Iron Curtain

Time: March 22, 2008
Place: Las Positas College
Role: Howard Katz
Director: Ken Ross
My Reflections

Chance Meetings

I was having lunch with a friend (whom I’d met in a show atLPC several years ago) and ran into the LPC drama director. This was over thesummer and at Sweet Potatoes Restaurant. Odd thing is that my friend and Ididn’t actually eat there. We decided lunch was too pricey for filling ourbellies and ate at Subway instead. But I digress.

The director said they would probably be doing a new showcalled Iron Curtain (IC) for the junior college spring musical. He wentover the premise and I was captivated. It just sounded like a great idea for aproduction: the USSR trying to put on a bad musical. Later on I would find outit was really happening like that in the 1950s.

One other reason to rehearse was to have one last chance toperform with Ken, Jim and Faith. I essentially learned my acting, singing anddancing training from them. With retirement coming for one or more, this verywell may be the last show with the same lot.

Course I do note that I thought that for both New Jersey and City of Angels.

Da! Da! Dat is Good!

The plot sounded funny so I went out and read the scriptwith a friend. Yup. It was quite comical. Thus, I auditioned. Well, sort of. Iwas already rehearsing for Oz so I couldn’t make the actual auditions. Idid attend the callbacks though. As usual, I wasn’t cast in exactly the role Iwanted. The character they cast me as was sort of George Costanza-ish(Seinfeld). Odd, but okay. He was also supposed to be bald, which I didn’t knowuntil several weeks into rehearsals. I noted to them that–negative, I wouldindeed not be shaving my head for the show. They could either recast or changeone line of a song. They chose the latter. Hated to be a diva, but hey, I gotother things going on. A military haircut is one thing, but the Marines werethe last ones to shave my head and I’m still a little irked about that one.Course I was a bit surprised to see another actor shave his head for the roleof Khrushchev. More power to him (the actor, not Khrushchev; he’s dead).

Working Party

The role was fine, but it would require some work. Therewere several songs and lots of lines and lyrics to memorize. I had just comeoff of doing Oz for a third time so memorizing that show was notparticularly hard. As well, I did City of Angels last year for thesecond time, making that easy too. No, this would require some actual effort.And where would I find time for “effort”? Yes, sir, effort was certainly inshort supply. It also wasn’t on sale anywhere. I looked.

There were some good laughs though. At more than one vocalrehearsal, we’d be laughing hysterically at things, thanks to the insane humorof Jim Heiner. The show itself offered some good humorous moments too.

I’m not sure how many shows I’ve done at LPC, but they’reall listed in my theatre section, so feel free to count. I just don’t feel likedoing it now. Nevertheless, it followed the standard routine: class signups,parking pass, late nights, set-building and designing logos or flyers for theshow.

The cast was nice. People got along well for the most part.At any rate, I had no drama with anyone (not that I ever do). Since most werestrangers to me, I wasn’t terrible talkative at first. Some took that to be menot liking them or something. But completely untrue. When I’m sober, I’m notalways too communicative to new faces in a show. Once I verify you’re asequally crazy as me, then I can don the lampshades and commence with the funkychicken dance.

The KGB Double Agent(s)

One interesting feature was the role of Onanov. Thischaracter had four different actors slated to play him. The first had to dropthe show before we even started rehearsing. He had a larger role come along.The second actor lasted quite some time and did a great job, but found out hegoofed up on scheduling or something and had to drop out for some televisionshow where he got to sing. The third actor was the briefest. He was cast andthen dropped about three days later. Guess he needed to spend more timetutoring his son. The fourth actor, Robert Sholty, ended up agreeing to theshow and doing the show. For him, it was a very short rehearsal period. In nextplace was the role of Hildret; that one only had two actors to play it.

Comrades, We Build a New World!

Set-building wasn’t too tough considering I was never therefor it. It’s not that I wasn’t doing my share for the party; I just wasn’trequired since I donated my time creating the first flyer and ads for theatreprograms and newspapers. Still, I made it out there once or twice. I like to helpbuild sets since that helps insure good sets during the show.

Nyet! Nyet! Nyet!

For the most part, IC went well. I don’t recall anyhuge screw-ups. I think I had a lyric flub or two during the fast song near theend. That was common. People had some crazy moments with that number. Sure Ifelt bad when that happened, but was always glad it wasn’t me. Other than that,I believe we had a few fun incidents: a rebel star hanging from above, a chairbreaking as an actor sat on it, a clip which fell out of a gun as the actor wascoincidentally saying, “the guns weren’t loaded,” and…hmmm… was that all?Perhaps there were more, but I can’t remember them. It’s surprising; the waythis show was written, there’s opportunity for way more flubs and catastrophes.

The Voice of the People

Audiences were good…when they came. Fact is there certainlycould have been many more seats filled. It’s always somewhat frustrating, moreso for others, but still. As per my usual diatribe I do have to say thattheatre will fade into oblivion if folks keep supporting The Sound of Musicand not attending new or less-performed shows. Many classic shows survive (andperhaps thrive) on nostalgia alone, but when more recent generations areexposed to them, they lack the same enthusiasm. If anything, they won’t havethe tolerance to see the same show repeatedly, especially if it wasn’t thatgreat to begin with. Granted, I fall victim of the same disease. It is hard topay for something that might not be good when you know you can always counton OKLAHOMA! to have catchy lyrics that you can quietly hum along with.However, be that as it may, LPC shows are much cheaper and the risks are low.

There were some great nights though. Preview night was packedand louder than I’ve ever heard an audience. I needed some good ear plugs forthat night. And seats filled up much more towards the end of the run. I thinkwe even sold out a couple nights.

Costuming Communism

Costuming was more difficult for me than usual. In Oz,I had two costumes with incredibly fast changes. Here, I had many costumes withvarious changes (one within a scene). During tech week, I realized that somescenes didn’t allow for enough time. Thus, I quickly altered my costumeitinerary. Despite valiant efforts, I could never ditch the purple shirt.Believe you me, I tried!

I also learned how difficult it is to change into a tuxduring a scene, while singing a song. I believe it looked quite funny on a fewnights, and this was even while using the tech booth glass reflection to seehow it looked. Kids, don’t try that at home. Or do try it at home and not in ashow.


It’s always fun to have some gags or “shtick” going on throughouta run. In IC, it was “the touchdown pass.” I needed to hand off mybowtie to another, so after the first act, I would make like Joe Montana inthat famous game so many years ago and scramble and throw. The other actorwould catch it and the crowd (?) would go wild. When Shinea became involved, itgot even crazier. We even drew up plays to avoid her interfering with thecatch. She was on our “team,” but you’d have never known that from watching theplay.

Another great debate was whether or not chocolate-coveredAltoids were candy. I maintain they are mints, as I do not buy candy. We had a sharplydivided cast on that one. Luckily when you’re arguing over something involvingchocolate, you can usually count on winning votes, by sharing the questionableproduct at hand with any fence-walkers.

Secret Peasant Pals

I do them for a while, and then realize I just don’t havetime to shop for gifts and that I detest doing any shopping at all, since Inever know what to buy. Then I stop doing them. Then I forget why I stopped andsign up again. Then it all comes back. And comes back fast!

The Party! Not the Red one, either.

There weren’t many cast parties, just a few trips torestaurants. TGIFs was the popular hangout. I attended a few. Since Erin came to the show opening night, I invited her to go with us. Robert had some friendstoo, so it was all good fun. I must say that when that many people get togetherin one place, it gets loud. People were also doing some pretty goofy things.Sometimes the cast is more of a spectacle after the performances.

Turn Out the Lights, the (Communist) Party’s Over

IC closed, but then had one last show of life. We hada few scenes resurrected for the annual Best of LPC Gala event. Heck, Iwasn’t doing anything the following weekend, so I had agreed to do it. Yetafter months of rehearsing and performing, I was quite tired by that time andthe fact of the matter is that the galas have so much going on and such ahastened time to put it together that it always ends up being very crazy,stressed and hectic. Well, for others I suppose. I just roll with it all. Imean as important as it is…well, it’s just a show, entertainment, you know? Don’ttake too seriously; you’re not getting out alive.

The People’s Revolution

Thus, the one dress rehearsal on Friday night went long, andmost of involved sitting around. I had a book, but wasn’t all into reading it.Yeah, it was a long tiring evening. This was also the night of the “costumerebellion.” Okay, it sounds intense, but really, it was just one actor notwanting to wear the costume for the rehearsal. So I figured I didn’t need towear mine either. We knew the costumes fit; we’d worn them for almost a month.When the time grew close, however, I decided to go ahead and wear mine. Hate tomake waves, I figured.

When it came time for the last big number, I couldn’t findthe mic tape. This meant I couldn’t really attach my microphone. I figured theyforgot to provide tape. Oh well. I guess I could forgo the mic for therehearsal. It’s a small house; they can hear us fine. Well, during the number,the pianist couldn’t hear us. Seems she was in another room and was relying onthe non-existent mics to play along with us. Things stopped and they were nottoo happy about missing microphones. We put them on and continued. Turns outthere was tape…somewhere. Perhaps I was making some small waves after all.

This, by the way, became known as the “microphonerebellion.”

On Saturday, I was late. I mean, the call times are oftenway too early and how often does it matter? It usually doesn’t. Usually. Okay,the one time I’m a half-hour late is when things have gone wrong and they needpeople early to fix it. Seems an actor was hurt or something and could not dothe show. They had to run it a few times without her. It was treated as a nearemergency, but the situation wasn’t all that dire. Plus, it really didn’taffect too much whether I was there or not. Be that as it may, it was the “calltime rebellion.” They were none too happy that I was late, although in mydefense, I had told the stage manager that I was coming late. Despite that, aspeech about call times was made. Now, we’re talking tsunamis.

After that was done, IC was done. I enjoyed doing the show,but alas, I was exhausted. And the crazy part was–I was already rehearsing foranother show!

Next: You can’t be serious about that title!