Topher Rasmussen has previously appeared in BORDERLANDS, SLAM and several Script-In-Hand Series readings (most recently ‘8’) for Plan-B Theatre Company. He also appeared in COURSE 86B IN THE CATALOGUE at Salt Lake Acting Company.
So we did a reading of ADAM AND STEVE AND THE EMPTY SEA a million years ago (actually in November of 2011), Jerry emailed me to do a small reading for some people, or was it a workshop, I can’t remember. Anyway the reading was smooth, just a couple rehearsals and the script was so much fun. Meeting Matthew was excellent, getting to work with Jerry again was awesome, and Andy [Rindlisbach] was awesome too (he played Steve). Pretty sure we had some discussion afterwards. Then my memory gets hazy again, I’m not very good at processing how time works – but Jerry said we were going to be doing the show, and he wanted me to play Adam. I said absolutely, probably not in those words, and was immediately super excited. My first Plan-B show, BORDERLANDS, had been an amazing experience, and I was so ready to go through another Plan-B show. This was like a year ago. Maybe more. That excitement hasn’t waned, you know, it’s been around, but a year is a long time. Then we had auditions in February of 2012, Logan was cast, awesome. We did a reading this past summer at the OUTReach summit thing, it was awesome to get to know the play again, and to get to know Logan as Steve. Also to see Matthew again. The reading was great, there was a really positive response from the small audience in a conference room at Weber State. Lots of good discussion afterwards, which is something I really love about Plan-B shows. I remember specifically a woman came up afterwards and said something about “I thought Adam was going to come out as gay too. Maybe it was just the pants.” I was wearing some purplish skinny jeans. So. Luckily this time around we have a costume designer.
At some point after that reading Jerry found out he Kirt were going to have an Oscar, and that Jerry wouldn’t be directing. Wonderful news about the Oscar (by the way I mean their baby, not an Academy Award) but I didn’t know who would direct. Jerry let us know that it would indeed be Jason Bowcutt, who I had had a couple brief interactions with: He directed me in a short piece for a Script-in-Hand Series thingy, and I saw his stunning performance when we were in 8 together – which sounded good, I mean, of course I trust Jerry’s judgment, he casts me in things – but I didn’t know Jason. I wouldn’t say I was nervous like scared nervous, but I was comfortable with Jerry, and I didn’t know what working with Jason would be like.
We had a meeting and read-through with Matthew and Jason and everybody, a nice refresher on the script and again, really nice to see everyone. Jason seemed so genuine, so real. My nervousness was turned to excitement.
Two weeks ago we started rehearsals. Though I hadn’t gone through a real rehearsal process with Jason or Logan before, it didn’t feel unfamiliar for a couple reasons. We rehearsed in Studio A, downstairs at the Rose, a room I became very familiar with through all my classes with Theatre Arts Conservatory during high school. I have had many, many artistic revelations in that room. Kyle Lewis, Colleen Lewis, Mark Fossen – and many other teachers gave me incredible insights and knowledge there. That room is where I learned my craft. Where I had the feeling of safety that allowed me to take risks, where I felt like I could take myself seriously as an artist. In some ways I grew up there. The other familiar part was Jennifer Freed, probably the best stage manager I have had the privilege to work with in my many many 3ish years of working as an actor in Salt Lake. So the process began, and I felt at home again.
Jason is a remarkable director. He is so encouraging, so relatable. He really makes me feel like I can do good work, and helps me stay away from all my actor habits and other “traps” during rehearsal. I’ve loved these 2 weeks. Logan is a wonderful castmate, and I couldn’t be more excited for this show.
The real star though, perhaps the thing (did I just use the word ‘perhaps’?) that I’ve loved most about this process specifically, is Matthew Greene’s script. This piece is so close to my heart lately, I don’t know how I’m going to handle letting it go. I’ve really come to love Adam, as frustrating and silly as he is. And Steve too, in his infinite wisdom and strength. Each scene is so beautifully structured, and so wonderfully specific. Those terms may not seem like compliments, but to an actor, they make a piece so rewarding. This play feels good. Well-made. But on top of that, on top of it following a nice dramatic arc, being engaging and personal and eloquent, it is relevant and current and unpretentious. I love it. The subject matter is something I’ve dealt with in my life extensively – I am very similar to Adam in some ways. Similar age, similar upbringing – he seems like someone I would know. I wish I had a best friend like Steve when growing up.
To put things simply, I feel so lucky to be able to participate in this project. I am so grateful for Plan-B, for Matthew Greene, Jason Bowcutt, Jerry Rapier, Eric Samuelsen [who served as an official dramaturg to Matthew Greene as he finished the play] – everyone who has helped this show to get on its feet. And helped me personally. It’s hard for me to believe the opportunities I have been given. I am so excited for my friends and family to see this show, it makes me a better person every time we run through it. As far as my thoughts going into opening go – my inner Jerry leaves me with one thought: Don’t fuck this up.
Matthew Greene’s ADAM & STEVE AND THE EMPTY SEA, featuring Logan Tarantino & Topher Rasmussen and directed by Jason Bowcutt, receives its world premiere January 31-February 10 at Plan-B Theatre Company. Click here for more information.