Farnsworth Chronicles, 22


The first thing I did when the show was over was lay out a few pieces of paper towel, grab my electric shaver, and clip off the hair that had unceremoniously grown in during the last month and a half.  As the clumps fell down, I was taken back over a decade when I went through the same procedure following a run of A Wonderful Life, the musical version of the Jimmy Stewart movie classic.  I had let my hair grow for many months for that show, and I was even more eager to lop it off right away.

I pulled out my re-purposed dog shears and started taking one half of my head right down to my shiny pate.  Then the shears gave out.  Dead.  Eeek!  What the hell do I do now? The post-show celebration was in full swing just around the corner and down the hall and I was standing there with a half a head of hair.

Alan Roberts - production manager at the time, now Theatre & Arts Centre director - had an extra manual razor hanging around and offered it up as a potential solution.  I used a pair of scissors to do the heavy snipping and meticulously got the rest of it with the facial blade.  I got it done, but it was quite awhile before I was in a state to show myself at the party.

My trim was executed quickly and completely within minutes this time around, visually bring to a close this enriching chapter of my life.

It was a good way to end The Farnsworth Invention, as the emotional thread found its mark in a number of key scenes.  The end of act one felt as good as it has ever felt as I thrust myself at Wachtel with "Where they used to put their radios!"  The confrontation with Philo after the stock market crash went seamlessly and seemed to have the right measure of vocal peaks and valleys.  The closing speech landed the apology as seven weeks of living with this character and his guilt coalesced into the word "Protectors" and, for the first time, into the lines that followed.

As Mike began act two, taking the audience back to the stock market crash of 1929, I stood just out of sight on the ramp, waiting to slip into the scene from Row H, just behind a couple of surprised patrons.  Most night, those particular seats were empty.  It was nice closing it out with an audience in close proximity.

I understand from my family that the moment in the scene when Farnsworth says "Selling! Selling! Selling!" and paper is suddenly flying everywhere was their favourite.  I can understand why, though I never saw it.  During the whole crash sequence, my back was turned, draped over the desk in shock because of the pummeling that RCA stock was taking.  Turning around, back into the scene, it was always impressive how the stage floor was covered in paper, as if by magic.

The play pulsed along, on its closing night journey, through the disastrous sales pitch to United Artists, complete with cameo appearances by Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin...oops....Douglas Fairbanks; up to Crocker's office for a last ditched pitch to get continued funding for the project; to "a chess club on Green Street where for a nickel you could sit down and play a game of chess or backgammon, have a cup of coffee or cream soda."

Watching the character switches executed by Frances Mennigke was one of the great treats of being in my spot on downstage left night after night.  Here's a native South African who magically went from being a southern hickster to a New York corporate executive to a Russian inventor. An incredible talent, Frances represents a new wave of artists and performers who now call Fort McMurray home.  I'm so glad they are here.  When I think of Vladimir Zworykin, the picture of him sitting on the bar stool talking to Philo will always come to mind.

Humberly knocked it out of the park in our closing scene together as she declared that "I think you just stole television!"  She's been so great to work with - generous, committed, and always a positive force within the ensemble.  There is no doubt in my mind that she has a bright future.

"I'm secretary to the President of RCA," said Amanda Campbell in the role of Betty Jordan, the spark that sent Farnsworth flying across the stage into my light, towering over me with his manic intensity - another of my favourite scenes in the show.

As we marched along to the intense legal scenes, I always looked forward to a banal moment when Lippincott (played by Brodie) gets summoned by the secretary (played by Krysta) as a "Mister Tillman" had arrived, wanting to share something that might help.  It was a thing of beauty to watch Brodie hit that mark every night - focused, intense, intentional - even the night he had forgotten to put on his glasses.

Zworykin and Farnsworth spontaneously combusted in an orgasmic explosion of discovery in the final court scene as we quickly lunged to the finish line. Norm Sutton as the judge took his place at upper centre stage on top of the platform and brought down the gavel on the race to invent television. Sarnoff had won, and Farnsworth disappeared into obscurity, lost to the shadows of history.

The closing night bow brought to an end this wonderful journey and what people have suggested was a pretty good show.  As this merry band of thespians and theatre artists scatter, some staying here in Fort McMurray, many flying off to opportunities across the country, I want to say thank you.  It has been an honour.

At the end of the day, as the dust settles, lines begin to fade, and life continues, there is only one word that I could possibly say that captures what is in my heart.

Godspeed.

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