Guest blogger Jim Kuenzer is a writer, actor and musician who stars in Kitchen Dog Theater’s Vigils.
Vigils opens two years after a fireman died trying to save a baby from a burning home. His widow clings to the past — literally. She has trapped her husband’s soul in a box, and his body is wandering around aimlessly, ricocheting from one memory to the next, as body and soul try to come to terms with their actions during his life. When a handsome wooer arrives on the scene, the widow must decide between the past she knows and a future that she can only imagine.
That’s the basics of the play, but here’s the behind-the-scenes scoop that you might be equally interested in:
- Don’t let the title fool you. Unlike other plays with one word, pluralized titles, such as Cats, Rumors and Legends, Vigils isn’t a knee-slapping, side-splitting hootenanny. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its fair share of laughs. Oh boy, does it ever! But if you’re expecting to leave the theater with a catchy show stopper stuck in your head or itching to tell your friends about the zany banana peel scene, this may not be your cup of tea. However, this is what makes Vigils a pretty cool show: It’s got laughs, but it isn’t necessarily a comedy. It’s got singing and dancing, but it is definitely not a musical. And it’s got visual spectacle, but it certainly isn’t Miss Saigon. So how do you categorize it? You don’t. You just see it, are floored by the greatness of it all and leave a changed and improved person.
- Our director, Aaron Ginsburg, is on the verge of super stardom. One of the great things about doing this show has been the camaraderie. Granted, it’s easier to get to know and perhaps even like your fellow cast mates and crew if there are less of you, but that has been particularly true in this show. And through it, I think I’ve developed a “friendship” (and I say that with quotes because he might deny it completely) with our director, Aaron. Buyer beware! He’s from L.A., which brings with it a whole host of dubious assumptions and stereotypes. But none of them are applicable. For starters, he’s a genuinely nice guy. He’s sincere, polite and affable. Second, I’ve never seen him wear sunglasses indoors. And third, while I’m not certain of this, I doubt he even owns a pair of leather pants. Doesn’t sound very L.A. now, does he? Now, I would love to tell you about all of his accomplishments and upcoming feats of greatness, but being from L.A., Aaron is required to enlist in all of the unions, guilds and secret societies they have to offer, and I fear retribution. Hell hath no fury like a union writer scorned.
- I’m not sure how good I’m going to be. Take a look at the cast. It’s a veritable Who’s Who of Theatre Types. You’ve got Tina Parker, Kitchen Dog co-head honcho and thespianic dynamo. She was in Final Destination IV, for crying out loud! Then you’ve got Matthew Gray, who I’ve known since our salad days at Richland in the late 80s and who actually went to England to teach them about Shakespeare! On top of which, he has sealed his legitimacy by marrying a British woman. And then there’s Ira Steck. Don’t get me wrong, I love Ira to death. But he may be the most intense actor I’ve ever worked with. On top of that, he doesn’t laugh at all of my jokes. That can’t be good, can it? Right? Anyway, it’s this sort of intensity that’s going to make Ira shine, literally and figuratively, in the show. I smell a Prestigious Local Theatre Award in this kid’s future. All of this is to say, these cats have me on my toes. In the past, I’ve done shows where I wouldn’t always have to bring my A-game. I could, as they say, “phone it in.” One time, I actually did. But not here. Oh no. I’ve had to learn all of my lines. If I say something wrong, I get a little note from our stage manager that tells me where and how I screwed up. And I get volumes of these notes! I have costume changes – costume changes to rival a Cher concert! And the other actors are so good, if I don’t act the heck out of this, I’m going to look like a nincompoop. So I’m pulling out all the stops on this one. I’m thinking of sad stuff from start to stop. I’m going to Act like I’ve never Acted before. Perhaps there will be a Prestigious Local Theatre Award in my future, too.
- Going to the theater makes you a better human. I haven’t done all (and by “all,” I mean “any”) of the research, but I’m convinced that theatergoers are better humans than non-theatregoers. They seem happier, smarter and, yes, better looking. Don’t believe me? Try it out. Come see Vigils this Friday at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary. After it’s over, step in front of a mirror. I’ll bet my per diem you’ll find an improved human staring right back at you.