This was a whooper of a stage reading, for many reasons; Right on top is the fact that it’s based off of the playwright’s own life. ABRAHAM’S ALTAR is a story of a gay Vietnam War Veteran living in San Francisco. The story unfolds as, from what I felt, like a live-flashback. An element that’s used in the play is that the current version of the main character indulges in conversation with his younger, more naive self. In fact, there’s a line in the play wherein the character addresses the moment when the old reconcile with the young –and how ambiguous the transition can be.
We had the opportunity to meet a few times for rehearsals prior to the stage reading –that was nice, and a welcome change. The rehearsal space and the actual reading took was hosted by the New Conservatory Theatre Center in San Francisco. I was really digging that space!
That's the playwright, Mike Job, in the background --visiting us for a rehearsal.
L-R Chris Morrell (who was also in Friar Lazaro stage reading), Casey Fern, and director Sara Staley
I couldn’t help but admire the amount of courage it took to write something so raw and revelatory. I read the character, EL DON, who happened to be one of Mike Job’s real life friend (different name, obviously), who was also a gay latino Vietnam War Veteran who was with him when they marched through Washington D.C. in protest. His life was ultimately consumed by the AIDS virus.
What really had me at grips was his visitation during rehearsal. At the end of the read, he seemed quite pleased with everyone’s reading. (He’s such a gentle person). He brought out some old photos and it moved me a great deal to actually put a face to the person I was portraying –and how uncanny some of our features were. It was my first time ever playing who actually existed and it was a lot to take in.
(Backstage) I found this amusing...
The two hour (ish) commutes from SF > SJ / SJ > SF gave me plenty of time to really absorb the story and what it was I was a part of. This was someone’s life. It may have just been a stage reading, but, the depth in which this touched me…I can’t even begin to mine all the gold from it (and part of me wants to keep it in the safest place where no-one else can see it).
The day of the reading, L-R: Harry Breaux, Chris Morrell
All the seats were expected to be filled –and come the day of the reading, they were! There was a wonderful mix of generations. During the Q&A, a handful of the Veterans that were in attendance had tears and emotions (some were happy the story was being told, others were red with passion at the topic/situation that they’ve had to deal with). I was really proud of everyone, most importantly, of Mike Jobs, the playwright. No doubt he received very helpful critiques and feedback from the reading and I’m looking forward to the next time it’s ready to be read out-loud again.
A tender gift from the playwright, each one of us received one. And while I'm choosing not to post what he wrote in the card, just know that it brought me to tears as I read it on the commute home.
I wish Mike the best with his play and hope it is produced. At the heart of this play is a person, and in another angle, a topic that exists today and deserves to be addressed. Before leaving the venue, I managed to snap this picture and upon reflection, it was felt it was fitting. Wide-eyed. Present. Central. Life.
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