ME


BRIAN DYKSTRA:

Okay, here’s the deal with this.

The terrific people who did ALL the work on my website (leaving me to get more sleep than they do) decided it would be cool (my word, not theirs) if I’d write a bio that wasn’t a typical bio. You know, more like this, in the first person. I agreed because I had already weaseled out of doing any kind of daily, weekly or really any sort of log, diary entry, blog, missive, or updated message to all the millions of surfers who drop in on my site. Hi dad. Love you.

 

And, I figured I’d do it chronologically rather than most impressive stuff first which ultimately trickles down to third spear carrier on the left when I understudied a French Herald (one eighteen line speech that got cut down to eleven) in King John outdoors in Central Park (during, perhaps the hottest, wettest summer I’ve lived through) wearing a sweater from head to toe (it was supposed to represent chain mail) and a plastic bucket on my head painted to look like a metal helmet so that we could all go into battle with no one in the audience having any idea who were French and who were British soldiers. In fact, the buckets made it possible to die an English warrior and then magically be reborn as one of the French. The highlight in the production for me, was when we were rehearsing a fight with B. H. Berry where six of us spear carrying soldiers were attempting to protect the Queen against a gang of broadsword wielding invaders, and the actress we were surrounding, Jane White, looked down at the blunt end of six spears she was standing in the middle of and yelled for us to stop. She looked at our esteemed fight choreographer and asked, “B. H., how do I know I’m not going to get hit in the pussy?” But I digress.

I got my undergraduate degree from California State University, Long Beach and my Graduate degree from Rutgers University. There was a year at Brandeis thrown in, but I didn’t get anything from there except a couple great friends. All in all, I spent 9 years in college and graduated like every other actor, without a job.

I did a couple professional productions while still in college. In Hippies From Hell I played (what else) a hippie named Redwood who was really working for the government in a sting operation to nail a guy who was stealing and selling (I guess on the black market) cases and cases of Government Cheese. I played the guitar – and to this day my resume does not mention anything about being able to play the guitar (because I can’t). The other play was Kevin Patterson’s, A Most Secret War which, if you find the Samuel French version, you can see me listed in the original cast when the show played in New Brunswick NJ and when it moved to the Harold Clurman on 42nd street. After graduating I got two shows with the New York Shakespeare Festival, non-equity contract ($225.00 a week), spear-carrier dude in Much Ado About Nothing with Blythe Danner, Kevin Kline, Brian Murray, Phoebe Cates, Jerry Stiller, David Hyde Pierce, and Dylan Baker. Not only that, the non-equity company, of which I was only one of many, included Andre Braugher (Homicide), Matt Servito (The Sopranos and the Low Sodium Sea Salt Campbell Soup Guy where he was dressed to look like Chef Boy-R-Dee), Teagle Bougere (The Tempest) and Andrew Culteaux (can’t say what happened to him). The other show I did that summer was the aforementioned, King John. It was during our first dress rehearsal in the park when I heard the director on a bullhorn screaming at a non-equity lady in waiting type that (and I quote) “I will not stop a dress rehearsal for a costume change!” I happened to be standing next to Blythe Danner at the time and wondered out loud what this director would stop for a costume change…opening night perhaps. Blythe smiled but had way too much class to encourage this kind of insubordination.

I got in the acting company (lower case on purpose) and was (as I heard later) the first person fired from the acting company for any reason other than disciplinary (trashing hotel rooms, showing up high, etc.) I got fired (over the phone, by the way - long distance – on my dime) because I was lousy in the part. Now, when something like that happens it’s amazing how many people have stories about how many famous people were fired from their first professional gig. Let me tell you, it doesn’t help. One day I was looking at ten months of employment (albeit on a bus with a pack of recent Juilliard Grads) and the next day I didn’t have quite enough weeks to file for unemployment. I realized that many successful actors may have indeed been fired from their first professional gig, but then, so were a lot of hacks you’ve never heard from again. I was lamenting my fortunes when the NYSF stepped up and gave me another job, this time as The Forrester in Love’s Labour’s Lost at The Public Theatre. I had four lines (later cut down by Mr. Papp) to: “ ‘A stand where you may make the fairest shoot.” Ah, theatre.

Bobby Gould in Hell with Brian DykstraAll the Rage with Brian DykstraFrom there it was the usual regional theatre things. Saint Louis Rep, North Shore Music Festival (where we did Macbeth in the round in a 2400 seat house, and over half the performances were 10:30 high school matinees. I played Macduff and still cry a little for the poor guy who had to get it up for Macbeth all those times. God bless the guy, he didn’t damage his voice. Which was a miracle.) New Hope Arts Festival (living with “members of the community” which, really the union should outlaw), Indiana Rep, The Asolo (twice), Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, The Fulton Opera House, American Stage Company, Pittsburgh Public Theatre (four times), Theatre Fest, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Arizona Theatre Company, The Kitchen Theatre (three times). I did shows like Boy Meets Girl (that’s the acting company gig, fired), Macbeth (twice, once in the round, once on a mound of dirt), Bobby Gould in Hell (had a ball), Much Ado About Nothing (Three times, Benedick, which I believe translates to “good dick” was perhaps the second most fun I’ve had doing Shakespeare, the one in the park, and Don John in a production Copenhagen with Brian Dykstranobody but the audience liked.) Dracula (I acted with a mouse. She stole the scene, hell, she stole the play), Nora (solid), King Lear (couldn’t dress myself, the men all had 18” hair extensions and the asses cut out of our pants, and The Fool lost his costume in front of a preview audience) Keely & Du (6 page monologue at the end, rehearsed about seven times before first dress, sweet.) All My Sons (George, lost 22 lbs and my hat was the wrong size, much fun) Twelfth Night (the most fun I’ve had doing Shakespeare), All The Rage (wonderfully dark comic play about gun control. When I auditioned I didn’t know my character was gay. Thought his “wife” Chris was just that, his wife. And I did read the entire play, I swear, there’s nothing in the reading of it that it can’t be a straight couple. In fact my character has an affair with a fifteen year-old girl and lies to Chris about it. So I audition, get a callback, get my agent to read me the breakdown that mentions my “boyfriend” and I realize I can’t change anything I already got the callback. So, I audition again, the director comments on what an “interesting actor” I am, I reply that it’s “an interesting play”, A View From the Bridge with Brian Dykstraand boom baby, I’m cast.) The Cherry Orchard (a joy.) A View From The Bridge (Eddie Carbone for a terrific director, rock the house), Dinner With Friends (with a wonderful director and such a talented cast), Copenhagen (again with the talented director. In fact I’ve been on an unbelievable roll. The last five or six shows I’ve been in have all had rare and wonderfully talented directors. It was beginning to look like you had to get lucky to have a good director 20% of the time, but my average is shooting through the roof recently. I hope this doesn’t jinx things), a couple of my own plays Strangerhorse, Hiding Behind Comets, Clean Alternatives (in NYC, Ithaca, and The Edinburgh Fringe – we won...whatever that means. We won the festival. No, we won a Fringe First, which was great. Oh, go to Scotland and do a play at the festival. It Rocks! Plus the scotch and beer and ale are rockin’! I did see two fights though, and like I mean brawls! Go Scotsmen!.)

During all that time I was acting in things in New York. Black Picture Show at Here, The Undeads and Romeo & Juliet at Ohio Theatre (I played Juliet’s Dad as an abusive alcoholic. Somehow that worked because I later married the director), Antigone at Saint John the Devine – like THAT wasn’t a blast. Although the little actress playing Antigone was such a tantrum throwing brat that she actually spit on me during the play (every night) so after the show I had many an audience member confide in me that they were secretly rooting for Creon. Not really having to do with my performance as much as how unlikable was this actress. And, if you can’t be likeable as Antigone, it may be time to go to work selling ads in the Yellow Pages. I also did Offending The Audience, which may be the most fun I’ve ever had on stage while much of the audience hated being there. I did Incommunicado at The Harold Clurman, Drunks With Guns at The Access Theater, and thirteen months of Breaking Legs at The Promenade Theatre with Phil Bosco, Vincent Gardenia, Larry Storch, and a host of others. That show paid off my student loans, so thank God for that. Recently people are letting me perform some of my own stuff; The Mean Queen & The Thief of Hearts, some slam poetry at various venues (I’m an HBO def poet which is cooler than any white guy has a right to be), That Damn Dykstra: The Boxed Set, and Brian Dykstra: Cornered & Alone, and The Jesus Factor (which you can now aquire on DVD for, like, 14 dollars)

During all this time I appeared in five movies you’ve never heard of, (and one you may have Freedomland – rent it at your peril), all the New York soaps, three Law & Orders (Sample dialogue, “Two gunshots, one to the shoulder, one to the back of the head. He had a wallet on him…” etc.) I did two Chappelle Show’s. The first is the famous “Blind Hatred” skit from the premiere episode where Dave is a Blind White Supremacist speaking at a quasi-Klan rally, and I’m his white hand man – excuse me, his Right hand man. In the other (called White People Dancing) I played a character named White Cop and indeed, I danced.

Of course during all THIS time I’m writing plays and screenplays. A couple plays in college that will never again see the light of day; Mother Made Me Sleep W/ Men, The Stand-Up Party, Dark The In Sounds Dark Sounds In The Dark, and a full length that I’m actually too embarrassed to even relate the title. After college and through today I’ve seen productions of my short plays; I Am/Lot’s Wife, The Committee, Smithfield & Cox, Service/Order, Spreading The Word, On Paper (which I’ve expanded into a full length now called Clean Alternatives), and Motor Oil. I wrote an epic slam poem called HO! Which is a Xmas poem that has been done with five actors and with one actor. My latest one-acts are called Mick Just Shrugs, Youngsters, Peetie & E, The Artist and the Other Guy which was included in a benefit evening for The Access Theater. It’s one of those plays that are site and event specific, so now that the benefit is over, you’ll never have the opportunity to see it. Alack! Alas! Yes, I can hear your heart breaking. Also Just Us, Two Naked Guys... (also event specific) Paris’ Snatch (which is supposed to be published in some kind of “Best Short Plays of 2007” publication, but if you see it, that’ll make one of us, which may or may not be produced by The Drilling Company very, very soon and an as yet untitled thing that may or may not be included in a benefit evening for The Access Theater. It’s one of those plays that are site and event specific, so after the benefit, you’ll never have the opportunity to see it. Alack! Alas! Yes, I can hear your heart breaking.

My full-length plays have been produced here and there. Forsaking All Others was done in Los Angeles, London, and New York. Hiding Behind Comets in Cincinnati, Eureka, Boston and 29th Street Rep in the NYC. STRANGERHORSEgot workshopped in Pittsburgh and produced in New York and Ithaca. Clean Alternatives as I wrote was done in three places.Silence was commissioned by The College of the Holy Cross, and performed as part of their season and at the Stella Adler School. Sex/ReligionPoliticsIsolationLove&Rage Straight Up/Water Back was done at the West Bank Downstairs Theatre Bar, and really, we should do that again. Spill The Wine, A Sane Policy and my latest play A Play On Words are all looking for their first production. My other latest play, currently untitled is slated to open The Kitchen Theatre’s 2008-09 season. I had a studio deal with Fox2000 to write a dark romantic comedy called Baggage Claim (unless it’s called Blown Kisses) that has disappeared into the typical studio nightmare, but there are some good people trying to pry it loose.  I have litle hope of that ever happening because it’s really, really good. I have some other screenplays floating around, but you can go check that out in some different part of the website. I would like to say that Hollywood people…they’re crazy. It’s amazing how much they all collectively don’t know but can all agree on because they all don’t know the same things. If this just sounds like a cranky writer talking, talk to any writer who’s done the screenplay thing. Wow.

I went to London with a terrific play called Americana Absurdum by Brian Parks, but the London producer is a douche bag (there I said it.). I’m working on a new screenplay called Double Down with an old friend in Hollywood.

I’m married, no kids (My mother in law claims I have a low sperm count, I counter that I’m completely impotent. It usually stops further conversation. My wife weighs in with, “If I have a biological clock it’s electric, and its not plugged in.” so that seems to work out for the two of us.) We live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and don’t want to leave. Our friends keep getting younger as we lose our older friends to Hollywood, parenthood, or they simply have to get out of the business.

That’s it from here.

What have you been up to? (Like I care.)

Brian Dykstra

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