After much thought, I decided to move back to Los Angeles in December 2015. While it's difficult moving away from my family on the east coast, it is also exciting to be moving back to my friends and the warm weather on the west coast. I look forward to what this new chapter of my life has to offer!
These updates seem to be coming each year at the same time as though I am awakening from a winter slumber. (I'm not even planning it that way.) There is something about the spring in the northeast that energizes me! But who could follow a blog with only one entry each year??
Anyway, it was another long, cold winter which tends to keep me inside more often than not. Much of my time was consumed with my new full-time job at Albany Medical College. I have now gone from portraying a patient to scheduling the patients and helping to coordinate the Patient Safety & Clinical Competency Center. At times it felt like it was all consuming and non-stop. Needless to say there was little time for acting work.
Never one to turn down a challenge, I was also busy in March and April directing a production of Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead at a local community college. One of my oldest and dearest friends runs the acting program and offered me the opportunity. While I often found myself exhausted as I was leaving work, I was completely reinvigorated once I arrived at the theater and started working with the students. I found it incredibly rewarding to share this creative outlet with them. It also served to remind me that doing something you love never feels like work.
Over the last year, I have also continued to take the publicity photos for the plays at a local theater. Photography has always held a fascination for me since I was in high school, and now I am able to merge my love of theater with this alternative form of storytelling.
In July, I will be taking a MUCH needed vacation to Florida to visit my father for a week. That is where my focus lies for now...
After a LONG, harsh winter, spring is finally here! And work seems to be picking up so I thought I'd post an update. I'm still working at Albany Medical College playing patients, family members, and most recently a doctor! I went out on a 2-week TYA (Theater for Young Audiences) tour with a show called The Remarkable and Perplexing Case of Henry Hudson. It was challenging (17 shows over 2 weeks), traveling to various schools around upstate NY, but also a lot of fun and very rewarding. We shared both history and the experience of live theater to 3rd graders thru 6th graders.
I also signed with a new agency... AMS Models & Talent, who have already booked me on my first commercial shoot in a couple of years!! I worked with my friend Rich Lounello, and other than the 3-hr commute each way to the location, it was a fun day! I'm looking forward to getting back in front of the cameras again soon.
I have a play coming up in July, but I'll hold off on sharing that information until we get closer. So far, 2014 is shaping up to be an exciting year full of acting work!
‘One Slight Hitch’ no problem for new director Gardner
Thursday, September 5, 2013
By Bill Buell, Gazette Reporter
Erin Waterhouse, center, is the bride and Barbara Richards and Jack Fallon play her parents in Lewis Black’s comedy, “One Slight Hitch,” opening Friday at Curtain Call Theatre.
LATHAM — Kevin Gardner has always felt pretty comfortable playing character actors on stage, but with the upcoming Curtain Call Theatre production of Lewis Black’s “One Slight Hitch” he has been thrust into a new role as director.
“I’ve done a few small projects in the past, but this is my first full-length play so I guess it’s my directorial debut,” said Gardner, an East Greenbush native and a familiar face to Capital Region community-theater fans. “People have suggested directing to me over the last couple of years and I have been thinking about it, so I guess everything kind of lined up and I suddenly had the opportunity. It was a question of saying yes or no, so I thought to myself, ‘Let’s try something new.’ ”
Gardner, who has both theater and television acting credits from the East and West coasts, is directing a cast that includes Jack Fallon and Barbara Richards, two actors he has shared time with on the Curtain Call stage. In Black’s play, Fallon and Richards are the parents of a young woman named Courtney (Erin Waterhouse), who is about to be married. Everything seems ready for the wedding, but when the mother goes out of her way to make sure everything is perfect, mayhem ensues.
“It’s an ensemble piece, but the parents do have the larger roles,” said Gardner, who studied for two years at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles. “When I first read it, I thought maybe the bride and groom might be the focus, but then you realize that the play is about how the mother didn’t have the wedding she wanted when she got married, so now this is her opportunity to have that wedding for her daughter.”
If Richards and Fallon are believable in their roles, it might be because they have played husband and wife on previous occasions at Curtain Call.
“I think this is the fourth or fifth time I’ve been married to him,” Richards said of Fallon. “I love working with him. My character is a little bit the crazed mother of the bride. Her character is sympathetic, but she’s from a generation where a beautiful wedding is very meaningful, and she didn’t have one.”
As for Gardner, Richards said any apprehension she might have had about working with a first-time director has been long forgotten.
“I know Kevin, and I know how thoroughly prepared he was as an actor, and what a wonderful job he did,” said Richards. “I also knew that his general knowledge of the theater is very deep and creative. He’s an imaginative guy, and I had a feeling he’d do a great job as a director, just like he does as an actor.”
Conrad Brown Lorcher plays Harper, the groom, and David Cerutti is Ryan, an old boyfriend of Courtney’s. Also in the cast as Courtney’s sisters are Carolyn Shields and Kristin Van Steemburg.
“The biggest challenge for me was trying not to impose myself on the comic sense of the actors,” said Gardner. “You have to see where their strengths are as actors, and let them do what they do best. As a director I kind of see myself in all the roles, but I can’t make them do it the way I would in those same roles.”
Black is a comedian known for his angry rants. He became a familiar face to television fans doing his shtick on “The Daily Show,” and he has also appeared in several television dramas and movies. He wrote “One Slight Hitch” back in 1981, and continued to work on the play over the next several years. It has been produced around the country in regional theater, including the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2011.
“I knew of him and I recognized the name, but after I read the play I questioned that even further,” said Gardner. “I thought, ‘Is this the Lewis Black that I’ve heard of?’ Well, it was, but he seemed to have a much edgier sense of humor in his comedy act. He’s a much more sarcastic comic. His play is not about that. You might think there’d be some of his rants sprinkled throughout, or that it might have a hard edge to it. But it’s very different, with some nice romantic touches to it.”
As for directing, Gardner says he’s having a great experience.
“It’s wonderful to have a hand in every element of the production,” he said. “As an actor, you’re often limited in the scope of what you can do as one character, but as a director you’re a part of everything and that can be pretty amazing. It’s great fun to be a part of every aspect, and to have the opportunity to work closely with all the sound people, set designers and the rest of crew.”
Working with veterans like Richards and Fallon has made the work even easier, according to Gardner.
“I feel very comfortable with them because I know them and they know me,” he said. “We’re familiar with each other, and that’s been a lifesaver. I feel like there’s been a weight taken away from me because of the wonderful actors I’m working with.”
(Note: Not sure if I would have titled the article "no problem"
"Gardner prefers character roles"
The Daily Gazette
Dracula (Armando Morales), left, and Abraham Van Helsing (Kevin Gardner) rehearse a scene in the Curtain Call Theatre production of “Dracula,” which opens Friday. (photo: Ben Maggio)
Kevin Gardner’s friends may try to tell him differently, but he feels he knows best what he is.
“I describe myself, and I have always described myself, as a character actor,” said Gardner, who will play professor Abraham Van Helsing in the Curtain Call Theatre production of “Dracula,” which opens Friday. “I have friends who are very supportive and tell me I can take that leading man role, but that just doesn’t interest me.”
Steve Fletcher is directing the production, and among those joining Gardner on stage are Armando Morales as Count Dracula, Kris Anderson as Redfield, Dana Goodknight as Lucy, Ian LaChance as Jonathan Harker and Beth Pietrangelo as Mina Harker.
The dominant character in the play, based on Bram Stoker’s 1897 gothic horror novel, is obviously Dracula. But, as Fletcher points out, it is the dialogue by the other actors, particularly Gardner as Van Helsing, that drives the action.
“There is Dracula, and Armando has the wonderful stage presence to pull that off, but the Van Helsing role is just as pivotal to the success of the play,” said Fletcher.
“And Kevin, who is as talented as anyone, is at his pinnacle when it comes to jumping into very difficult roles. Without him working in that part, the play doesn’t work. He is passionate, convincing and the character is on this somewhat maniacally dedicated mission to convince the audience and the other characters in the play something they don’t believe in.”
Life experiencesPlaying that kind of character is something Gardner relishes about his life in theater.
“I love playing character actors, the oddball, rather than the leading man,” he said. “Even when I was younger, I remembered to ‘know your type,’ and that way you won’t be disappointed down the road. I don’t want to be the straight man who has to win the fight. It’s much more fun being a character actor, and as I get older I have more life experience to help me with these great roles.”
Gardner grew up in East Greenbush, graduated from Columbia High School and attended NYU for a short time before quitting and heading to Los Angeles and taking a two-year program at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. After he finished there, he found some work pretty quickly, appearing in an episode of “Roseanne” in 1993 and then landing a recurring role on NBC’s “Saved by the Bell: The New Class,” from 1993-95, playing the character of Milton for 19 episodes.
“I’ve always been a little hesitant to tell people this, but I got paid to be on ‘Saved by the Bell,’ and I had a lot of fun with a recurring role on that show,” he said. “Just before that, I got my first paid job doing ‘Roseanne,’ so I felt very lucky. It was all a great experience, and I really felt like I connected with the lifestyle out there.”
Gardner also worked on Tracey Ullman’s series, “Tracey Takes On . . .,” and did a few short films before returning to the Capital Region in 2008. He kept pretty busy at Curtain Call doing plays such as “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Harvey” and “Death of a Salesman,” and he also appeared in a Capital Repertory production of “33 Variations.” Two years ago, he moved down to New Jersey and spent a lot of time auditioning for work in New York City.
Country boy at heart“I think growing up upstate I’m more of a country boy at heart, and I don’t think the city agreed with me,” he said. “Rather than stay there longer than I needed to, I thought I’d come back here. There is such a wonderful theater community in this area I thought why am I running away from all this.”
His time downstate, however, was productive. He played the title role in a Columbia University production of Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” and honed his craft by taking some acting lessons.
“Playing Uncle Vanya was a big role to take on, and I took some classes which were really terrific,” he said. “I think we should all be thrown back in school now and then, to learn something new, remind ourselves of what we forget, and it’s just a wonderful place to explore and take risks. I still love New York City, but I guess it wasn’t the place for me.”
Gardner, who has also done plenty of work as a stage manager, wasn’t that familiar with “Dracula” before preparing to audition for the Curtain Call production.
“I had never seen a stage production, but I did go and watch the 1931 film with Bela Lugosi,” said Gardner. “I love the interaction between all the characters. I have sort of a father-son relationship with one of the characters who has contacted me to look into the condition of his girlfriend, and I’m the one who realizes she’s been bitten by a vampire. Within the scope of this genre, you don’t usually see all this character development, and I think that’s why it’s such a good play.”
Many incarnationsIn “Dracula,” Van Helsing and a group of his associates are in pursuit of the evil vampire Count Dracula, who is in the process of relocating from Transylvania to England. “Dracula” has had many incarnations, including the 1977 Broadway stage version starring Frank Langella and written by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston. In 1996, American playwright Steven Dietz adapted his own version for the stage, and while it was never produced on Broadway, it has been a popular production around the country in regional and community theaters.
“I saw the earlier show on Broadway and that is a different version,” said Fletcher. “Steven Dietz is a brilliant writer, but we’ve even taken a few liberties with his interpretation of the story. It’s a very fast-paced play, and the challenge for the director is to keep the story flowing. It jumps from location to location at an amazing rate of speed, and we create those illusions with the lighting and some very quick set changes.”
Stylized terrorAlthough it is a movie about a vampire, those troubled by the sight of blood will have nothing to be worried about in the Curtain Call production.
“There is a lot of blood in the script, but I didn’t want to do it literally, so we are putting on a very stylized production,” said Fletcher. “We have plumes of red scarfs that indicate blood, and we use many theatrical effects to create illusions. The play lends itself to a very dreamlike quality, and there’s so much real horror in the news today we don’t need to do that. We are stylizing our terror in different ways.”
That's right, I've moved back to upstate NY. In fact, I moved just before Hurricane Sandy hit NYC. It's the one positive decision I made while living in NYC. Clearly NYC was not a good fit for someone who grew up in a suburban environment and has that lifestyle deeply ingrained in them. Maybe that's why I connected with LA which is much more a suburban way of living than true city living. I like my car and the freedom it provides! There, I've said it. ;-)
Please stay tuned to see what happens next. I know I'll be interested to know, myself!
I had my first rehearsal for a staged reading of a one act play in the 2012 Young Playwrights Conference Reading Series in NY. What a fascinating process. We read through the play, with the playwright and her dramaturg, as well as our director. It's still a work in progress so lines were changed and characters were discussed. We then got on our feet to "stage" the play, which will be done script in hand. No props are allowed, only a couple of chairs. The stage manager reads the stage directions to help the audience visualize the set and circumstances. We only got halfway through the play by the time rehearsal was over.
We'll have one more rehearsal block of time on Monday morning, and then we'll be reading the play for an audience on Monday afternoon! It's very quick, but what an incredible opportunity for these young playwrights to not only have their play read but to get to see it on its feet.
Needless to say, I'll be spending today going through the script. I want to do my best for my young playwright!
Wow, what a week. Last Sunday was our first run-thru of the entire show from start to finish. That's only one week before opening night, already a scary position to be in, especially doing something as complex as a play by Chekhov. The director set our version in modern times rather than in the late 1800s as indicated in the text, and we were performing in a studio which was essentially a large, open room with no stage. The first three acts had been staged with minimal furniture but in a more traditional fashion with the audience in chairs on risers on one side of the room. We would then have an intermission. The fourth act had been staged as if the characters' lives were left in a "void". Translation: no furniture, the actors seated and scattered around the studio space, leaning against walls, no movement, just communicating to each other across the empty space. And the audience, they would be allowed/encouraged to sit anywhere they wanted in the room. (Talk about switching gears...)
On Thursday, after some encouragement by the faculty (this was being done at Columbia University), our director made the decision to restage the first three acts using the concept of the fourth act. (Yes, Thursday, with the play opening on Saturday.) We managed to get through that adjustment phase and then... "the experiment". Add an audience, and let them sit anywhere in the space rather than using chairs in a formal seating arrangement. They could sit in the middle of the playing space, against the walls, next to the actors, wherever they wanted. (See where this is headed?)
Even though cushions had been placed on the floor to encourage an even distribution of audience members throughout the room, on Saturday night (our opening night), the majority of the audience sat as a group against the wall in one corner of the room. The challenge... do the show but at the same time readjust the blocking (we had just created 2 days prior) so that the audience could see each scene... while also trying to maintain character and relationships (in other words, the acting).
I will be the first to admit, it did not go so well (at least for me). Please picture this. All of the actors are in the room from beginning to end. My character begins the play by being asleep on the floor in the middle of the room, and I'm there from before the audience even enters. When I am woken up in the first scene, this is my first opportunity to see where the audience is sitting, while all of the other actors have slightly prepared themselves by having watched the audience enter and seat themselves. My mind switches immediately to "director" mode and starts thinking about sight lines and necessary adjustments to blocking. Act II was lit entirely by two lanterns so not being seen is already a concern there. The acting? Well, the words were coming out of my mouth but completely on auto pilot, and there were even some hiccups there. (NOT the way to approach most plays, let alone Chekhov.) We managed to get through the show but lesson learned: DISPERSE the audience in a setting like this. And also, regardless of what happens, the acting MUST come first. THAT was my job. The audience was free to move, and the director could take notes on any changes needed. It's always important to remember your purpose, in art and in life. :-)
For the two performances on Sunday, adjustments were made to better disperse the audiences, my focus went back to being an actor involved in the scenes, and "the experiment" went surprisingly well.
While not the ideal way to mount a show (EVER, in my opinion), it certainly was a learning experience in many, MANY ways. Who says theatre is boring??
This is my first experience with a Chekhov play and what a challenge it has been! Hard to believe it's finally here.
What an experience this has been. What started as a random idea one Saturday morning about a month ago, turned into a great deal of work and a lot of fun. I have much more respect for filmmakers now.
If you watched any of the episodes, I hope you enjoyed them. I'm already thinking of what I might attempt next.
My first performance on a stage was in grade school playing the Ace of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. (I still remember my song!?!) Living in upstate NY, I continued to perform at a very young age in my church choir and youth group, all the way through high school.