Waiting for Steve Martin
April 01, 2002
You've been cast as Albert Einstein in an equity waiver production of
Steve Martin's clever, pseudo-historical play Picasso at the Lapin Agile
and aside from the usual hiccups often associated with kind of
production, you're as confidant as you've been in any role for some
You see, you're funny; or at least that's what your mother always told
you when you gathered the family in the living room for rip-roaring fart
jokes and comedic songs about dogs who wear ties, and you're bound to
get your own sitcom. But this theatre is Barstow- a pit stop for actors
on the way to and from disappointment- a 1950's porno house gouged out
to make a make a makeshift theater complex with bad acoustics. But
tonight, the El Portal is the heart of the LA theatre world because it's
opening night and you're about to perform in front of that wild and
crazy white-haired genius himself...
He has tickets held for himself at every opening of his play in Los
Angeles, ostensibly to support his show and the theatre in general, but
more likely to insure that nobody botches his vision. One of your
fellow actors tells you that he shut down a show in the Valley not too
long ago, upset that his characters had been made into caricatures and
his thoughtful treatise on the mind of two geniuses reduced to a farce.
Your mind quickly inventories the amount of takes to the audience that
you do, and the number of bits your wild and crazy director has added to
quicken the pace of the talk-heavy show and keep the audience engaged
and you can't quite shake the feeling that it's possible he might not
like this production and The Company Rep, a great theatre company
struggling to elevate itself, might be dealt a finishing blow.
But you're funny...
...You tell yourself as the lights dim as fellow actor Dana Craig
waltzes onstage humming Ta-Rah-Rah-Boom-Dee-Ay, and the moment to find
out is coming in three... two... one... Cue!
A burst of nervous energy propels you onto the boards and under the
lights and you start talking, your mouth moving and your heart beating
in your chest, and your awareness of what's going on arrives just in
time to notice that your first joke has bombed.
You're standing there, arms held out, holding for silence.
'Chirp, chirp,' scream the crickets and you fumble through the next
lines hoping that talking really fast will make them forget that you're
not funny, and that they'll sit back and enjoy the sheer amount of
energy that you're producing.
Just when things really couldn't be much worse, you look out to do a
monologue and there's Steve Martin sitting in the front sitting with his
arms folded, wearing the same nervous expression he had when he watched
his kids ruin a grade-school production of Snow White in the movie
Parenthood. 'He hates it', you say to yourself, 'he's closing us down,'
and your sitcom stardom gets further and further away and starts to
change into a four-month run of dinner theatre in Thousand Oaks.
It's about this time you remember the other people on stage with you and
that you really haven't heard a word they've said tonight outside of
your cues. So you start to listen and little by little the panic
subsides and the joy returns and the audience starts to laugh, and Steve
Martin and his 'artistic foibles' float further and further away.
You've seen Bowfinger and you're pretty sure Edward Albee or Arthur
Miller wouldn't have been associated with a turd like that, so who cares
if the guy's enjoying himself or what he thinks of you.
You discover the real meaning of relativity as the next hour feels like
five minutes and before you know it, you're spinning around the table
with the actor playing Picasso (Eric Ashmore) bouncing ideas and the
energy of the show back and forth like crazed electrons. And then the
group photo, and the final tableau and its over and the house lights
come up with the applause. You avoid looking at Steve during the
curtain call because you don't want anything to bring you down from this
or dull the joy of being an actor.
Backstage, you're still on high and between high-fives and hugs you
manage to blurt out, "You believe that? He really showed up."
"Steve Martin. He was right there in the front row. You didn't see
At this point, everyone's stopped talking to stare at you. Jessica,
(the woman who plays Suzanne) levels the blow. "That wasn't Steve
"He had white hair," offers Mike, (Schmedimann) "But trust me. That
wasn't Steve Martin."
And they laugh. At your expense, sure, but you laugh too, and it
bounces around the old, audio-impaired XXX movie house that, on this
night, is the best space you've ever played.