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An Actor Prepares

December 1, 2009

“An actor must complete his character’s biography in his mind, from beginning to end, because knowing how the character grew up, what influenced his behavior, and what he expects his future to be will give the actor a perspective and a feeling of movement in the role.”

-Constantin Stanislavski, Acting Teacher (1933)

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“I’ll have the corned beef. What is the soup of the day?”

-Man #2 in Sandwich Shop

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My character — Man Number Two, who I call Peter Robinson — was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1972, the son of a washing machine salesman and a schoolteacher. He was vigorously teased for his overly large ears for most of his young life, and compensated by feeling the need to excel at sports. As the captain of his high school basketball team, he led the Red Plains High School Yellowjackets to the Hopewell County district finals, held at the North Platte Civic Center, in 1986, where the team lost by a heartbreaking final shot, 73-71.

In college, Peter took an almost immediate liking to his history classes, finding himself most interested in the era of World War II. He scored a “B” and the respect of his professor, Dr. Stephen Wilcox, for a paper he wrote on Churchill’s decision processes during the conflict. Dr. Wilcox would later be disgraced and asked to leave the University of Nebraska due to a crippling addiction to aerosol bronchodilators, which would disrupt his attention to curriculum.  Peter dated Annabeth Henderson for several months, until she was killed in a coal mine explosion in West Virginia, which she was visiting at the time. Peter was inconsolable, and poured himself into his new hobby, “world music.” He especially enjoyed the musical stylings of African drum legend Babatunde Olatunji.

He took a job working with P.G. Tartlebaum  & Sons furniture sales, where he twice won employee of the month and once sold a dinette set to Ronnie Milsap. He was poked in the eye by an errant racquetball during a friendly game at his local YMCA, which required a trip to the opthamologist. He once became ill from eating a container of Yoplait “Peach Harvest” light yogurt which was past its expiration date. He secretly wishes he looked more like martial arts film star Jeff Speakman.

Peter’s favorite movie is Rhinestone, starring Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Parton. He likes lemons, but not limes. He thinks the color “salmon” is a good color for a shirt. He doesn’t believe in magic. He considers himself a “people person.”  He gets a real kick out of elaborate model train exhibits. He will foil a robbery at the furniture store he works for, garnering a picture in the Scottsbluff Star-Herald “People & Places” section, which he will cut out and place on his refrigerator with a magnet that reads “Having a Hoot in Maryland” alongside a cartoon owl. He will visit New York once and think he should go to a Broadway play because “if you’re in New York, you just have to, right?” but he will be just so-so on Jersey Boys.

He will visit a sandwich shop, where he will think the corned beef sounds good, order it and ask about the soup of the day.

He will hope it is tomato bisque.

One Comment
  1. December 2, 2009 2:22 pm

    Well done, sir. I really enjoyed this piece.

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