Being Tolerated, Being Honest, and Being Precious

Nappoholics Anonymous is a weekly column featuring twelve random thoughts by actor Tony Nappo. Some are funny, some are poignant, some bother him, and some make him weep from sadness while others make him weep for joy. Here are his thoughts: unfiltered, uncensored, and only occasionally unsafe for work.

1. I have a good number of “Friends” and “Followers” on Facebook and Instagram. On Twitter, I feel like I mostly have “Ignorers” and “Barely Tolerators.”

2. International Women’s Day Post of the Week:

3. Films I wanna see that I probably never will #173:

Joe Pesci (in his prime) starring in It’s a Wonderful Life.

George Bailey: I swear on my muthah’s grave, Uncle Billy, you fat, drunk, absent minded fuck, find dat money or I will hang you up by the neck by those stupid fucking finger strings and I will let that stray crow in the office peck the eyes right out of yer chubby fuckin cherub fuckin’ face!!!!!!

4. No Argument Here of the Week:

5. When people (like myself) say not to be too precious about the work, it’s primarily because it’s just acting. You aren’t housing the homeless or feeding the hungry. You’re just acting. Which is not to say that acting isn’t a very difficult thing to do. Especially when it is done extremely well. But you, as an actor, said that you could do that difficult thing. That’s why you’re there doing it and someone else isn’t. So, when you do it right, you shouldn’t expect a fucking parade to be thrown. You’re just doing the thing that you told everyone you COULD do, in the first place.

6. YPT Cancellations Analysis of the Week:

7. I am not the first to observe this BUT it is completely insane how North America is responding to COVID-19—which, so far, seems relatively contained and has a mortality rate of 2 per cent—while the world doesn’t seem phased at all by global warming and the planet getting closer and closer to the point where it will become uninhabitable for humanity. Which fucking planet do all these hysterical folks plan on living on once they have avoided this single particular virus??!!

8. Tweet of the Week: (Thanks, Grace)

9. Old Guy of the Week:

10. Feedback/Journeyman Story of the Week: (From last week’s column, in the archives below)

I give you a wonderful actor, man, friend, Nappoholics supporter, and mentor from my early twenties all the way through to the present, Billy MacDonald:

11. Top 5 Steven Spielberg Porn Titles:

5. Indiana Bones in the Temple of Lube

4. Amistud

3. E.T. The Extra Testicle

2. Star Whores

1. Close Encounters of the Turd Kind (category: German fetish)

12. As a lot of you may know, the reason I worked on Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train was because I had a chance meeting on the street with Daren Herbert. I’d seen him a couple times onstage and both times said to myself “There is some magic in this motherfucker.” Because there is. When we crossed paths on the street like that, which has never happened before or since, I asked what he was up to. He said he’d been down at Soulpepper auditioning folks. I asked him which play, and when, and who was directing. Snapped a quick selfie and we went our own ways.

I knew the play and the time of year was perfect for theatre since film and TV was dead around then. I texted the selfie I took to Weyni, the director, and essentially said, “ I hear you’re doing Jesus… want me to be in it?” After some time went by, and the director did all the shit she had to do to cast me, I received an offer.

Working with Daren reminded me a lot of working with David Fox. He never complained about a single thing. He was early and prepared every day. He never settled. Never stopped working. Was always searching. Right up until the final performance. We ran our lines before every single show of the entire run—even on two show days. There was nothing he wasn’t open to as a suggestion from me and he had a couple of suggestions for me that I happily embraced. A sure sign of a secure actor is one you can do that with. NEVER tell another actor what to do. That’s not cool. But you can suggest anything. You can ask for something from another actor that will help you. If it doesn’t get in their way to comply, why wouldn’t they? (Either they’re insecure or an asshole or both—that’s why).

Daren was the consummate professional throughout. And believe me, I am not that. I lack discipline entirely and I am tantrum-oriented and self-hating through the process. I’m sometimes late because I have a fucked up sleep schedule and life in general. I mean, I’m great for the work part but a nightmare from time to time around all the other stuff. And he never once even gave me a sideways glance (that I saw) or mentioned any of that shit to me. I’m sure he was affected by it but it didn’t seem to be an issue because he was always and only there to do the work. That’s where our common ground was and where we thrived.

Working with Daren was everything I hoped it would be. He’s a great dance partner. He is always paying attention to only you onstage. He’d throw little different things at me and I at him. I swear If you looked close enough you could actually see us enjoying each other when we found a moment, or when a moment just happened over the course of the run that we had never worked on. Moments that just happened that hadn’t ever felt exactly right to one or either of us. Some we held onto, some we let go immediately. But without ever once discussing any of it. He is not big on talking about the work. But he’s huge on doing it. It was like what I imagine skating with Gretzky would have been like. Or boxing with Ali. You are just better at what you do for having done it with them. No punch or puck could be thrown at him that he didn’t know how to handle. And this is a guy I am basically trying to destroy every single second I am on the stage with him. (Never as an actor, to be clear.) But I was only there ever, ultimately to support him and feed his story. My story wasn’t the story of the play. I was in his story. Most of my time onstage was with and about him. Everything I did and was directed to do was to maximize the impact of that element of that story.

One of the big pleasures of doing this play outside of performing it was being able to see it so many times and watching the other actors—Daren, Diana Donelly, Gregory Prest, and Xavier Lopez—find magnificent nuances and changes over the course of the run. There was one specific moment I think back on still, two weeks after closing now—it’s probably the reason I wrote this piece you’re reading. Daren’s character, a serial killer, was talking about the shit that had happened to him—being repeatedly sexually assaulted as a boy and becoming addicted to cocaine and heroin as a result of that trauma, and how nobody seemed to ever recognize his victimization. They only remembered his worst moments—the murders he committed. He said when rock stars or actresses went on TV and talked about their past trauma “Everybody Cry!” but his past was never considered at all. And there was a point in the run where he hit a pitch with this line that shook the whole fucking building. It was resentful and self-pitying and a condemnation of the kind of world we live in now, where you point at the monsters and yell “Bad” and point at the victims and say “Good” when nobody could ever possibly lack all their complexity in such a neat and tidy way.  And for maybe a week or ten days, it kind of grew and grew and each night which was absolutely enthralling to witness.

And then one night, he just stopped doing it that way, dialled it way back. And, initially, I wasn’t sure why. Maybe he had tried to top the moment each night for himself—it was a moment of catharsis. And it was fucking always earned and I always believed it. When I thought about and knowing Daren a bit, by this point, I could only speculate that HE thought “I can’t continue to build from here and still be honest. To continue doing this will just be me repeating the moment I had last night”—which I had never sensed him doing once and which almost every other actor I have ever known (myself included) would likely have tried to do.

It struck me, to the point that I looked at my own show and a couple of my big moments and asked myself whether I was using those moments as signposts to hit along the way or not. Was I repeating moments because I could and because I was still “in” them to an acceptable enough degree? What if I followed his lead and allowed myself to let those moments go and see what happened?  And so I did. I dialled a few big moments way back. For example, I had one line “I am a good man because I choose to be. END OF STORY!!!” Full caps. Full volume. Punctuating the lines before it. By the last show, I barely raised my voice at all. But what I said, I fully meant both times, just as Daren had. I just didn’t want to dishonestly repeat a moment simply because it was a good one. Maybe I was doing it so as not to cheat the audience of that moment. But that’s how hacks are born—by being in love with their own moments. That was my biggest take away from the experience—one that I will carry forward and one that has made me a better actor than I was before I began it.

Nothing about an actor’s work in theatre can be precious except the doing of the work itself. It has to be honest and truthful and fresh every single performance. I’m not sure I’ll ever work with Daren again. I sure hope that I do, as well as with every other actor in that play. But Daren is the guy that initially drew me to doing the show and, at the time, I wasn’t EXACTLY sure why. Now, I am. And now you know, too.


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Tony is Italian, he’s from Scarborough, he’s an actor, he’s a father, he’s a really good house painter, and he doesn’t believe that most things matter, ultimately, at all.