Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Other Man of Steel

Years ago, in a galaxy far far away, I co-wrote and co-directed a short, hopefully but not necessarily comedic, black-box theater in a crack neighborhood in Chicago. The theater was called The Playwrights' Center, it was about a block or two south of the Green Mill, and when we left late at night to catch the L home we'd see the lines of folks cuing up for drugs at the local crack houses. Good times.

There was a young kid named Michael in our plays. He slept on my couch more than once, we've played drinking games, etc... For about six months I directed him in a serialized story called The Cafe with No Name. He played the son of the cafe owner who happened to be bionic.

In one episode--I'd like to think one of the better ones--we had him fight the cafe owner's first born, the Evil Bionic Man (because, you know, that's what bionic people do). We turned on a strobe light and the two bionic people fought in slow motion, making the Steve Austin sound effects themselves, going "nnnna....nnnna....nnnnnaaa....nnnnnaaaa" as they punched each other with agonizing slowness.

It was fun. But it was amateurish, horribly written, best forgotten stuff. We often had more people on stage than in the audience.

But I've always wondered what happened to Michael. He was really talented, maybe the most talented person I worked with.

A few weeks ago, my friend journalist Eric Spitznagel messaged me to say he was interviewing a certain famous, Oscar-nominated actor and did I remember any details about when he acted for us in Chicago.

I looked him up on IMDB. And suddenly the penny dropped.

Eric told me after the interview that it turns out those Chicago days were formative for Michael. It was a time when he was seriously considering leaving acting, and the small, black box work he did renewed his faith in the craft and his ability.

I'm thrilled to see that the person I identified as the most talented really was, and did well by that talent. I'm honored to think I had a hand in keeping him on the path of acting. Mostly though, I'm chuffed that decades before Zack Snyder, I directed Michael Shannon in a super hero battle.

So yeah, it's kind of all my fault.

Here is Eric's interview with General Zod.


Paul Weimer said...

Wow, what a small world!

Jon Sprunk said...

Holy Krypton! And now I have another wonderful Lou-Anders-anecdote to add to my vast collection. Bravo.

And Michael is excellent. Loved him in both Boardwalk Empire and Man of Steel.

justinistired said...

What! That's exceptional.

And a truly cool guy, I can second from personal experience. Glad to hear about Beginnings.