Although the world premiere of GOOD STANDING is Austin Archer’s acting debut with Plan-B (October 18-28 in SLC, November 4 at United Solo in NYC), he’s no stranger to the company. His play JUMP closed last season in a co-production with Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory and his short plays “Swipe Left” and “Swipe Right” were part of (IN)DIVISIBLE the previous season. His recent acting credits include HIR at SLAC and NEWSIES at PTC and Mindhunter on Netflix.
I hate to state the obvious, but doing a one person show is hard. Like … harder than doing a show with more than one actor, because instead of three or four people collectively memorizing a full play, it’s just me memorizing lines for sixteen characters. Sixteen! You know what happens if I go up on a line in front of an audience? Well, my co-star doesn’t jump in and give me an ad-libbed prompt to get me back on track, I’ll tell you that much. In this flying trapeze act there’s no safety net, so if I lose my place or go full on deer-in-the-headlights I’m gonna go splat all over that stage and it ain’t gonna be pretty. And obviously I’m not the first person to ever do one of these things; United Solo in NYC has over 100 solo acts playing this year alone. This is just the first time I’ve done this so I’m a little worried at the prospect of watching that hard, unforgiving floor rushing up to meet me should I fall.
Another difficulty that’s a bit more specific to this show is finding particular differentiations between my characters who are almost all middle-aged white Mormon men from Utah. I know that every person is as unique as their finger print regardless of region, race, or religious affiliation, but actors tend to rely on archetypes as a building block or an inroad to creating different characters. So if several of my characters start with the same basic archetype, same basic speech patterns, same beliefs, same sort of look, how do I go about making sure the audience knows the difference between them? How do I ensure you can see a clear, believable difference between Brother Pace and Brother Stone without putting on a wig and a silly accent?
Essentially what I’m saying is I have to be honest and do my job really well. And that terrifies me because, like a lot of actors, I’m probably really worried deep down that I’m a fraud and I’m not actually good at this thing I’ve spent my whole life trying to be good at. I think we actors always want these roles. These meaty, old-school, only-me-and-my-voice roles where there’s no hiding, where it’s really time to put up or shut up and show if all the years of training have paid off or not. But when we get them we’d be lying if we acted like there wasn’t at least part of us that was scared this would be our reckoning. That this would be that role that exposes us for the wannabe Streep we truly are.
Anyway, now that I’ve told you how difficult my trick is going to be, like a magician setting the stage for an illusion banned in most countries for its level of danger, your interest should be sufficiently piqued, right? Am I going to pull it off, or am I going to crash and burn in a catastrophic mess? Either way it should be pretty unforgettable. But here’s the real thing, Matthew Greene wrote a hell of a personal, human, confronting, and beautiful play about a man forced to choose between who he is fundamentally and the faith of his childhood [and early adulthood]. It’s a crisis of faith and family in a singular setting. It’s brought up a lot of things for me and sparked many good discussions in the rehearsal room, meaning it’s probably the kind of script that will inspire similar discussions on the car ride home for you after you see it, meaning it’s probably a pretty damn effective bit of storytelling. You should come see it for that, not for all my daring theatrics. Come for the beautiful story Matt wrote. And who knows, maybe you’ll see a horrific trapeze accident, too.
Austin Archer is the entire cast of 16 in the world premiere of Matthew Greene’s GOOD STANDING, receiving its world premiere October 18-28 in SLC and November 4 at United Solo in NYC. Click here for details and tickets.