Tim’s Blog: Christmas Over

December 29, 2009

Long conversations today with my two Oak Tree co-directors, Karl James and Andy Smith.  Andy lives in Oslo with his partner Maja and their new baby Molly. He makes the most remarkably spare theatre pieces under his performance name, a smith.  He is rigorous and disciplined and super-intelligent.  You can read about him on his website http://www.asmithontheinternet.com

Karl James and I have known each other since we were 17 and at the National Youth Theatre in London.  We went our separate ways and then met again in our mid thirties. Karl read the manuscript to my first ever play, My Arm, and helped me to produce it in 2003.  He has been at my side with all my theatre work – a force of nature, powerful, incisive.  He runs a company in London called The Dialogue Project http://www.thedialogueproject.com

The three of us first worked together on An Oak Tree when it opened in 2005 and the collaboration was so successful that we have worked together on all my grown-up theatre work since.  This autumn we worked on my latest play, The Author, at the Royal Court (http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2009/sep/30/the-author-review ). Andy and Karl complete me.  They ask questions of my work that nobody else can – questions stemming from love and understanding and a mutual inquiry about where we can take theatre.  In rehearsals for An Oak Tree Andy always played the second actor – entering the process each day and attempting to erase any knowledge he had of the play.  He noted me on my tone, on the clarity of my guidance and instructions, where I was confusing, where I was liberating.  His input was invaluable – so much so that the character the second actor plays in An Oak Tree is called Andy Smith.  As I became more sure-footed in the role Andy stepped back and we brought in other actors to work with me.

Andy and Karl won’t be coming to LA.  They’ve seen it more times than anyone else. But I will feel their presence and the play is indebted to them.

– Tim Crouch

Tim’s Blog: Two Weeks to Opening Night!

December 23, 2009

Two weeks to opening night

Brighton is uncharacteristically gripped by snow and ice – walking round our hilly neighbourhood at night, the roads too treacherous for cars, a beautiful blanketed silence.  My computer home page is set to LA, where I see the temperature is 23º.  I have an invitation to a barbecue on January 2nd.  It doesn’t feel possible, here and now, where the sky is steel gray and the temperature is minus one.

We fly on December 31st.  We, my wife and three children.  We take off from Heathrow at 11.30am and arrive in LA at 3pm.  Three and a half hours to travel five and a half thousand miles.  And so many New Year’s Eves in between.  We’ll be met by my producer, Dan, and by my dear friend Brian Parsons – an honorary uncle to my children and director of undergraduate acting at USC.  Brian will try and keep us awake until 2010 begins on the west coast.  I think he will fail.

I have to remind myself how little preparation is needed for An Oak Tree.  I feel almost guilty.  I’ll travel with some technical sound equipment; I’ll travel with a sparkly waistcoat and some pieces of script.  But that’s it.  This is a show that happens in its moment, in the meeting between me and someone else and then in a meeting between me, that someone else and an audience.  I have to trust that both I and my actor are ready for that meeting.  And then that’s it.  The preparation is done.  Trust is all.

Having said that, I have bought two new shirts.

Of course there are people working like crazy for this run.  My exceptional producers – Dan and Will and Michele.  Dan has been stalking An Oak Tree since he saw it in 2005.  We met several times last year – most memorably in Seattle, where I was performing another of my plays and where he paid for supper.  That was the clincher.  Page One Productions have been on it ever since.

And then there’s Stephanie Klapper, the casting director.  Stephanie did the unimaginable and found me 82 brilliant actors for the Oak Tree run in New York. She’s doing it again for LA.  I don’t need to know who they are until I meet them an hour before – although Stephanie is fastidiously checking in with me.  The main thing is to find a balance of age and gender.  So far in the history of the show the tally is 134 men and 117 women.  The oldest was Jim Dale in New York.  The youngest was a 19 year old student called Anna in a theatre near Oxford.  They all play the same character; they all tell the same story.

I will keep these postings up to date, dipping in and out with thoughts and events.  If you come to the Odyssey Theatre between Jan 6 and Feb 14th, please feel free to send me your responses.

– Tim Crouch

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