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Thursday, July 22, 2010

After the Revolution | Whatever Happened to Cousin Jake?

by Rachel Lerner-Ley

After developing AFTER THE REVOLUTION here at Williamstown last summer, playwright Amy Herzog spent this past year revising the script. There are several changes throughout, most noticeably, though, is that two of the original ten characters have been cut from the script. These characters—Emma’s cousins—are now off-stage presences, mentioned by other characters, but never actually appearing on the stage.

Whereas I always thought that it was decision based in the dramaturgy of the piece, I recently learned that Amy’s decision to cut Jake, Emma’s cousin, was in fact one made for the greater good.
Dan Hartley and Irene Sofia Lucio 

Below Dan Hartley, a non-equity actor who appeared in last year’s production and is currently appearing in Six Degrees of Separation, explains the logic behind Amy’s decision to cut the character of Jake, the role he originated last season:    

In the 2009 workshop, I originated the role of Emma's cousin, Jake, the family albatross.  Jake never achieved quite enough and drank a little too much.  He is constantly overshadowed by Emma's achievements, but let's face it, standing out in a family with a hyper-achiever is no easy task. It was a great role that showed a different side of the family dynamic, and provided some comic relief toward the end of the first act.

The problem, however, is that I was just too damn good.

Dan Hartley and Irene Sofia Lucio
Amy felt that all actors playing Jake in future productions of the show would inevitably fail since I, the original Jake, had set the bar so impossibly high.  It's understandable. The day will come when I will be unavailable, and that production's unfortunate director will sadly but surely find herself screaming at her second-choice Jake. "BE MORE LIKE DAN HARTLEY," she’ll bellow.  An easily offended actress, no doubt playing Mel, will attempt to seek retribution on Jake's behalf by hurling a copy of the Communist Manifesto at the director's head. The assistant sound designer, who will have gone to college with the director, will defend the director by stabbing the belligerent actress in the neck with a knife from the restaurant scene.  At which point, the technicians will launch an assault on the actors, and a bloody battle will ensue which will leave only one soul alive to tell the tale, the actor playing Morty, but his tongue will have been cut out in the throes of the backstage skirmish, so he will only be able to write his account of the carnage.  Such tasteless unprofessionalism would no doubt crush the production.

All this because I was so stunning as Jake in the original production.

So, in the end, Amy reluctantly cut the character of Jake from the play. To avoid bloodshed. Which is, ya know, smart of her...

Photos by Sam Hough

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