I can't believe that the opening weekend of Basetrack has come and gone. It seems like just yesterday I was getting the amazing news that I had been cast for the national tour! We had an amazing premiere at the McCullough Theater at the University of Texas' Performing Arts Center. It all still feels very surreal to me so I'll go through the play by play of how this summer lead up to this past weekend.
Back in June we started rehearsals in NYC at the Snapple Theater in Midtown, which went all the way up until it was time for our first preview workshop down in Gainesville, FL at UF. We spent a week in Gator country in an amazing theater that was much bigger than I thought we were going to get for our previews. Both of our "in-progress performances" went over very well and we received a lot of feedback from the audiences who attended. Gainesville is a dominantly military town with Jacksonville just a few hours away and so the vast majority of our 1300 person audience were either veterans themselves or family. After returning to NYC the team split off into it's separate sections in order to refine the show with the help of what we learned in Florida. Next stop, Arizona.
At the end of August we travelled to our second and final preview workshop destination in Tempe, AZ at ASU. The Galvin Playhouse at ASU was a little more sizable for our show to get it's legs underneath it and find all the subtle nuances that have made the show what it is today. But this did not come easy. Songs were cut, lines were moved around, entire stories were replaced, and we finally had the entire crew on stage as one of our musicians was unable to join us at UF. We spent two weeks fine tuning, teching, and lining up all the pieces of this crazy multimedia puzzle. At the end of our stay we performed two "semi-polished" shows that helped us really put the finishing touches on before it was time to release this baby into the world. I was reminded that I was not only heading for the world premiere of our show in Austin, but also towards my toughest critic: AJ himself.
I play an infantry Marine named AJ Czubai in the show, and I had been told that he would be at the premiere in Austin. This really sunk once we were performing at ASU and I started thinking "what if I've fucked this all up and he hates it?" I was nervous. Like pacing around nervous. I've seen and done things in my life, in the Marines, that have made me as strong as I am. But holy fuck was I nervous. I'm telling this fellow Marine's intimate story of the struggle he went through after being injured in combat during his 2010 Afghanistan deployment. What was he gonna say? Showtime came, the curtain went up, and I told his story.
After the show we normally have a post-performance discussion with the cast and creative team along with a few select individuals from the local area, AJ of course was on the panel. I approached him as he came onstage and gave him a hug, bro hug of course, and he just said "Oorah". As the discussion went on AJ was asked how it felt to see his life portrayed up on stage and he kept using the word "trippy", which is understandable. We got together a couple times after the performances over the weekend and he kept telling me how trippy it was, not only to see his story up onstage, but how trippy it was to see himself so accurately portrayed as well. I was so humbled to hear that all the hard work I had done truly hit home for AJ and his family and that it was "trippy" seeing another AJ up onstage telling his story.
Before I left Austin, AJ told me I "should be proud" of my performance. Hearing that from him tells me I did my job and he has my back %100 to continue telling his story across country. That is the greatest honor I could ask for as an actor.