A Decibel Disparate. Exposing the community to local artists: musicians, writers, designers, performers, thinkers, who are doing things outside of the “Annapolitan box.” You will find no sailboats or Blue Angels here. This is a place for raw and unique talent. Let us look at our city with a “view askew.” Diversity is life.
Richard McGraw: Inventing a Love.
By Brianne Leith
Photos by David Colburn. (Check out his site here.)
Applause. I rose to my feet, and continued applauding. A director once told me to never stand, unless the performance moved me. I am the jerk who remains seated during curtain call at children’s theatre, let alone adult theatre, if I do not believe they deserved it. A standing ovation is special. I will never belittle its meaning. And I rose to my feet. And I took my two hands, and struck them together. Colonial Player’s Inventing Van Gogh, what an exquisite experience.
Richard McGraw posed as he waited for me to begin the interview. I can see that his whole life is a play; his various surroundings merely a stage to romp on, his beautiful visage and attire just a costume to be cast off at the end of the day, but his character, always the scene stealer is beyond match. He is kind, honest, and humorous. The world has created a remarkable leading man in Richard McGraw.
When Richard was a “lad” of seven years old, acting “stirred something inside…it hit a chord.” “I produced my own play in my backyard about The Flintstones and we charged our parents admission. Most of it became improv.” He smiles warmly at me. It is infectious, and my eyes crinkle from the length of my smile.
“I decided to be an actor, truly, in my early twenties. A group of my friends and I were sailing down the Severn River on mushrooms (hallucinogenic), and one turned to me and said, ‘Richard, we should just become actors.’ So, we did.” He chuckled his light “ha”-based life. “We moved to New York City. Graduated from The Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting, and I attended The National Shakespeare Academy.”
Every word Richard says is perfectly articulated, and punctuated with animatedly dramatic facial expressions and body language.
“The original appeal of acting…being ‘bitten by the acting bug’ is the sensation of being on stage. It’s an orgasm. Nothing else is going on at that time. The sense of ‘me’ is gone. You are someone else. Feeling, thinking, reacting as another being.” Completely consumed by his passionate words, my own love for art is being reignited, just by listening to him. Entranced. Enthralled. Enraptured.
“There are three things all actors do.
2. Be in the cast of The Fantastics
3. Rehab ”
His voice drops off. He grabs my wrist. “I sound like a drug addict…rehab…but I’m far from it. Write that I am concerned about my credibility.” His genuine chuckle rang out again.
“Richard, I love you.”
He crosses his legs and turns his head to the right. Through his profile, a mischievous smirk creeps up and he lets out a handsome giggle. “What other people think of me is none of my business.”
After I discovered Richard, I had followed his career over the years. Tiny Alice, Copenhagen, The Philadelphia Story, Dracula, Enchanted April, etc. all in the area. All a sight to behold. His best performance in both our minds was Gregory Mitchell in Love! Valour! Compassion! His portrayal of this complicatedly emotional, aging dancer was raw, honest and heart wrenching. “Gregory was real and honest. That is why he is my best work.” We both paused dramatically, and wistfully thought of the show.
4. Being nude on stage.”
Richard’s current performance at Colonial Players, competes with his Gregory. Though drastically different characters, they are both amazing roles with so much potential, if done well. Richard plays them to perfection.
“This level of theatre affords me the luxury of picking and choosing plays and roles. I get to do things I find valuable. I decide who lives in my head for all these months. They never fully go away. They have to be valuable to me.”
Richard found The Colonial Players Theatre in downtown Annapolis, and Colonial Players found a gem. This theatre is all volunteer. It is a community service. It promotes the cultural advancement of our city – giving a look to something bigger, hopefully expanding our minds, and making us think. Their current show, Inventing Van Gogh does this.
“Inventing Van Gogh is a piece of theatre…it is not television. It grows with audience participation…with their reaction. It is a puzzle, weaving the past and present simultaneously, but what is happening is clear. It is a theatrical play, not linear.”
Inventing Van Gogh is an emotionally charged ride through love, obsession, time, mental illness, and Art. The play, itself, is thought-provoking and inspirational. The Colonial Players production of it is phenomenal. Though the theatre, like every other theatre even those on Broadway, have put on productions that were an hour long race to the center of mediocrity, this time they got it thoroughly right.
Besides a great script, the essential elements of an incredible production include a masterful director, and an impeccable cast. Colonial Players Inventing Van Gogh has it all. “To create you must love.” The love that everyone involved had for what they were doing was palpable and almost overwhelming.
The foundation of a show is the creativity and understanding of the director. Michelle Harmon embodies these attributes. This is Harmon’s directorial debut at Colonial Players. This needs to not be her last. As an actress herself, Harmon knows what good acting is and how to reach the core of a scene. Her directing was impressive.
One that screams the abilities of Michelle Harmon’s directorial insight is the selection of a perfect cast. Six actors. Six devastatingly complex characters. Six talented individuals embodying each word, each movement, flawlessly. The actors feed off each others energy, and create a fierce fervid force that strikes the audience.
Jason Vaughan plays Rene Bouchard, the scheming art dealer, to a tee. You can feel his sleaze the very moment he steps onto stage. James Poole, who, if I remember correctly, is on stage the whole production as Patrick Stone, the young artist demented by circumstance, shows the tormented brain through a mere look of his eyes. Samantha McEwen plays two women lost in unrequited love, Hallie Miller and Marguerite Gachet. The pain and anger of these women emanates from every breathe she breathes as she struts across the stage. Pat Reynolds drunkenly flails through the lines of Paul Gauguin. His attitude, humor, and intoxication were alarmingly realistic. Stephen Michael Deininger. Stephen Michael Deininger. I cannot say his name enough. He is Vincent Van Gogh. He does not “act” him. He vehemently tears through the heart of this interpretation of Van Gogh. Through humor, naivety, passion, and the losing of his mind, Deininger exists only as the man he is supposed to be acting, but who he has fully become. Richard McGraw as Dr. Jonas Miller and Dr. Paul Gachet, shows the range of his ability, becoming two completely divergent characters. From the wistful, obsessive Miller, who goes on tangents of a past that he never experienced, to the whimsical, but heartbroken Gachet, Richard McGraw stretches himself and displays the art of acting to Annapolis.
Richard’s handsome face was pressed close to mine, as he clutched onto my shoulders. He shook me. Reenacting scenes and professing his admiration for his fellow actors. He changed me. Let Richard McGraw shake you. Change you.
Inventing Van Gogh
February 17-19 and 24-26 at 8pm
February 20 matinee at 2pm