ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: The White Room, My "Smash"-ing Work, Plus Kristine Zbornik

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26 Mar 2013

David Turner
David Turner

A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.


Well, it happened. I entered the "white room" (for an explanation of that term, keep reading). It all began last week during a performance of The Daring Duo, in my Midtown March Medley. The play I wrote is a comedy caper about a soon-to-be-married couple (David Turner and I) who agree to perform in the luxury apartment of a notorious gangster. Here is a section of the dialogue that happens when Jake (me) and Jonathan (David) are in the apartment waiting for Bruno to enter the living room:

JAKE: I hope he likes our performance.
JONATHAN: We may never know. Carlos Gonzales did a performance here once and said that Bruno spent the whole time on his phone.
JAKE: And you believe him? Carlos spent time at Betty Ford.
JONATHAN: No…he spent time with Betty Ford! He performed at the White House!
JAKE: For Republicans? I'm out.

Anyhoo, during the third performance I noticed David's face change while he said his first line. I knew something was about to happen, but I didn't know what. He began speaking normally but there was a slight hesitation right before he said "Carlos Gonzales." Instead he said, "And you believe him? (slight pause…then) Marcos played a recital here and said that Bruno spent the whole time on his phone."

So, it was, of course, funny to me that he forgot the name and I could see it happening but I was obsessed with how his mind works: the character "Carlos Gonzales" is never mentioned again and I arbitrarily named him that, but David couldn't just say "John" or "Mike"…he had to "honor my writing" and replace it with a Hispanic-sounding name. Amazing on Filofax action!

Then, what made the situation funnier for us is that I had to follow his line and repeat the name he came up with. So, I said "And you believe him? (Slight awkwardness) Marcos… spent time at Betty Ford." Now, in a normal show, we'd go offstage in the next scene and laugh about what happened. But we're pretty much onstage together for the whole 85 minutes, so by the time we could discuss it, the tension of not discussing it had built up so much that David was laughing so hard after the show he had tears in his eyes. Well, cut to a few performances later; we started the first scene and when I got to my seventh line I completely went blank. That's what's called entering the white room; meaning there is nothing but whiteness around you. Nothing to grab onto. This time, it was not funny…it was devastating. I just kept repeating my subtext and pretending it was a line: "I want to do something daring… you know, something daring". Silence. Finally, David was amazing and said a line he knew would trigger me and I was back on track. And by being "back on track" I mean I was in a panic for the rest of the show that it could happen again at any moment. The entire show felt like walking in a mine field. After the show, David texted me. "Suddenly, Marcos doesn't seem so bad, does it?" Exactly!!


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