, ma! No cavities!" Leighann Lord lists "rollerblading," which reminded me of the time I went to an actor's apartment to catch a ride to Bridgeport, where a pal of ours was doing The Rocky Horror Show. The guy was on the phone when I got there and was very happy when he hung up. "Just got an audition," he crowed. "They asked if I could rollerblade. I said yes. Now I'll have to learn," he added with a shrug. I immediately pictured him doing the rollerblade rag with the delicious incompetence of Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl.
Aaron Lazar is an "avid whistler." Now, I've seen Lazar perform as a mesmerizing Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha and a most moving Billy in Carousel, but I don't know if his avid whistling is going to get him too many jobs--for, as we all know, anyone can whistle. Sharif Rashed's resume says "karate--green belt." Now, the only thing I know about karate is that an actor named Tommy Karaty appeared in a 1964 Off-Broadway musical call Cindy. So I googled around the Internet for belt ranks and found that green is fourth of the seven levels, right between purple and blue. I also noticed on the website that, to acquire a white belt, "the only requirement is enthusiasm." I wonder if many actors list "karate--white belt" in hopes that the karate-ignorant will think they've got yet another "special skill" when, in fact, they do not.
My two favorite listings of special skills were LaKeith Hoskin's saying that he's good at "nostril-flaring"--well, better he put that on his resume than on his tombstone-- and Robert D. Uttrich's notation that he's a "yo-yo enthusiast." That's probably why Uttrich went into theater in the first place, given that so many of us yo-yos tend to congregate there. Finally, I had to laugh when I saw that Terri Sturtevant listed "contact lenses" under "special skills." But then I stopped laughing, for I recalled that, every time I tried wearing contact lenses, I took them out after four seconds of searing pain. So, yes, Ms. Sturtevant, I agree: You do have a most special skill.
[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org]
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