So... I can do comedy. Who knew?
Okay, this was dark comedy, so it had serious overtones, but The Homeless Man in Larry Allen's Shakespeare's Lost Masterpiece was not Troy Maxson (Fences), not Sgt. Waters (A Soldier's Story), not Detective December (webseries In Our Backyard), and while I have comedy on my resume (So You Think You're God; You Can't Take It With You) this role put all that I have learned up to this point to a very interesting test.
Technically this post is a continuation of my blog from The Meeting, as, ironically, a chance meeting with director Darrell Willis led to me landing this role (hence, if you want the backstory, check that out). While he knew of me, he got a first hand look at what I was as an actor when we did Radio Golf together back in 2017. At that time he had the first rough of Allen's script and was looking for a home for it. When he gave me a copy, he said, "I don't know where we're playing it, but I know one thing... you're The Homeless Man when we do." After reading it, I asked Darrell how much leeway would I have to create this character? Supposedly after talking with Larry he said as long as I stay true to the story, as much as I need. I'm not sure he realized he gave me a license to act a fool.
By April of 2018 the Masterpiece had a home. Center Players in Freehold, NJ (Darrell is a Freehold resident), after a few concessions and rewrites (which still wasn't good enough for some board members who were against having it), decided to take a chance on a very edgy play about a homeless man who supposedly possessed a never before seen Shakespearean manuscript and a college professor that tries to manipulate it from him.
The plan was simple. As I had this play and The Meeting back to back, I was going to jump right into each script after my run of Fences last October. My role for The Meeting was minimal, thus I would have the time to concentrate on The Homeless Man. However, I ended up landing a spot in You Can't Take It with You which set me back a month. Then other obligations push me back to where I didn't pick up the script until mid-January, which technically was cool because of some rewrites. Having read it previously, I knew where I wanted to go with the character, and I found other little things during the run that I may had discovered had I started when I wanted to and would have utilized better.
This was like a vacation from serious roles for me. While Troy has his funny moments, Waters and December are direct as they come. I was able to incorporate things here from various training I received that I felt I was handcuffed from doing in other roles, or mentally thought wouldn't fit. The freedom that Darrell and Larry gave me gave me the courage to take chances I provably wouldn't have otherwise taken, thus creating a character that I was truly proud of.
Sgt. Waters will always be near and dear to my heart. It was my very first theatre role, and the only one my mother got to see. Troy Maxson is just as special. Just to say that I walked the same path as James Earl Jones and Denzel Washington will always put Troy high on my mantel. The Homeless Man was all me, from soup to nuts, something that may have never occurred had Bernice Garfield-Szita not taken a chance on us and accepted it at Center Players. Things happen the way they do for a reason, and her blessing helped me create my Masterpiece.
Standing (l-r): Sequoia Davis, Kristina McKinney, Moi, William Salmons, Danielle Cornell
Seated (l-r): Playwright Larry Americ Allen, Director Darrell Lawrence Willis