Bringing the Characters to Life

So far—and I say this will all my fingers and toes crossed hoping they don’t get swept away by Broadway or Hollywood  before September—we have really lucked out with the actors we have on board for our first reading.  Leenya Rideout, Brian Russell and John Deyle are all pretty great, and really perfect for the roles they are reading.  How did we get them, you ask?  The answer to that is fairly simple: friends.

I know I have mentioned before that I have some really lovely friends.  And when you have lovely, talented, hard working people in your life, they tend to know other lovely, talented and hard working people. 

Brian happens to be a friend of my very talented Neo-futurist friend, Eevin Hartsough.  Whenever Eevin has a gathering, a birthday, or a wedding (thankfully, she’s only had one of those), I end up chatting with Brian.  At Eevin’s birthday celebration last month, as I talked with Brian about his adorable daughter, a dear friend of ours that passed away, and other non-theatre related subjects, I kept thinking,—Farfel, Farfel, Brian would make a great Farfel.  And I asked, and he said yes.

I am a huge fan of Leenya Rideout.  If I had continued on the performing path, I would so want to be her.  She’s completely unaffected by her enormous talent, beauty and panache.  (Please don’t let the world discover that before she does my reading!)  My friend Sherri Stregack, another talented actress and all-around great person, coordinates occasional Hootenannies with her (yet again, talented) boyfriend, David Lutke.  On one of those miserable nights in March when half the trains weren’t running because of all the rain and flooding, a bunch of musicians and their friends gathered in an Irish bar in midtown to Hoot.  I played the egg shaker, while the real musicians in the bunch, among them Leenya, played fiddles, guitars, harmonicas and other blue grass instruments.  The  moment when I knew Leenya had to read Victoria , was when she belted out Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” while accompanying herself on the guitar.  She was just so… Victoria .  The next day I wrote one of Victoria ’s two big numbers, all the while thinking of Leenya and her guitar.  So, I got her email through the grapevine, and asked.  She said yes.

As for John, he happens to be the husband of my office neighbor at the Paley Center, the (I won’t say talented because now I’m just being redundant) fabulous Rebecca Paller,curator and resident Paley expert on all things arts related (Theatre, Musical Theatre, Opera, etc.)  When our colleagues start talking about the nuances of obscure television programs Becky and I find refuge in each other, and our shared love of musical theatre.  I knew her husband was just the right type for Mr. Dodd, so, again, I asked, and he accepted. 

I’ve already told them all that if they get a great offer that conflicts with the reading, I may be heartbroken, but I will completely understand. And since this is just the beginning, there will be many more opportunities for them to be a part of the Helen family.  In the meantime, though, it does thrill me to imagine these actors bringing Helen to life.