An Onstage Memory: By Michael Shannon

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Michael Shannon’s career is taking off. With the film The Shape of Water and TV Series Waco fresh under his belt, Shannon also boasts credits like: Boardwalk Empire; Superman: Man of Steel; Batman vs. Superman; 99 Homes; and Elvis & Nixon. Even with the hectic schedule of shooting and being an actor in high demand, he always makes his way back to Chicago for some on-stage fun at A Red Orchid Theatre to direct or star in a play.

Shannon remembers doing a play on Broadway called Grace (2012) with Paul Rudd, Kate Arrington and Ed Asner.

“We were doing this scene where we were having dinner together, me and Paul and Kate. My character is an astrophysicist and there’s this part in the scene where I’m talking about space. Paul’s character has asked me to describe my job at NASA and I’m talking about space. I’m about to get to that part of the scene and there’s this noise in the audience, this pandemonium going on out in the darkness and it’s very distracting. And I don’t know if somebody’s drunk or they’re trying to leave or what – but it keeps happening. It won’t stop. And it’s very frustrating.”

“So I start telling my story about how there’s this noise in outer space, and how it’s my job to listen to it – and I start addressing my lines to the audience, to where I feel the noise is coming from to let them know that we on stage can hear what they’re doing and we don’t like it. It wasn’t really in keeping with how the scene was supposed to go, but I kind of couldn’t help myself, I was so irritated. And Paul and Kate are also struggling to keep their composure and focus. “We get through the scene and we go off stage and I go to the stage manager, ‘What the hell is going on out there? I’ve never heard anything like that in my life! It’s so rude!’ And the stage manager says, ‘Well, somebody in the balcony omitted over the railing down onto the people sitting in the orchestra section.’ And then I felt really bad! Because if that had happened to me, I would probably be squirming around and making noise too.”

“Some days I’m more compassionate about (audience noise and futzing) than others. I mean, I’ve been doing this for a long time, so I stopped expecting the audience to sit in rapture during my performance. It’s kind of unrealistic, really. You just try to get the point where it doesn’t bother you anymore. Every once in a while it does. I mean, this was an exceptional circumstance because it just kept going. It wouldn’t stop.

“This has only happened that one time for me, it’s never happened before or since. I just can’t imagine being on the receiving end of that.”

“I guess the takeaway is that you can’t assume that just because there’s something going on out there (in the audience) that people are jerks. It could be a real dire situation, somebody having a heart attack or something. So you have to not get too wrapped up in it, I guess.”

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Jason Teresi
Jason Teresi was born and raised in Chicago. He attended DePaul Theatre School and Columbia College Theatre School. After graduating in 1995 Jason moved to Los Angeles. Wanting to work somewhere in the industry and avoid waiting tables he started working at Showfax, which was soon bought-out by Breakdown Services. He was employed by both companies for over 8 years which gave him a unique look at other aspects of the entertainment industry and a better working knowledge of how Talent Agents and Casting Directors operate. In 2006, Jason moved back to Chicago and became the Director of Regional Services for Breakdown Services, his current role.

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