Playwright, screenwriter, director, actor, and poet Harold Pinter won the Nobel Prize for Literature yesterday. I’ve enjoyed some of Pinter’s work, but not managed to read nearly all of it. However, Pinter wrote the last play in which I acted: The Room. So I feel some connection.
Our production took place in the Residential College Theater in the East Quad dormitory at the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor. I played the nervous old landlord, a role into which I could channel any stage fright I might have had.
The director wanted me, a lifelong asthmatic, to smoke on stage. I thought he was nuts (nothing like picking up a lifelong addiction for a part in a college play), but I went out and bought my first-ever pack of cigarettes. After choking down the whole pack, I told him that if he insisted on me smoking on stage he’d only get a coughing, hacking, wheezing old man who’d be lucky to remember his lines.
The day of opening night, I went skydiving for my first time (a static-line jump from a tiny Cessna at 3,000 feet). That gave me enough nervous energy for the play’s entire run.
Congratulations, Mr. Pinter! I don’t know if we did your work justice all those years ago, but we had a ball trying.