Friday, February 16, 2007

Remembering An Actor

My fifth-grade schoolteacher introduced me to a great actor. He was a repertory actor at my hometown theatre and was preparing a role for which he would later take to Broadway, earning him a Tony nomination. His name was Richard Kavanaugh and to this day I don't know whether to bless him or curse him. I have done both. A short while after his Broadway experience, he went mad, then recovered and went on to play more unforgettable roles. He passed away in 1988.

She arranged a tour of Trinity Rep for the whole class, and also found a way to give me time alone with Kavanaugh. He wore jeans and a hooded sweatshirt, well-worn. He was a heavyset man with a mop of brown hair and intense eyes. We talked about characters and I shyly asked him how he had played Renfield, the fly-eating slave of Dracula. His gaze got more intense and he said, "How? How?"

And he transformed before my eyes. His body and face changed, and for some reason he said, in a voice that was hideous and pitiful, "Help me." I don't think that was one of his lines. But I felt the icy-death winds of Romania, the stone castle that was a sepulchre, the yearning that never goes away, desire perverted, the need to eat what one loves.

Just as quickly, he restored and said, "I don't know."

I have never wanted to do anything else with my life.

1 comment:

Ji Hyang said...

Exceptional entry and true to your calling:
coyote medicine, eerie and yet clear hearted