A Twist of Water

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The False Grip

Posted by Stef Tovar on February 4, 2011

Being the Artistic Director of Route 66 and an actor in the show is…challenging to put it mildly. I could write a few pages on the challenges of producing an Equity show with no paid staff, foundation or corporate funding, money for marketing and advertising…etc. HIGH FIDELITY was where the scale tipped and the hats I wore were too many. I underestimated the workload. It hurt my performance and ultimately, the show. I picked myself up, moved past the adversity and finished the show strong. I look back on it proud of the finish, but with regrets.

Our company has learned MUCH since August of 2009.

I’ve now surrounded myself with a great group that gives the show all the production support necessary so I can just be an actor again. The play demands it of me, and Erica (our director and co-creator) has positioned things carefully and made sure that I have the ability to just do my work. Having company members Rita and Matt in the rehearsal room, makes me feel like I’m at home.

So that’s what I’m going to write about…the work.

(big sigh of contentment)

It’s hard to believe we’ve been in rehearsal for four weeks. Seems like we JUST started. I’ve just begun to get that false grip on the character of Noah as we begin tech next week.

Oh and we got a little snow this week…

Third largest snowfall on record, the “Thundersnow” put TWIST out of commission for a couple days. We came back to rehearsal last night having been away since Sunday.  It was a rude awakening for me as I have MUCH to memorize still…but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Or so I think…

That “false grip”…is such an interesting time in the process for an actor. You’ve done the table work and you’ve blocked the show. You’re almost off book and are even starting to “think like the character” a bit. You want to go into your scenes guns blazing ready to give it to your scene partner with authority. But you’re shooting blanks. The words are all there, but they’re swimming in this pool of uncertainty along with: your objectives, your tactics, what you had for dinner that night—oh and your scene partner’s reactions too—interpreting them incorrectly and making it all about you, till you eventually drown. But while sinking, you give the director SOMETHING that looks like the play.

I haven’t done any “acting” since December (August before that) so I feel a bit out of sorts. The acting I did in December was for a film and looking back, it gives me a new appreciation for both mediums. Film is so…immediate. I stood in shock as some big name movie stars arrived on set seemingly not really prepared for their scenes–particularly with their lines. Coming from a theatre background, I was so prepared! (mainly due to fear) I had done the research and knew the lines backwards and forwards. I was equipped to stand toe to toe with these stars. But the freshness and believability of their work was so admirable. It was a real lesson (one of the many I learned working on the film) that I’m trying to bring to TWIST. How do you memorize so much text, prepare so carefully for an incredibly taxing journey and then throw it all away so it feels like you’re discovering it for the first time? Well, I do know how to do it. After 18 years in the business I finally found something that works for me. Just a few years ago, Johnny Clark and I, working on ON AN AVERAGE DAY together, devised this system called E.D.S.A. that really clicked for us. In typical fashion, this epiphany arrived after running the show for six weeks in L.A., rehearsing, previewing and opening in it Chicago, but it did arrive and changed me as an actor. I know the freshness will be there, but the “false grip” is making me feel as though that time will never come.

I hope it gets here by tomorrow. With Caitlin coming to see the work, that would be a good time for it to get here. But truth be told, it’s not something that arrives until you’ve got the audience in front of you. I’m most likely going to feel good about things on Tuesday—right before we get into the space at Theater Wit and it all goes away until previews.

This play has come in stages—all drastically different than I anticipated.  From reading it off the page alone (my first blog was about that stage), to the table work and read-throughs with the cast, to getting up on our feet–it’s already been quite a journey. Each stage has stuck around for the appropriate amount of time.

As Noah and I are fathers, I equate the stages I’ve experienced on TWIST like having a baby. You actually get the perfect amount of time when you’re having a child. The “9 months” is a perfectly thought out system to allow you to deal with the absolutely life changing event that will fall on you. Like the craft of acting, you’re never really fully prepared and wind up winging, it and that’s where you hope your years of experience and God given ability will kick in. And it does–for both parenting and acting. Most of the time anyway. It’s so interesting that this play centers on adoption. I imagine that receiving a child through adoption feels like such a gift and somewhat of a surprise. Talk about keeping things fresh and winging it…

I’ve already been given a great gift. This is a beautiful play that gives an actor all they need to succeed.

Almost time to deliver it…



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Posted by Stef Tovar on January 4, 2011

I’ve never blogged before.  Maybe it’s just the word “blogged” that gets me for some reason.  But I’ve never done it. Here’s my first shot at it…

Caitlin and Erica have done a great job of reaching out folks about TWIST from the writer/co-creator/director perspective in this blog.  As the Artistic Director of Route 66, I’ve really tried to stay out of their way and just be an actor on this play because the demands of the script require me to do so.  Plus, I got myself in trouble wearing too many hats on HIGH FIDELITY and didn’t catch up to the show until the week after it opened.  I underestimated it.  Not doing that again.

I’ve got support on this show with Katie Jeep and Blair Robertson spearing heading the producing.  We’ve got a great production team and company members Rita Vreeland and Matt Bonaccorso stage managing, so I’ve been able to just focus on this play.  So for this “blog”, I’ll be writing to you (whoever you are) as an actor documenting his process.  Here it goes…be gentle.

Personal.  So personal…

I just finished reading A TWIST OF WATER again.  Been working on it most of the week, and I’m prepping for a rehearsal this evening with Caitlin and Erica.

I’m sitting at my table sobbing.  Uncontrollably.

These two ladies had been telling me about TWIST for a while before I read it.  Erica would say, “So Caitlin wrote this play…you’re going to play Noah.”  Yeah I thought.  That’s nice of them.  As with many things for me it was a “I’ll believe it when I see it.”  And even then, with the script in my inbox, I didn’t fully commit to it.  It sat in there for a while, with Erica nudging me:  “Did you read it?”  “Not yet…been so swamped… but I will.”

Route 66 was set to do a reading of it.  I waited till WAY late in the game to read it, but after I did, I knew we had something special.  The reading was very successful and the packed room at Murphy’s Irish Bistro was extremely enthusiastic.  I had wished I was better prepared, but honestly—and I was lucky—it didn’t matter.  The material was so good that (when I stayed out of its way) it just carried me.  It reminded me of ALL MY SONS in this way.

I wasn’t sure why I was so affected by the script.  I mean, it’s incredibly moving and I’m excited for audiences to see it, but I was overcome with emotion.  Sobbing.  I had to stop several times and there were speeches and scenes that were very tough to get through.

I’m definitely someone who is in touch with his emotions.  Always have been.  As an actor, this is a bonus for sure—to be able to use “the well” when needed.  But I can recall (as actors relate real-life moments to those of their work) only a few times in my life where I was reduced to a sobbing mess and they were absolutely crushing moments for me.  Caitlin’s play is beautiful.  Why this visceral reaction?  And EVERY TIME I read or work on it?

Whatever the reason, it is going to be a tremendous challenge for me as an actor to keep that emotion in check.  For however true it may feel, I do not want to do the audience’s job for them by feeling all the emotion of the play.  That’s something that I’ve done before, admittedly.  But I have a huge amount of trust in my director who also knows me pretty well as a person, and will be able to tell me when too much is too much.

I just hope I can get through the damn show at this point…

There are songs I’ve had to perform that were tough to get through.  “Laura, Laura” from HIGH FIDELITY and 140X that I did for our benefit last year.  But this play.  This beautiful play.  Why are you so connected to my heart?  Yes, I’m a father.  Yes, I’ve had loss.  But it’s something else…

That’s the journey.  Can’t wait to work on discovering it.  I’m honored to be a part of this.


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