Thursday, October 20, 2011

Safely Back in NYC; Missing My New Family in RVA

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!

--Nick Ciavarella


JoePabst said...

Now that "Tenor" is over and a few days have passed, I am painfully aware of my last awkward moment with Nick. Although I had the opportunity to thank him for everything before we started the show, I never got to fully say "Good-bye" afterward.

So much was going on after Sunday's closing matinee. Everyone was rushing to prepare for the awards ceremony that would begin in a matter of hours. I had to get home, grab a shower and a sandwich, get dressed and then drive with Debra to the Empire.

I saw Nick at the awards ceremony, but only briefly. I told him he had to meet my wife -- the two never had the chance during the run -- and we both melded back into the crowd. Then when the night was over and the valet brought our car up, Debra and I hurried to get it out of the lane of traffic.

That's when I saw Nick. He rushed to the curb, waved and yelled, "Joe! Good-bye!" I had one foot already in the car and a line of cars behind mine. I smiled at him, wished him a safe journey and asked him to keep in touch. That was it.

Now I feel like I missed that chance to say "Good-bye," so maybe I can do so here...

Nick -- I'm delighted that you found something so special in Richmond! I can totally relate -- it's what changed my original two-month stay into more than 20 years! It was a true pleasure to get to know you, and to share the stage with you. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute.

I hope that our paths cross again! Until then, may I wish you the Best of Luck, my friend! And I meant it when I said "Safe Journey! And Keep in Touch!"

Frank Creasy said...

I was a bit more fortunate than Joe in saying my goodbyes to Nick, although I'm sure Nick understood the crush of people at the RTCC awards made individual socializing quite a challenge. No sooner do you greet one friend you've not seen in months than another one taps you on the shoulder to say hello. It's what I love about the event and just one more reason to thank Dave Timberline and all the RTCC board members for making this event possible.

But knowing the night would end in a flurry of well-dressed bodies making their way to their rides, I had a chance to tell Nick what a true joy it was to work with him (and believe me, "joy" is exactly the right word). I told him I wished him much success always, though I am sure his talent will have far more to do with his success than my wishing it so. Being onstage with Nick was always a real pleasure, and we had an almost instant rapport and chemistry which made it easy to play and create wonderful moments in our scenes together. The energy from those scenes were just magical to me, and will no doubt remain firmly in my fond memories for many many years.

But while Nick applauds us for our community's talent and welcoming nature (we thank you Nick, we know you are sincere),I feel it only fair to point out that Nick came armed with a friendly, willing attitude. His humility and desire to be part of an ensemble effort won him fast friends in short order. In short, Nick just FIT here in Richmond. His good nature made it easy to welcome him warmly.

I'll miss Nick greatly. Even though it was a play, calling him an "idiot" and a "moron" onstage was no easy feat, given what a wonderful person I know he is. But missing Nick is tempered by the sure knowledge that the friends he's made in Richmond (not to mention a LEGION of fans) make it a slam dunk safe bet he'll be back. Oh, yes, he'll be back!

Aly Wepplo said...

I'm the one in the picture of you at Joe's Inn. They can cut me out of your picture, Nick, but I'll always be there, creeping back in by my hair as you "pretend" to punch me backstage and make it look charming. Don't you forget that.