Moving Into Films: Part 1


The Acting Bug

Twice I had the opportunity to move to Hollywood to work on entertainment related jobs. Once as a writer for a magazine, the other as an artist on movie sets. I visited L.A. and realized that I had to make a choice. An important choice. I had recently divorced after a ten-year marriage and moving away from my children, ages 7 and 9, was not an option. Cleveland was in the middle of a serious economic depression but it was still a good place to bring up a family. I had also returned to college to complete my degree in education. So I turned down the offers and turned my back to Hollywood, and the -"what if..." question.

Later on I was asked to audition for some movie roles being cast in Cleveland. I got the lead in a horror thriller. But before principal photography could begin, the film's director and the producers fought over artistic differences, and the project was scratched. While it lasted I did enjoy this experience very much. I love acting but I did not pursue an acting career because I felt my English was not good enough. But this was mainly an excuse for not trying. The real reason is that I suffer from a mild form of dyslexia that makes it difficult for me to do live readings. As a result, I gave up going to auditions.

I had done a lot of acting and directing in theatre working mostly on the Spanish equivalent of Shakespearean plays. Many of these were elaborate stage spectacles in which I also had the opportunity to design sets and choreograph sword fights. But you do not do theatre to make money; you do theatre because you love it. However, there was no lost love between the theatre and me. To begin with, I cherished the response of a live audience, but I hated to repeat performances. It bored me. Then, there was the fact that, in my opinion (joining that of 90 percent of most production crews at the time), many of the administrative people in charge were incompetent egocentric imbeciles.

During my younger days in Puerto Rico I had produced most of my own work where I had complete creative control. I wrote the plays, cast the actors, design the sets and directed the shows. I also had an extremely competent group of craftsmen working closely from my designs. They were so practiced and skilled that I had no need to speak out. All I had to do was nod and they understood. They were not only talented and professional, but also fanatical in their zeal. Once all the planning was done, I would allow each department to do their thing and they always came through.

I also acted in many roles. Since I didn't have to audition to be cast in my own plays, I had no reading problems. Once I had memorized my lines I was okay. I could cast myself in any appropriate role but playing the villain was what I liked best. When you are born with the face of a terrorist you give an immediate credibility to the role. And naturally, villains are always more interesting. Playing Duke Astolfo of Muscovy in Life is a Dream or De Guiche in Cyrano de Bergerac truly made my day!

In 1977 I settled in Cleveland, Ohio. I could not speak English and there are not many roles for mutes in American theatre. So, with the exception of a few out of state projects, I stopped acting. It was not until spring of 2000 that I had an opportunity to return to the stage. My good friend Margaret Lynch, founder of Pathways Productions, was putting on her adaptation of Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, a play about crossed lovers during the Trojan War. She called and asked if I wanted to play Hector, son of Priam, the king of Troy. She didn't ask me to read for the part. She though I fit the role of Hector and that was that. I didn't have to think twice; I immediately answered yes.

Years back, I had played Hector during a Spanish production of the play. Now I had a chance to play the role in English. Margaret's adaptation had some script edits, mainly to shorten the play to a manageable two and a half hours. But Hector's lines remained fairly intact in her script. To play the role of a noble "action" prince was not the attraction. I enjoy playing royalty and men of action but I had already done so many times before. The real challenge was to do it in English -Shakespearean English!

Margaret's Troilus and Cressida production at Cabaret Dada in Cleveland's Warehouse District was an excellent one. I had a blast and demonstrated that I can do English well enough. I am not talking about imitating an English accent as many American actors (very badly, unfortunately) do. My English tutor had been British and sometimes my inflections tend to edge toward it. What I meant to say was that I finally proved to myself that an American audience could accept me as a good actor without a question of accent. What traces of an accent were there actually complimented the character. From that point on I resolved to get back into acting. Thank you Margaret. I will never forget your kindness.

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