Posted by Nick Ciavarella (pictured below at the RTCC Awards and in Lend Me a Tenor, with Chris Stewart)
It was a very strange feeling getting off the train from Richmond back into New York City and making my way to Brooklyn, where I reside. There was a faint recollection of arriving in New York 3 years ago, suitcase in hand, for the first time. It seemed unfamiliar and exciting. I’ve been away for 2 months for other gigs before and getting back to New York always felt like getting back to the grind, but this time was different. It occurred to me that despite the fact that I had spent a mere 9 weeks in Richmond, I still felt as though I had just uprooted myself to begin anew. How, after so short a time spent in one place, could I possibly have become so attached?
I wonder if you in the Richmond theatre community realize what you have. I felt like I had stumbled into the back door of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and noticed the Oompa Loompas going about their business and I kept wanting to ask them, “Do you realize this is the greatest place in the world to work??” (I hastily add that in no way am I implying that my Richmond friends remind me of Oompa Loompas. No twisting my words, anonymous talk-backers!)
Here is a place where actors can make a living as actors while being a part of a tight-knit community of other talented artists. Every time a friend from New York asked me how Richmond was, the word that I kept using was “anomaly.” If another theatre community exists like this anywhere else I certainly haven’t stumbled across it yet.
On Day 1, walking into my first rehearsal for Lend Me a Tenor, I was literally shaking with nerves. Everyone knew each other and had worked together numerous times and here I was feeling like I was walking into someone else’s family dinner with my plate in hand saying, “yeah, I’ll have the biggest piece."
No sooner did rehearsal start than I felt embraced by everybody in the room as if I were one of them. From that point forward I felt at home.
I was so fortunate to meet so many people (and still not enough) during my time in Richmond. People were consistently warm and welcoming. I never felt like an out of town actor, but instead like someone who had just moved to a friendly neighborhood.
Not that it was all peaches and cream. Let it be known that I survived a hurricane which knocked out my power for 8 days, an east coast earthquake, and I broke down not one but two company cars. The first one broke down when my parents were in town (and in the back seat), and the second one broke down somewhere outside of Staunton on the side of the road at night where I was sure Leatherface would pop out at any moment. (The conversation with vehicle fleet manager Gordon Bass went a little bit like this: “Hey Gordon, the van is making a funny noise so I took it to a mechanic who said that if I drive it any further the back wheel might actually pop off. What should I do?” “Oh those old vans are always making funny noises. Why don’t you see how far you can make it?")
The van was pronounced dead 5 miles later, and I spent the night in Waynesboro’s ironic Quality Inn. It’s funny now and it was honestly funny then because during both breakdowns I knew people were scrambling to save me, which they did. Leatherface never caught up with me.
Now I’m back in New York and I miss everything and everyone in Richmond already. The cast and creative team behind Lend Me a Tenor were all so beyond talented and a pleasure to work with and get to know. Everyone would get their own paragraph if I started thanking people directly so I will spare the readers. But I hope they all know how much they meant to me during my time and how much fun it was to have created such a successful and zany show with them.
I do, however, want to single out Bruce Miller who saw me in a Shakespearian tragedy and thought I might do well in a modern farce. Bruce gave me a chance and I couldn’t be more grateful.
I look forward to returning to what honestly now feels like my second home sometime soon. Until then, thanks to all who made my experience so rich and meaningful!