2006:
 SHUFFLE SHUFFLE STEP  THE BETROTHED
 A BIGGER MAN  ALI: THE MAN THE MYTH
   

 

Shuffle, Shuffle, Step

Three Plays by Samuel Beckett

 VARIETY

 LA WEEKLY

 LOS ANGELES TIMES

 BACKSTAGE WEST

 DAILY BREEZE

 REVIEWPLAYS.COM

VARIETY:

Shuffle, Shuffle, Step: Three Plays by Samuel Beckett

 (Theatre/Theater; 29 seats; $15 top)

  A Theater Z, in association with Theatre/Theater, presentation of three one-act plays by Samuel Beckett. Directed and designed by R.S. Bailey.

 

Rough for Theater

A - Billy Hayes

B - Jeff Murray

1 Footfall

May - Mary Dryden

Voice - Nicolette Chaffey

Krapp's Last Tap

Krapp - R.S. Bailey

 

By JULIO MARTINEZ

 

Theatre/Theater inaugurates its seventh Los Angeles-based legitlegit house in 24 years with a bleak but facile perusal of three short works by one of the 20th century's most elusive scripters, Samuel Beckett. Helmer R.S. Bailey, the first American invited by Beckett to work with him, captures the playwright's stark, minimalist, deeply pessimistic view of human nature and the human condition. In an eerie exercise in underachievement, Bailey's competent thesps immerse themselves in the jagged sounds and rhythms of Beckett's desolate folks, sublimating any flicker of human aspiration.

 

The short opening works, "Rough for Theater 1" and "Footfalls," focus on the underbelly of human interaction. Each offers a sliver of the extreme negativity people are capable of when trapped in relationships.

 

More a work-in-progress than a viable stage play, "Rough for Theater 1" is an exercise in emotional torture, as a wretched, blind street beggar (Billy Hayes) is confronted by a vociferous cripple in a wheelchair (Jeff Murray). As each maneuvers to serve his own self-interest, their life-scarred psyches obliterate any possibility of them uniting for their common good.

 

With a more realized concept, "Footfalls" impressively distills the lifelong adversarial relationship between a grown daughter (Mary Dryden) and her heard but unseen mother (Nicolette Chaffey). Dryden's May personifies the never-ending friction of their relationship by scraping her feet across a stone floor as she methodically paces back and forth, periodically responding to the disapproving voice of mom. Dryden counterpoints the tragedy of May's existence by performing a hopeful little pirouette each time she turns to retrace her dogged steps.

 

"Krapp's Last Tape""Krapp's Last Tape" focuses on one cathartic evening in the life of a 69-year-old recluse (Bailey), a desolate soul who has never been able to carry though on any of his life's goals. Krapp's failures are underscored by the spools of recorded tapes he has painstakingly labeled and chronicled through the years.

 

The tapes represent a spoken diary of his life; Bailey creates a tantalizing pas de deux between Krapp's current state of mind and his more youthful recorded persona. Bailey impressively communicates Krapp's rage, torment and sadness as he listens to a tape, recorded 30 years earlier, describing a moment on a boat with a girl "in a shabby green coat" when he could have made a decision that would have changed his life.

 

Bailey's stark production design, complemented by the empathetic lights and sounds of Ammil Garrison and Michael Shiver, respectively, offers the properly austere setting for the jaundiced efforts of a playwright who had little faith in humankind.

 

Lighting, Ammil Garrison; sound, Michael Shiver. Opened, reviewed Jan. 6, 2006; runs through Feb. 11. Running time: 1 HOUR, 50 MIN.

 

 

 

BACKSTAGE WEST:

Shuffle, Shuffle, Step: Three Plays by Samuel Beckett

January 12, 2006

By Dany Margolies

 

It's a solid cast, tidily directed, performing three lesser-known one-acts by one of the 20th century's playwriting gods. And so we're fairly satisfied, sitting there, observing and thinking and possibly feeling. But on opening night, toward the end of Krapp's Last Tape, there was a moment when the actor, his character's anger boiling over, pulled at the reel of tape and struck the hanging lamp above his head. The light swung slowly, changing the shadows on the actor, seeming to change the perspective through which we saw him. It is either extraordinarily detailed direction-as seems to be the case with much else here-or a happy fortuity that the actor allows to continue and seems to relish. In either case it's extremely fine skill, as here the actor and director are the same: R. S. Bailey.

 

In Krapp's Last Tape the elderly Krapp listens to a recording of himself, "the stupid bastard I took myself for 30 years ago," focusing on one segment when he recounts trying to make love in a boat. Let's leave all the meaning up to the scholars. This 45-minute piece passes quickly, yet it lets the audience do so much: appreciate the craft, ponder the text, suffer the draining emotions.

 

 

 

Bailey also adeptly directs the other two one-acts, playing in repertory with Krapp. In Footfalls, May shuffles across the stage-nine steps, one half-turn, nine more steps, another turn-talking to someone she calls Mother (beautifully voiced by Nicolette Chaffey), "revolving it all, it all in my poor mind." Mary Dryden plays May with ghostly frailty, Dryden not imposing on us her decisions of who May is and what she is doing.

 

In Rough for Theatre One two men--one blind and one lamed-meet on a "street corner in ruins." They discuss compensating for each other's disabilities, then engage in the ultimate power play. Billy Hayes plays the blind character A, barefoot and filthy, sawing at a decrepit violin; Jeff Murray plays character B in a wheelchair made of a shopping cart to look rather like a throne. The two actors seem magnetized to each other, giving huge amounts of energy, focusing deeply, struggling for their characters' lives because they are not unhappy enough to die.

 

Beckett wanted no bows for the actors; the company gives itself none. Too bad. In this case the actors more than deserve them.

 

 

 

 

 

Presented by and at Theatre/Theater, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., L.A. "Footfalls" and "Krapp's Last Tape," Fri. 8 p.m.; "Rough for Theatre One" and "Krapp's Last Tape," Sat. 8 p.m. Jan. 6-Feb. 11. (323) 466-3134.

 

Recommended!

LA WEEKLY: SHUFFLE, SHUFFLE, STEP

 

Theatre/Theater inaugurates its capacious new venue with this bill of one-acts by Samuel Beckett, under R.S. Bailey's well-calibrated direction. All three plays embrace familiar Beckettian themes: loss, alienation, the toll of decay, and the seeming futility of existence. Rarely produced, Rough for Theatre One, much like Waiting for Godot, is a tale of an encounter, here between blind A (Billy Hayes) and the wheelchair-bound B (Jeff Murray) on a desolate street corner. Clearly, these two slovenly wretches are made for each other, but their association is equal parts depravity and need. Cosiderable power is generated by Beckett's sparse, biting, but often humorous prose that reveals the shared attraction and repulsion at the core of this strange meeting. Both performances are carefully modulated between grotesquery, comedy and pathos. Footfalls is a hauntingly beautiful piece based upon the death of the playwright's mother. May (Mary Dryden) has devoted herself to her cruel, aged mother and is reduced to pacing hypnotically back and forth on stage, while periodically engaging in an eerie, reflective interior monologue. Bailey does a fine acting turn in the title role of Krapp's Last Tape. Gray-haired, wheezing and decrepit, Krapp is on the downside of life at 69. Caught in the merciless tentacles of doubt and despair, he is reduced to listening to a tape from 39 years ago that chronicles a love affair and a time "when there was still a chance of happiness." Theatre/Theater, 5041 W. Pico Blvd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m. (Krapp's Last Tape will be presented at every performance; Footfalls, Fri. only; Rough for Theatre One, Sat. only) ; thru. Feb. 11. (323) 466-3134. Written 01/12/2006 (Lovell Estell III)

 

 

 

January 13, 2006

LOS ANGELES TIMES

 

THEATER BEAT

Theatre Z's 'Shuffle' gets Beckett right

 

By F. Kathleen Foley, Special to The Times

 

If not done precisely, Samuel Beckett's works can be purgatorial, as anyone who has suffered through botched Beckett can tell you. Fortunately, director-designer R.S. Bailey, who worked with Beckett on a 1977 production of "Krapp's Last Tape" in Berlin, avoids the obvious pitfalls in "Shuffle, Shuffle, Step," the inaugural production of Theatre/Theater's handsome new space on Pico Boulevard. Produced by Theatre Z in honor of Beckett's centennial year, the three short Beckett plays in "Shuffle" are strikingly austere and meditative, with flashes of gallows' humor as faint as the shadow of a noose on an overcast day.

 

Appropriately, Bailey plays Krapp in the closing play. One of Beckett's most celebrated characters, the elderly, isolated Krapp continually replays his own tape-recorded diary - a litany of missed opportunities and lost love. Although Bailey's cherubic and youthful appearance is somewhat at odds with his sadly attenuated protagonist, it's a touching, cautionary tale, well-rendered.

 

 

Finely calibrated also is the middle play, "Footfalls," performed by Mary Dryden as May, and Nicolette Chaffey as the voice of May's offstage mother. Dead-eyed and affectless, May paces the same nine steps, back and forth, while her mother querulously repeats, "Will you never have done?" Whether they are the pointless peregrinations of a madwoman or some desperate attempt at expiation, May's actions - and Dryden's performance - are affectingly enigmatic.

 

The show opens with "Rough for Theatre I," a precursor to Beckett's masterwork, "Endgame." Billy Hayes plays A, a blind street musician in a bleak wasteland. In a vaulting, Shakespearean turn, Jeff Murray portrays B, domineering and disabled, whose attempts to exploit A explode into violence. Vivid and larger-than-life, Murray elucidates the poetic beauty of Beckett's elusive text in the strongest performance of this rewarding evening.

 

"Shuffle, Shuffle, Step," Theatre/Theater, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. ("Footfalls" will be performed Fridays only, "Rough for Theatre I" will be performed Saturdays only.) Ends Feb. 11. $15. (323) 466-3134. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

 

 

 

THE DAILY BREEZE

 

On stage: Beckett's voice heard in 'Shuffle, Shuffle, Step ...'

 

BY JIM FARBER

RAVE!

 

During his lifetime, Samuel Beckett, the father of theater of the absurd, was meticulously demanding about how his plays were to be performed.

 

A craftsman of unusual specificity, he conceived the details of his creations at a level that many might find, well, absurd: such as the exact sound a pair of slippers should make as they slide across the floor; and the precise manner in which a finger moves in space as it activates a tape recorder.

 

"After I'm dead," he reportedly said, "I don't care what people do."

 

R.S. Bailey, director of "Shuffle, Shuffle, Step: Three Plays by Samuel Beckett," (which opened Jan. 6 at L.A.'s Theatre/Theatre), worked directly with Beckett in Berlin in 1997. As a result, Bailey brings to these three short plays a sense of authenticity, as if the master was speaking directly to his audience from the grave.

 

It is this sense of bloodline connection, combined with the skill of a fine ensemble of actors, that makes "Shuffle, Shuffle, Step" a compelling dramatic experience.

 

Of the three plays, "Krapp's Last Tape," which stars Bailey as the obsessed antihero, Krapp, is by far the best known. Beckett's grim portrait of a bitter old man who lives like a badger in his den and relives the past through a series of recorded birthday messages, is iconic.

 

"Footfalls," which depicts the gradual destruction of a woman who has sacrificed her life to care for her invalid mother, is known, but hardly familiar.

 

The real surprise is "Rough for Theatre I," a fascinating study that may have laid the groundwork for the characters of Hamm and Clove in "Endgame." For some reason, Beckett never allowed the play to be performed during his life -- so it is a resurrected treasure.

 

All three plays were performed on opening night. But for the rest of the run, unfortunately, audiences will have to chose between seeing "Krapp's Last Tape" either with "Footfalls" or "Rough for Theatre I." It's a tough choice since the latter two are fascinating, rarely seen works, both superbly performed -- the former by Mary Dryden, the latter by Billy Hayes and Jeff Murray.

 

In "Rough for Theatre I" the lights come up on the bent, disheveled figure of a blind man (Hayes) who scrapes tunelessly on a dilapidated fiddle. His scraping, however, is sufficient to draw an equally crumpled, wheelchair-ridden old man (Murray) from his lair. What transpires is a fascinating, push-pull, claw-and-scratch study in evolving mutual dependency.

 

A desire to experience any form of human contact, combined with a basic need to survive, drives both men to overcome their fear, until the man with eyes that can see, and the man with legs that can move test out the possibilities of a symbiotic relationship. Hayes and Murray are compelling as these two adversarial would-be allies.

 

"Footfalls" is pure Beckett in style, as a distraught woman in a long dress and shawl paces back and forth as her footfalls score a path of sorrow into the surface of the stage. The story, on the other hand, could be drawn from Charles Dickens, about a woman who has sacrificed whatever chance she had to find happiness in life to care for her demanding invalid mother.

 

The demeaning ritual of her slavish dependency is symbolized by the endless footfalls of her pacing. Step by step, word by cruel word, she is diminished in her ability to withstand the pressure, gradually succumbing to the relentless weight of so much emotional submission. Dryden gives a powerful performance, eloquent in its spareness, as she reacts to the disembodied voice of her demonic mother (Nicolette Chaffey).

 

"Krapp's Last Tape" is actually two performances in one. The actor (in this case Bailey) appears as the title character in the last stage of his life: bent, bitter and eruptively violent. His life in the present is simultaneously mirrored by the voice that emerges from the tape recorder. He is a contrast of himself: old and young, grim and hopeful, spiteful and loving, to a point where he finds the contrast overwhelming.

 

Krapp is a role that has tested many a fine actor. To plumb its emotional depths, and, at the same time, deal with the preciseness of Beckett's instructions -- including the exact way to peel a banana -- is an actor's challenge of the first order.

 

On opening night, Bailey's performance paid religious attention to the specifics of Beckett's instructions, but was less convincing in its ability to convey the deep emotional core of the character. But like Hamlet, Krapp is a role that grows in the playing, and Bailey's performance is on the right track.

 

As time goes by, fewer and fewer productions of Beckett's plays will be able to trace their lineage back to the master. In "Shuffle, Shuffle, Step" that voice rings true.

 

 

 

"Shuffle, Shuffle, Step: Three Plays by Samuel Beckett" plays at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Feb. 11 ("Krapp's Last Tape" is performed each night, accompanied by "Footfalls" on Fridays and "Rough for Theatre I" on Saturdays), Theatre/Theater, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. Tickets are $15. For information, call 323-466-3134.

 

REVIEWPLAYS.COM: Shuffle, Shuffle, Step: - Three Short Plays by Samuel Beckett

 

Theatre/Theater

 

This year marks the 100th birthday of Samuel Beckett and Theatre/Theater has bravely leapt to the occasion by mounting three of the intrepidly avant-garde playwright's groundbreaking one-acts in observance of what the man himself once referred to as the "awful occasion."

 

Under the blanket title Shuffle, Shuffle, Step, it proves a fascinating evening, perfect for introducing the community to the seventh new home of Jeff Murray and Nicolette Chaffey's 24-year labor of love, as Theatre/Theater must be credited for being one of the most prolific and steadfast theatrical entities responsible for the evolution of live theatre in Los Angeles, helping to transform it from colorless showcasing to high art over the last couple of decades.

 

Directed by R.S. Bailey, the first American asked by the playwright to work with him after meeting in Paris in 1973, Shuffle, Shuffle, Step offers a jarringly reverent, highly personal vision of these three now-classic works with which Bailey clearly identifies from his own history with the pieces and his relationship to their innovative creator. Bailey's correspondence with Beckett and personal notes on the changes in the text of Krapp's Last Tape, which brought him to West Berlin in 1977 at the writer's request when Beckett directed his own play at the West Berlin Academy of Art, are archived at Atlanta's Emory University

 

Featuring five lovely, committed performances and starkly simple but effective design elements which are actually heightened by the continual hum of traffic from Pico Boulevard on the other side of the wall, Bailey's reverent direction is by far the major asset here, as he unmistakably understands the master's voice and fiercely protected scripted pauses and rhythms better than anyone else possibly could.

 

The first piece, Rough for Theatre 1, was developed after Beckett expressed concern to Bailey that his familiar characters from Endgame and Waiting for Godot were continuously interpreted as master-slave associations. "He referred to them rather as relationships of mutual torture," says Bailey. Beckett told him his writing was instead meant to imply that one character "tortures the other physically while the other tortures the one mentally." Beckett also mentioned he was working on a new piece delving into just that topic, which turned out to be Rough for Theatre 1.

 

In it, a supposedly blind street beggar called A (Billy Hayes, whose infamous book about his real-life experiences in a Turkish prisoner became the 1978 Oscar winner Midnight Express) is alone until the screeching tires of the wheelchair-bound B (Murray) jar him into a conversation about how the two can link together for a better life. "Do you like company, Billy?" the vociferous B asks the bewildered A. "Do you like tinned food, Billy?"

 

 B browbeats A until he can no longer stand it, taking B's request to push his chair as his chance to physically react against his oppressor. As in the better known Godot, the two friends-combatants parry back and forth both verbally and through sparse movement. "Why don't you let yourself die?" B asks A, who considers his answer thoughtfully. "I'm not unhappy enough," A finally decides.

 

The acting here is flawless, with Murray's grandly presentational style an odd and almost palpable curiosity as set against Hayes' simple and highly direct delivery-which their director indubitably intended, particularly with his ear so firmly placed against the grave of his friend, the world's first and great dramatist of the absurd.

 

This is also echoed in the dynamically economic performance of Mary Dryden in Footfalls, the second piece of the evening, a piece surely responsible for at least one of the blanket title's Shuffle-s. As May paces back and forth across the stage wandering in and out of Bailey's eerily atmospheric lighting, the disembodied voice of her disapproving mother (Chaffey, who's golden tones are as clear and hypnotic as any could be) becomes a continuous drip of another dose of Beckett-ian verbal Chinese water torture. "Will you never have done revolving it all?" Mother asks, to which her daughter just offers a hopeful little turn at each corner as she orbits away her sad little existence. When the voice ultimately stops its relentless harangue, all that's left is poor May, still shuffling through the paths she's carved into the floor, living a life of exaggerated nothing at all.

Nowhere does ol' Sam's disillusionment with humanity resonate more than in his one-person Krapp's Last Tape, which Bailey himself performs with amazing corporeal poignancy. Alone and abandoned by everything and everyone, Krapp spends his hours listening to the recorded diaries of his earlier years, letting the sorrow of advanced age form a remarkably sad counterpoint to his youthful enthusiasm. As he spools and respools Tape 5 from Box 5, his loneliness descends as though it were a second character to respond to. "With all this darkness around me," he says, "I feel less alone." This is the evening's most noteworthy achievement for Bailey, who gently and lovingly attempts to reveal a great playwright's all-too evident disenfranchisement with the blissfully ignorant la-de-da of life in the middle of the last century. 

 

Are there druthers here? Yes, some. As brilliant and daring and fearless as the works of Beckett were to their befuddled audiences in their original premieres, in many ways, performing his works has lost a lot of its power to stimulate and shock. Although he was a true pioneer, it's all been done repeatedly since. Occasionally, Shuffle, Shuffle, Step's intrinsic monotony becomes more indulgent than effective, the fault of the passing decades since these pieces were created, not anything to blame on this precision, graciously admiring, spectacularly worshipful production. "I'll not hear a human voice again," A wails in Rough for Theatre 1, to which B snaps back, "Haven't we heard them enough?" How amazing it must have been to see these plays unfold for the first time all those years ago.

 

 

 

Shuffle, Shuffle, Step plays through Feb. 11 at Theatre/Theater, 5041 W. Pico Blvd. , Los Angeles . For tickets, call (323) 466-3134.

 

 

 

*RECOMMENDED* LATIMES

 

directed by Matt Skaja

 

produced by Branden Morgan

 

March 3-April 16

 

$20 Fri/Sat 8pm Sun 7pm

 

Reservations (818) 752 9253


 

 

ALPHA CO presents THE BETROTHED

 

'Hilarious" "Goofy Wordplay and Goose Pulling Ruckus"

 

REVIEWS

 Los Angeles Times

 Backstage West

 

Los Angeles Times

 

A Betrothal of Comedy Styles

 

Seventeenth century Italy meets Lorne Michaels in "The Betrothed" at Theatre/Theater. If this Italian pastiche by Jon M. Berry is not quite the berries, it is often hilarious and generally agreeable.

 

Berry resets various classic archetypes - two scheming fathers, their unhappily espoused children, clownish servants and secret amours - with a postmodern viewpoint and hambone verbal style. Designer Bayeux Morgan's solid Venetian setting and the strumming of composer-guitarist Bryon Hatcher drip Renaissance. However, the genial troupe of buffoons that romps along in commedia-meets-sitcom manner is closer to "Saturday Night Live" than to Carlo Gozzi.

 

Thus, money-mad Dottore Gratiano (Ingo Neuhaus) looks like Drew Carey and sounds like Johnny Carson. Jeff Murray plays his cohort Pantalone as a traditional buffo widower, by way of Carl Reiner. As their respective progeny, Branden Morgan's weepy Oratio and Kate Woodruff's daffy Flaminia upend standard juvenile/ingénue aspects.

 

Jed Mills as an ancient retainer with a cheesy Italian accent and Misi Lopez Lecube and Alan Gaskill as furiously swashbuckling Spanish siblings steal the evening, and their colleagues are certainly rambunctious.

 

Matt Skaja directs them fairly well, although the goofy wordplay and rubber-goose ruckus needs some tightening to keep collegiate coyness at bay. Not all of the slapstick matches the punctuation from sound-effects lackey Sam Rovin, and some passages need the actors to slow down and speak up. Yet by the time Nicolette Chaffey descends upon Act 2 as the braying, Cockney-toned plot pivot, most quibbles have long since dimmed in the face of such charmingly lowbrow enthusiasm.

- David C. Nichols

 

"The Betrothed," Theatre/Theater, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., L.A. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sunday. Ends April 16. $20. (818) 752-9253. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.

BACKSTAGE WEST

 

The Betrothed

March 16, 2006

By Madeleine Shaner

 

A scrappy mixture of slightly tarnished commedia, pantomime slapstick, collegiate high jinks, opéra bouffe, nightly television, shtick, and scurrilous improvisation raises the rafters in Theatre/Theater's new space to a new high, or stoops to a new low, depending on the perceived angle of the dangle. Jon M. Berry's frolic is neither fish nor foul nor farce, but it is funny for the most part--cunningly clever in spots--when it's not being deliberately obnoxious and, despite the dizzying meld of acting styles and the seemingly interminable length, adds up to genuine, lowest-common-denominator entertainment.

 

With the classic scheme of star-crossed lovers, misdirected parental marital strategies (Jeff Murray as the amiable Pantalone, father of the bride; Ingo Neuhaus as the Latin-spouting Gratiano, father of the doomed groom), the discovery of long-lost relatives, distraction, destruction, disguises, strife, spite, seduction, chastity and the blatant lack of it, dropped drawers, temporary transgender attacks, and a little jousting, there's plenty of something for everyone. Warranting particular mention are the well-tempered and exquisitely acted performances of Misi Lopez Lecube as the stunning Isabella; Alan Gaskill as Spavento with Kate Woodruff as Flaminia, the lovers; Branden Morgan as Oratio, the desolate groom; and Nicolette Chaffey as Burratina, the baker with a sack load of secrets under her bustle. Bryon Hatcher's live score provides the essential ambiance.

 

 

 

 

 

Particularly effective are the scenes when the whole of Venice seems to be onstage; the action shifts into overdrive and suddenly becomes lip-synched opera (music and lyrics by Berry, vocalizations by Andrea Herron). Matt Skaja's direction lacks the precision a play of this genre demands-too shrill too often and, blame it on the playwright, requiring too much untangling of the huge, confusing cast of characters, all of whom operate in overwhelmingly youthful high gear all the time. Bayeu Morgan's set design (with Travis Farmen) and Murray's lighting design back up and enhance the elaborate costuming by Emil Ross (with seamstress Gabrielle Guglielmelli).

 

Presented by Alpha Co. in association with and at Theatre/Theater, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., L.A. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. Mar. 3-Apr. 16. (818) 752-9253.


CIRCLE X present A BIGGER MAN

 


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                         SEPT. 28, 2006
 
"Ali: The Man, the Myth, The Peoples' Champion"
Takes Stage at Theatre/Theater

 
 
"Muhammad Ali is one of my own personal heroes; I'm a big fan.  As a young boy and aspiring boxer, I had the pleasure of meeting 'The Champ'.  I'll never forget how I felt as I shook his hand.  It inspired me to want to emulate Ali and become a great fighter and to believe in myself.  After I made the 1980 U.S. Olympic team I thought I was on my way.  Then the U.S. withdrew from the Moscow Olympics because of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.  Even though Sugar Ray Leonard offered me a chance to turn pro, I decided to follow another of my life's goals.  I became a stand-up comedian and impressionist."
Vincent Cook talks about what it took to bring Muhammad Ali's epic odyssey to the stage in Ali: The Man, The Myth, The Peoples' Champion, opening Fri., Oct. 13 at Theatre/Theater.
"I wanted to show the world how Ali became The Man, what the myths were all about and how he unwittingly became the Peoples' Champion. 
"In order to portray Ali, I felt I had to do new research to add to the extensive work I had already done on the Champs life.   As an ex-fighter, I knew what to do.  I hung out at the legendary boxing gyms, the gyms of champions.  I trained like a fighter; I ate what Ali ate; I hung out with fighters, fight trainers and fight promoters.  For all intents and purposes, I was a boxer again."

Ali: the Man, The Myth, The People's Champion, written by Vincent Cook and  Anthony D. Spires, has been on a national tour of American colleges and universities for the last year.  The play highlights Ali's historic battles in the ring and out and unveils his biggest fight of all, his current bout with Parkinson's disease.
Cook worked previously with Oscar nominated actor Will Smith and Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx in the movie "Ali", where he played notable Ali opponent Jimmy Ellis, and was Smith's boxing double.  Cook has been able to unearth Ali stories most people never heard about.  As a result he incorporates 18 characters to make it a one-man show like no other.  From Smokin' Joe Frazier, to Don King, to Howard Cosell, to Ronald Reagan, he runs the gamut of the era and brings all of the legends up close and personal.  He has toured with late greats Richard Pryor and Luther Vandross, as well as Patti Labelle, Kenny G, and The Temptations.  He can be seen as the street-hustler/stand-up comedian Curt the Tailor, in "Tears Of A Clown", which was nominated for Best Feature Film in the 2006 Los Angeles Pan African Film Festival. He has appeared on "Def Comedy Jam", "Showtime At The Apollo", "Comic View" and "The Uptown Comedy Club". 
Anthony D. Spires directs Ali: The Man, The Myth, The People's Champion.  He is a founder of San Francisco's Full Circle Theatre Collective and created the Bay Area Black Comedy Competition.  He consulted with "Def Comedy Jam" for its first three seasons and was Executive Talent Consultant for BET's "Comic View" for six seasons.  He wrote and directed the feature film "Tears of a Clown" and "Two Degrees" released by Artisan Entertainment.
                        Ali: The Man, The Myth, The People's Champion is produced by Full Circle Entertainment and R.A.S Productions in association with Jeff Murray and Theatre/Theater.  Performances are at 8:00 PM, Fri. and Sat., closing Sat., Nov. 18.  Theatre/Theater is located at 5041 Pico Blvd. (2 blks. West of LaBrea at Orange) in Los Angeles. For information and reservations call 818 992-6426.  Online go to www.VincentCook.com.

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