|Mrs. Carlson (Mary Ann Tweedie) implores |
Wilson (Tony Targan) to "Fix These Phones!"
Self-image is an illusion. When we look in the mirror, “we are vain and we are blind,” to quote David Byrne of the Talking Heads. We tend to see ourselves as we want others to see us. But if we are being honest, despite all our attempts to keep the ravages of time in check, none of us is getting any younger.
When auditioning for plays, actors are usually asked to provide their age range on the audition form. I am often told that I look much younger than my actual age (50), so I routinely list my age range as 25 to 55. In fact, in my last play (A Christmas Carol), I was cast as Clarkson Stanfield, a 32 year-old painter friend of Charles Dickens. When I auditioned for Whose Wives Are They Anyway?, I read for John Baker, a 30-something business executive. So when I was cast in the part of Wilson, a 60-something handyman at the Oakfield Golf & Country Club, I was a bit surprised at first.
Although I am closer to my 60s than my 30s, I just don’t see myself as the “old guy.” Wilson is grouchy, sarcastic, cantankerous, and a hypochondriac … you name it, he suffers from it. He even complains that a carbuncle – one of his many ailments – “could have been caused by running.” Ironically, I love running: I can still run 10K races at a sub-7:00 minute pace and I am currently training for my 12th marathon. But to play the part of Wilson, I must “act my age” and affect the characteristics of a grumpy old man. It took me awhile to develop his character. At first, I adopted a gravelly voice and grew a scraggly beard. Soon, my posture slouched and my walk slowed to a shuffle. The finishing touch: I hiked my belt up above my navel in the quintessential old-guy fashion statement.
To be a good actor, you have to commit to the part. That means going all the way, not half-way. Not necessarily over-the-top, but all-in. You have to check your ego at the door and not worry about what people will think. You really have to become the character and react to people and situations as he would react. The closest analogy I can think of is when I studied French in high school and I finally got to the point where I was actually thinking in French, rather than translating words from English to French. So now, I have to become Wilson, not just play him. So during the next month, if I appear more cynical and sarcastic and move slower than usual, you’ll understand why.