William Salyers and I met during Seattle’s fervent 90’s: a now hazy golden age when you could beg an actor like Paul Giamatti to be in your play workshop, or witness a writer like Karl Gajdusek premiere his deeply surreal, nearly inaccessible Dr.s F.s in the Terminal Ward twenty years before he would premiere his eminently accessible action series, The Last Resort, on national network television. So Bill Salyers and I already sort of knew each other from the scene when were forced by the exigencies of corporate temping into the close proximity of the licensing department of Northern Life Insurance. The two of us would blunt the boredom when we could by improvising various scenarios. I would open with something like:
PAUL (best British Colonial Officer voice): Do you remember that time in the Congo when the battalion lost its way and we were forced to eat grubs?
BILL (way better British Colonial Officer voice): Oh, yes. Sergeant Major Grubbs. Terribly good man. Such a pity.
No one can match Bill for voices and improv.
When I began writing my play Tuesday— a piece which I now, in retrospect, recognize as my first post-journeyman work— I could only manage to finish it by assuring myself that Bill would play the main character, Audie McCall. That development process, and culminating first production at AHA! Theatre, began a collaboration that lasted over the following 17 years, with Bill premiering the title role of my Louis Slotin Sonata at Circle X Theatre in LA and then playing it off-Broadway, then playing Walt Whitman among several other rolls in An American Book of the Dead – The Game Show, and then inhabiting the skin of the now real-life head of NIH, Francis Collins, in my play about the race to decode the human genome, The Sequence. And it’s not just my plays that Bill has helped to mid-wife. Having run the math, I am now convinced that William Salyers has participated in the world premieres of more plays than any other person currently on the planet. I am still waiting for someone to prove me wrong.
While the size of the houses my plays premiere in has stayed, well, let’s say “cozy”, Bill has happily gone on to much wider success as a stage actor. For instance, he’s currently premiering Dan O’Brien’s The Body of An American at Portland Center Stage. Beyond the boards, Bill has achieved exponentially greater fame —the kind only Hollywood can offer— for work he’s done as a voice actor. I finally managed to impress my nephews with my show business connections when I told them that the guy who voiced Rigby the Raccoon on The Regular Show was my good friend. (Congratulations to Bill and everyone on TRS for their freshly won Emmy!)
All this history is just my a long winded wind-up to telling you that Bill will once again be helping me bring a new play to life by playing the role of Simon in a very raw reading of my latest stab, Philosophical Zombie Killers, along with Susanna Burney, John Q. Smith and Amy Love.
Here’s a sort of synopsis of the play:
The graduate level seminar is about human consciousness. Or at least that’s what you thought when you signed up for it. Now someone’s telling you that you’re 45 years old and you’re dying. You certainly didn’t sign up for that. Now this alcoholic professor is asking you to explain consciousness to him. And this depressed ex-cop from Missouri is telling you about the epidemic of decapitations in Seattle. And this weird lady from Omnisoft just wants you to admit that there’s no such thing as consciousness and no such thing as you for that matter. Could she possibly be right? Might make dying easier. Who said you were dying?
And here are the details:
Who: Susanna Burney, Amy Love, William Salyers and John Q. Smith
What: Philosophical Zombie Killers by Paul Mullin
Where: The Bathhouse Theater in Green Lake
When: October 15, 2012, 7pm
How: Pay what-you-will, including nothing at all. You’re doing us a favor by giving it a listen.
Reserve seats at Brown Paper Tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/278468