An Actor Interviews Himself
by Peter Schuyler
I was having real trouble writing this blog because there are so many things in the show that I want to talk about. So, I asked myself a few questions and answered them as long-windedly as possible. The result is this peek beneath the shimmery veneer of Bell, Book and Candle, including some gushing about my fellow cast members that make them blush. Unless they’re really witches. Witches can’t blush apparently.
What was the rehearsal process Like?
We realized early in the rehearsal process that the show we thought we were doing was not the show that needed doing. What we perceived initially as a delightful, frothy romp in the witchy world of Manhattan in the 1950s, was actually a deep — OK kind of deep — exploration of the isolation that communities of the “other” experience in mainstream society. Where we thought we were going to be doing spit-takes, silly accents, and poses we instead discovered this deep-seated trauma from the author’s life translated directly to the page. And this company being what it is, we want to honor that, we MUST honor that.
What’s the cast like?
Oh, these magical, magical people. I can’t say enough nice things about my fellow castmates in this production but I’m damn well gonna try.
Let’s start with Joey Kopsey. It’s been a real joy to watch Joey, one of the most detail oriented and meticulous performers have this brief turn blossom into a wonderful conversation about what a “kook” is and why someone becomes a sad little man who drinks a lot and want so desperately to belong. Even though he sounds like Columbo on a three-week bender, there is some real heartbreak to Joey’s Redlitch as he looks for a place where he feels wanted, that isn’t his sad little SRO somewhere in Brooklyn.
Kymberli Colbourne, oh captain my captain. After watching her successfully sink the Pequod, seduce the Graduate, humbug all over Christmas, raise the dead southern style, and crack open white privilege like an egg, we get this gift of a performance from her. It’s a true pleasure to see a side of Kymberli that was heretofore only rumored and suspected and comes roaring right out of her like she’s in an unpublished sequel to Arsenic and Old Lace. Her dippy, ephemeral, constantly tittering, and thrice coifed Aunt Queenie has sent me into more hysterics during the rehearsal process then I think I’m legally allowed to admit.
Norman Wilson is a jewel of a man who would assume, if one didn’t know better, burst from the womb fully formed in a three-piece-suit sipping a gin martini. Norman’s uncanny, dare I say superhuman comic timing is one of the reasons that I will never say no to working with him on any project, even if it’s sweeping the floor. Because why we might get dusty, but I know I’ll be laughing my ass off the whole time. He’s a true professional and makes you work all the harder just to catch up with him.
Jessi Walters. I’ve seen Jessi in shows ever since I moved to Oregon, and she is one of my favorite actors to watch. The way she can capture emotion with gesture — with an eyebrow raise, a kick of an ankle, or even with a small dog is nothing short of breathtaking. I didn’t believe her when she told me that Bell Book and Candle was her first “marquee” lead role where she never leaves the stage. She’s played so many large parts for this company that I assumed that she carries shows like she carries groceries; it would be something that came easy to her. If this show belongs to anybody’s besides the company it belongs to her. Being her scene partner and bearing witness to her create Gillian Holroyd out of sweat, style, and spellcraft has been one of the great pleasures of my not-so-short career and something that I will remember fondly for years to come. If there is a reason to see this show besides all the glitter, deep social messages, and light frothy holiday fun it is the bewitching performance of my pal, Jessi.
Would Van Druten Dig it?
I firmly believe if you sat John Van Druten down in our theatre, he’d probably smell a little because he’s a corpse, but his holiday zombie brain would delight in the airy, glittery veneer we’ve given his script, while being deeply touched in his zombified heart by the fact that we got it what he was talking about. That we heard him cry out to us from the past about the struggles of the queer community and responded by saying: “You matter, your story matters, and no one should be alone.” All in a Mid-Atlantic accent of course.
What’s the one thing you want people to take away from the show?
You mean besides season tickets for 2019-2020 and commitment to sustained donations? I want people who see this show to understand that everyone, no matter where they come from, what they look like, who they worship or how crazy their suit looks is deserving of real human connection and love. Merry Yule, ya’ll.