Speechless complainer, I will learn thy thought

If you have been in near-Travis orbit of late you have been flooded with Titus-talk. The hot news of the moment (aside from my eldest sister’s lovely wedding) has been that I have been cast as Titus Andronicus in the Last Act Theatre Company’s Titus Andronicus.

I am delighted and terrified. I am a 20-year character actor tackling a difficult Shakespearean lead. Titus is for my money Quentin Tarantino’s Lear. Titus is Lear if Lear were bent toward action instead of away, if Lear’s madness were reflected in the world he inhabited instead of rejected by it. Titus is Lear without subtlety. 

Titus also talks a LOT. Non-stop truth be told and my brain hasn’t gotten younger even once in the last 20 years. I haven’t had a lead in three years and before that another 5. I am daunted. There is a mammoth task ahead of me. But I will learn my multiple fights. I will cram all of the words highlighted in blue into my head and I will choose and then navigate the insane emotional path that old Andronicus hurtles through.

But there’s always a chance that I won’t.

There is always the possibility that the show won’t go on, that I won’t ever really own my lines, that I will only make the safest choices and wave at them halfheartedly. I could mouth it as some of our players do. I am a radically pragmatic man. I know that this can happen. That’s the nightmare.

What does a pragmatic man do when he knows failure is a possibility? He leaves himself an out. An escape hatch. A pressure release valve. I do this all the time. Frankly, it’s a primary reason I’m not a more successful artist.

You begin by hedging. There’s this impediment and that resource hole. There’s not enough of X and too many Y. Rehearsal got cut short due to mono and we never really got to work a third act dance number…

You move to lowering expectations.
It’s a young company.
I’m just a character actor.
It sure is hard and I don’t know…

But the biggest weapon in this niche arsenal is?

Secrecy.

If an actor fails in the woods and no one is there to see it, it doesn’t matter. If I don’t tell you I’m doing something you won’t know. Entertainment Weekly doesn’t cover me like they should…

So you don’t mention it to the folks you respect, you don’t bring it up up the ladder of artistic success. You mention it to your friends and family who have to love you even if you really do kill Mutius in 1.1. And if it goes south? You have a story to tell and no blame.

But you can’t do something as hard as Titus Andronicus halfway. You’ve got to be all in.
So if you’re in near-Travis orbit and you’re already a little tired of the Titus-talk? I apologize.
But I have to hold myself accountable to this process.
I can’t hedge.
I can’t hide.

We open on October 20th. Less than a month.
Titus Andronicus in all of its violent, operatic sprawl.
Fierce and funny and brutally tragic.

I am Titus.

Will you join us?

  • Anonymous

    Rock and roll, Travis Andronicus.  Kill them all.  Make them bleed. You will be epic and righteous.  I’m so excited for you.  

  • Anonymous

    All in, baybe.  Talk away.  I’ll help in any way I can, from over here.  Wish, wish, wish I could see it.

  • Rob Novak

    Speaking as another pragmatic actor-I feel your pain.  But I’ve found making sure the director and other actors know helps sometimes.  If you can get them to watch for it and help you avoid your safe choices you will be able to push yourself as well.

  • Flloyd Kennedy

    Oh Travis, you’re talking my talk.  I am the queen of hedge. My life is hedge. I know, from bitter and joyful experience how much more satisfying it is to go full out, throw caution to the winds and embrace the possibility of failure with all my heart. I adore actors who do this. I abhor theatre that fails to do this!  Still I find myself holding back, looking for exit signs, playing safe. At the moment I am fortunate to have a trainer/mentor who is so insightful and unforgiving, he takes delight in catching me giving less than my all, and I have discovered delight in having my un- and subconscious safety devices revealed to my conscious mind.  I hope you have someone like that working with you. Because you cannot do it on your own.  

    Perhaps your real safety device is the way your fellow actors work with, and respond to you.  You’ll know if they are playing safe that you probably are too, and really, what is the function of a Lead Actor?  It’s not to have to most lines, or the title role. It’s to be the inspiration, the fulcrum with which the team con-spires to create the particular work on each occasion. 

    So I would encourage you to dare to forget your lines, dare to share your fear (and boy, does Titus carry a lot of fear!), dare to keep on spreading the word and inviting all and sundry to share your incredibly terrifying mutual journey and process, and your own inspirational humble self.

  • Brandon Moore

    Still mulling on this one days later.  The courage to admit this kind of stuff is the same kind of courage that will help you pull Titus off.  In theatre we have no control over our own talent, but everything else about it is up to us – and as I read and re-read this, I think your “everything else” is in good hands.