Tim’s Blog: Week 4

The first week on my own. Julia and Joe have gone. The Oakwood apartment in Marina del Rey is all mine. If I want to eat sardines in the nude and leave things on the floor and watch programmes about weaponry and cars and leave the toilet seat up then I can. Instead, I light the artificial fire in the fireplace and settle down to some long overdue writing. This coincides with the rain going away and the sun coming out. Bollocks. I draw the blinds.

In my evenings off I try new things! I visit the Impro Theater workshop where the Shakespeare Unscripted company do their Monday evening session. I join in. From the outside I think, I can do this. From the inside, however, I am complete poo. These people are geniuses. I think I’m all articulate and spontaneous – what do I know? It’s a grounding, humbling experience for me. In An Oak Tree the words are all written, thank god.

On Tuesday, another first. I try Poker. Michele’s partner, Dave, is a master. We gather at Will’s house on Beverly Glen place and Dave brings an attaché case full of chips. Everyone brings snacks. I eat maybe 20 shrimps as we play 5 card whatsit, seven card something and Texas Hold Them. I lose $4 over the entire evening. It’s great. Will’s girlfriend, Marie, wins the most. I can’t wait to get back to Vegas now.

But at the Odyssey Theatre it’s been one hell of a week. A week that characterizes the stretch of the show.

Wednesday night is Christopher Michael Moore. The audience is full of people connected to Harvard Westlake school where Chris is a teacher and director. All my producing team have connections to this high school – Will went there as a student; Dan and Michele both teach and direct there. It sounds like a pretty cool place. Chris is beautiful in the show – solid, deep and calm. He actually calms me down, looks after me! I see emotions rise and watch as Chris keeps them in check. It is a restrained and true performance from a hugely experienced actor. In the audience are two previous second actors – Clancy Brown and Peter Van Norden. We also do our first talkback in the Odyssey run. Lots of good questions about control and manipulation. I’m surprised by how many people in the audience have seen either this play before or other plays of mine. It’s very flattering.

Thursday is Michelle Monaghan. A small town girl from Iowa. She arrives in a limo. She arrives early and we have a peppermint tea. (Peppermint tea was the only thing I stipulated on my rider – that and a different puppy for me to pet each evening.) I’m sorry to say this, but Michelle is almost impossibly and effortlessly beautiful. Everyone who has done this show is impossibly and effortlessly beautiful, but Michelle is maybe just a teensy weensy bit more impossibly and effortlessly beautiful than certainly any of the men who have done the show. Not only is she impsbly and eftlsly b, but she is also down to earth, funny, smart, relaxed and, cool. The show is a joy. Emotion passes across her face like the shadows of clouds racing across a hillside. She is open, only ever open. No fakery, no side. Her tears spot the stage floor and her smile lights up the place. At the end, we hug, congratulate each other, and off she goes in the limo. I am left a bit breathless by the human being I have just spent a couple of hours with.

Friday is Anne De Salvo – who is also impossibly beautiful. She arrives in a rather stylish hat which I think rather suits her. Twenty minutes before the show she retires to her dressing room, removes the hat, undoes the rollers and, after some minutes primping, emerges with the most glamorous head of hair I have ever seen. Immaculate and tended, like an LA lawn. I am so taken by the hair that at one point I accidentally refer to the character Anne plays in An Oak Tree as a ‘she’.

Saturday – a masterclass at the Odyssey Theatre with maybe 25 participants. Great to stretch my brain a bit and connect with the ideas the play contains. A very generous and engaged group, including Tracy Burns from the Shakespeare Impro group and Jesse Burch who was my second actor on January 13th. Towards the end of the session I do an exercise that I’ve done many times before and this group goes ‘all Californian on my ass’ (if that’s the right expression – stretching the rules, resisting conformity, doing their own thing and making new discoveries for me in the process. It’s great. I leave energized.

Saturday evening is the inimitable Miguel Sandoval. He is a great ally of my producers. His daughter went to Harvard Westlake. He is a class act of the highest order. From the photos of him on IMDB he looks very serious and straight-laced. But he has the biggest twinkle in his eye! It’s a great contradiction which he plays with relish – he is a deadpan clown. We hit it off immediately. He fell into acting almost by mistake – falling for his Decroux teacher in New Mexico – and ending up marrying her. His experience and playfulness shines through. The show is lovely. In the audience are maybe half the cast and crew of the successful TV show he’s been doing for six years – Medium. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0412175/ After the show we head to the Westside Tavern where he’s booked a private room. I am placed at the head of the table and talk with his daughter, Olivia, who is studying theatre at CalArts and who has recently played Miguel’s daughter in Medium. Olivia has been fired up by An Oak Tree. Always nice to meet a fellow Brechtian in a bar in LA.

Sunday has two shows for the first time ever – we are adding more to meet demand. 2pm is Lauryn Cantu, an undergraduate actor from USC. She remarks how surprised she is to be so relaxed – and she is! She is a chilled Californian student from Texas. Her dad is in the front row and hands her a bouquet at the end of the show. Despite her calm she turns in a remarkably assured performance. In addition to being herself, her role in An Oak Tree is that of a 46 year old grieving father – and at times I wonder if it’s possible for the audience to precipitate such a transformation on someone who is so far away from the experience of the play. But the principle still holds good. She is light and present. Once again this week the stage is spotted with a tear. She listens and absorbs. And the story is told. Afterwards, when we tell her who’s doing the 7pm show that night, she almost faints with excitement. We offer her free tickets to come back in a few hours time and she says this is the happiest day of her life!

Between the matinee and the evening show I move the sofa cushion from the green room into my dressing room, set my alarm and have a nap. Every evening show has always started at 8pm. But not this one. It’s starting an hour earlier and I forget. As I’m sleeping, there’s a knock on my door and Rachel, my stage manager, says that my second actor is here. I am woozy with sleep. I haven’t re-set for the show, I haven’t ironed my shirt. And there she is, with agent and managers and boyfriend and a dazzling smile.

Alanis Morissette.

From what I saw of Alanis that night I know that she is looking for adventure. She is open and unafraid and free – hungry for new experience. I can only imagine the process that got her to the Odyssey Theatre – she is surrounded by people – friends and ‘People’. Somehow the idea of the play must have got to her and she said Yes. And she continues to say ‘Yes’ all evening – yes to the offer the play makes, yes to an invitation to trust her instinct and go where it takes her, yes to Tequila shots in the bar afterwards. In the pre-show chat she is funny and self-deprecating – we joke about her personal lip-balmer, Philiippe (who does not actually exist). We joke about the Brown Note (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_note). We joke throughout the show too. The audience are a strange mix tonight. Many have come because they know Alanis is going to be there. They sit with their cameras. They don’t quite know what to make of the play. A couple get up to volunteer for the Hypnotist’s act, even though I’ve asked them not to. I have to stop the show to explain the gag. Everyone’s a bit over-excited. A couple walk out two thirds of the way through – they’d seen enough of Alanis and too much of genre-stretching British theatre. At one point Alanis picked up the piano stool to cover her embarrassment. She is there all the way through and it is a joy. Afterwards, the green room is swamped by her entourage – a fantastic collection of writers and musicians and composers and film makers and dreamers. We disembark to the San Francisco Saloon where tequilas are drunk and genius is toasted.

As with all the actors who come to do An Oak Tree, I feel privileged to get a brief connection to their lives, to meet on an immediate and deep level, to make work together. And then we part. The constellation of Alanis Morissette passed overhead last night and probably won’t come round again for me. But it was a great constellation – the ‘biggest’ so far in the life of An Oak Tree in terms of its scale. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have a life like that. But I sense that if you’re going to be an international star, she’s doing it pretty well.

Today, as I’ve been writing, I’ve stayed in the tee-shirt I slept in. I’ve made pasta and watched Spinal Tap. I’ve had a beer and done my laundry. Now I’m going to have an early night. I hope Alanis gets to have days like this too.


5 Responses to “Tim’s Blog: Week 4”

  1. Karl James on February 1st, 2010 11:53 pm

    I should have put in my rider that I get to see every single performance. But your blog is a good second best. Thanks Tim. Change your old tee-shirt for a new t-shirt. Sleep. Write. Enjoy. K x

  2. CSC on February 2nd, 2010 1:31 pm

    We’re just about to toast genius, too. In Sussex.

  3. Gareth on February 3rd, 2010 5:03 am

    You disproved a comment a friend made tonight…that is, that there is an inverse correllation between talent and size of entourage!! Cheers for keeping the world updated Tim G x

  4. Wendy Cutler on February 3rd, 2010 10:28 pm

    Hi, Tim,
    Are you doing any other workshops in Los Angeles? I am an old improviser from way back, founded a group called Off The Wall here, and before that worked with a Grotowski protoge at the Edinburgh fringe in the 70′s. I would LOVE to attend a workshop with you if you’re planning any others. Thanks, Wendy

  5. Catherine Coan on February 7th, 2010 3:50 pm

    Dear Tim Crouch,

    I have written a play called An Oak Tree by Tim Crouch by Catherine Coan. In the middle of it is An Oak Tree by Tim Crouch, and in the middle of that, I walk onstage from the audience and hug first you, then your actor. I thought you would like to know.


    Catherine Coan

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