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Relapsing actor confesses

Published: Thursday, Jan. 23 2014 6:21 p.m. MST

I have a confession to make.

At the end of every column, I refer to myself as a “recovering actor,” and the Deseret News once published my lengthy explanation as to what that term means.

“I consider myself a ‘recovering actor’ in the same way an AA member is a ‘recovering alcoholic.’ There was a time in my life when the only thing that mattered to me was getting on stage or in front of a camera,” I wrote in an article published last October. “I eventually found this to be a fairly miserable way to live my life.”

All that is still true. But, like many a recovering addict, I relapsed.

On a lark, I thought it might be interesting to go to a real theater audition — you know, just for old times' sake. I was under no illusions that I’d actually get a job, which allowed me to relax and just enjoy the process. I thought it might provide fodder for a good column, if nothing else.

I’m betting you can see where this is going.

Fade out, fade in. I’m writing this column in the greenroom of Pioneer Memorial Theatre on the University of Utah campus, where I’m in the midst of dress rehearsals for Pioneer Theatre Company’s production of “A Few Good Men,” which opens this weekend.

I’m playing Captain Isaac Whitaker, a navy lawyer who assigns his young charges to investigate the supposed murder of a marine PFC stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It’s a stellar professional production with an outstanding cast, directed by PTC’s new artistic director Karen Azenberg.

Who could ask for more?

I have a great part, albeit a small one. I have two great scenes at the beginning of the play where I get to toss off some witty lines, and then I disappear into the wings, never to be heard from again. (Although I do participate in a pivotal scene change in the middle of Act II where I help move a table. Without me, that table wouldn’t be moved nearly as well as I move it. I’m a relapsed professional actor, after all.)

I admit there are distinct downsides to taking this job. I’m reminded how all-consuming the rehearsal process is. I can’t afford to put off my real life for weeks at a time in exchange for an actor’s wages, and it’s been difficult juggling work and family considerations with the ever-present “hurry up and wait” requirement to be ready to take the stage at a moment’s notice. This isn’t a profession that allows a great deal of multitasking, and I find myself letting too much slip through the cracks.

Still, this experience has done a great deal to boost my confidence, both on- and offstage. When you spend decades away from performing, as I have, you begin to wonder if your lack of a career wasn’t a deliberate choice, but, instead, a sign that maybe you just don’t have what it takes. I’m not saying this role is indicative of some colossal talent on my part, but it is a welcome reminder that I can still do this if I choose to do it. It’s nice to have that option open, even if I don’t exercise it.

“A Few Good Men” opens Jan. 24 and runs until Feb. 8. (If you’re interested in coming to see my return to the stage, please know the show contains strong language.) If you stop by, be sure to say hello. I’m having the time of my life, but I don’t plan on relapsing again anytime soon.

Jim Bennett is a (relapsed) recovering actor, theater producer and politico, and he writes about pop culture and politics at his blog, stallioncornell.com.

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