I was first introduced to John Patrick Shanley’s play Danny and The Deep Blue Sea in an acting class. Initially, the scene performed did not interest me. However, years later I picked up the play out of curiosity, as the play was always a favorite among actors in class.
After reading the entire play, I knew in the marrow of my bones that I had to produce it and perform as the title character Danny. Little did I know what was in store for me over the next two and half years. The play became a spiritual expedition – the magnetic writing drew me in and took me for a roller coaster ride of my life!
I immediately applied for the rights to the play from the Dramatists Play Services (DPS) in New York. I also posted a casting notice at The Actors Studio in Los Angeles as the talent is so dense and the actress would likely have a similar understanding of the material as I did.
I received two submissions for the co-starring role of Roberta. As I was waiting to hear back from DPS to be granted the rights, I proceeded with the audition process. I recognized one of the two submissions from a previous audition I read with the actress for a film. I distinctly remembered having a tiff with her and not getting on well in the audition. Instantly I thought to myself, “She could be the perfect Roberta!” I considered it destiny, especially since I only received two submissions for the role.
I contacted the actress, Deborah Dir, to invite her for an audition. A couple of days later we met. Her introduction was so polite and professional, I thought for a moment, “Oh, no – she’s not what I remember, she’s too nice.” But she certainly had the perfect look to play Roberta. The role demands a woman that is in touch with her deepest power, as much as she is with her hidden vulnerability.
We agreed that the audition would entail reading the entire play (60 + pages). I knew that the writing would draw out the desired effect I was looking for in Roberta, just doing a scene would not suffice. The writing would affect the actress spontaneously, just as it original affected me, especially reading it aloud.
I instructed Deborah to just read the words on the page and not to make any choices. So we read, and about 30 pages into the audition, I saw her transform before my eyes. The writing began to force her to let go and allow her deepest insecurities bleed through. I think even she was surprised at what was happening, especially with an actor she didn’t know. But it didn’t matter. Deborah could not contain her need dive deeper into the character, and I was no longer auditioning her but rather dancing in spontaneous, spiritual creativity.
Upon finishing the reading, I immediately blurted, “You got the part!” Deborah was elated. I shared that I had a director in mind and wanted to introduce them. The next step would be to read the play again with him.
After Deborah left the audition, I called Michael Arabian who was on a 7-year hiatus from the industry after a successful career directing theater in LA and NYC. Michael was a very influential teacher to me and familiar with my acting and dedication.
Michael answered the phone, we chatted a bit to catch up, and without hesitation – or knowing the actress yet – he said, “Yes, I will direct the play for you.” I was overjoyed.
When I met with Michael and Deborah for the table reading, Michael’s commitment to direct the play was solidified. He praised Deborah, telling her she was born to play Roberta. All was confirmed. Now I just had to get the rights to produce the play.
Nearly 2 years passed while being repeatedly denied the full rights to the play from Mr. Shanley. However, the DPS did offer non-professional rights to the play. So while we could put the play on, this meant our production was prohibited to advertise, charge admission, or receive press – all of which would help us promote the play and recoup costs. There was a loophole: we could receive audience donations. Still, I started to doubt whether I was supposed to do this damn play.