March Diary Entry for BackStage
March 2, 2012. I am headed back to Los Angeles after performing the Tobolowsky Files live as a fundraiser for the International Film Festival Boston – and at the Bell House in Brooklyn – as a fundraiser for me. The Files are stories I began writing when I was recovering from a broken neck four years ago. The project is a portrait of what actors always have to do: make lemonade when you have lemons. In my case it was making lemonade in a neck brace.
Following the theory that one thing often leads to another, David Chen at Slashfilm.com recorded the stories. They became a popular download on iTunes. They were picked up by public radio, most notably KUOW in Seattle and WFPL in Louisville. That led to a book deal with Simon and Schuster. Now they have become a one-man theatrical performance.
The actor has a series of interesting problems in performing a one-man show. The most inescapable one is that you are the show. Everything. The audience becomes aware of this after about eight seconds. The performer must stay ahead of them. There are several ways of doing this. Some actors rely on technical elements like changing lights, costumes, sets, or props.
I choose not to do this for one reason: I don’t want the success of my performance in the hands of an unknown technical crew with a one-hour mike check and lighting rehearsal right before the house opens. I want the burden of the show’s rhythm in my hands.
Financially, I am returning home with a box office percentage in my wallet. After paying hotels, meals, airfare, the theater’s cut, and David Chen’s cut I have netted a negative $200.
However, at the Boston show I was given a set of Davy Crockett drinking glasses from Nancy Campbell, one of the directors of the fundraiser. At the Brooklyn show, I met several of the fans of the podcast who have been ardent listeners for the last two years. I had a beer with my editor from S&S and my literary agent. I met a man who flew from Poland to meet me because of the story I wrote about Auschwitz, where his grandparents were killed.
So when you add it all up, I figure I am deeply into profit. An actor can never discount the value of experience. It can keep you warm on cold nights, too.