There are a handful of people in my life that I can really count on.
What I mean is, I love all my friends and I cherish the gifts they bring me, and I'd be lost without them. But when the chips are down, when things get rough and when things get tight and awful and absolutely terrifying, there are a handful of people I know in my heart, will be there for me.
Mitchell Fain is one of those people.
Mitchell is an intellectual, but not one of those smart people who likes to tell you how smart he is. He's giving and sweet, he's gentle and wise, and there'a a coolness in him that seems to prevail when life throws his curve balls. But he knows what he's doing, even when he doesn't. His smarts take over, and when I've asked him questions either about a student or an audition, there's usually a lesson in his text. I'm always given something precious after we speak. That's how smart people move through the world.
And...Mitchell is the funniest man on the planet.
I've laughed harder with him over the phone, that I think I have with Lucy through the TV. He's old school funny, and yet he knows why Jack Black is a genius as well. If I'm not sure that something in my cabaret act is funny, I call him.
"Is this funny? Do you think it's funny?"
Or I'll secretly try out a joke and see if he giggles. Although, pulling something over on Mitchell is never, ever easy. But I try. There's no harm in trying.
And in the midst of all this wonderfulness, he pulls no punches. Mitchell directed me in a one woman Judy Garland Tribute Show I did in Chicago many years ago. We both have an affinity for Garland (although, that's putting it a bit mild), and so the two of us working on this was something of a Job. It was big deal for us. We wanted to do something Big for Garland and yet, we didn't want to over-do it. We didn't want it to be Garland's greatest hits. And yet, at the same time, we wanted to show Judy in a light that was new and interesting, not only to us, but to the audience as well.
Mitchell's idea was that I was to be laying in my bed at the top of the show, as the audience entered the theatre, in a robe, listening to a Garland album and walking around my make shift bedroom he designed, set directly next to the audience. As the lights changed, I put on "I Feel a Song Comin' On", and as the record spun, the lights shifted, the robe came off, the band on stage came alive, and I stepped through a mirror with my hair brush in tow, and transitioned into the live concert.
It was absolutely brilliant.
It was me, and it wasn't.
I didn't have to worry about doing a "Garland Impersonation" and yet, I could fly in and out of her life with ease and simplicity, because we started in a dream state. This is the genius of Mitchell Fain.
And so, in keeping with his incredible insight and glorious use of language and Art, my good friend Sheila O'Malley has interviewed him for her Blog. She's taken some legendary actors (Doris Day, Cary Grant, Garland,) and asked Mitchell to describe them in one word. And then...he expounds. He contemplates, extrapolates, and dissects them. The beautiful thing is, Sheila, Mitchell and I have sat in a room and done this very thing: Talked about Acting....for hours and hours on end. We can talk about a simple Gesture in one scene in a small indie film, and that talk could last for 2 or 3 days. And here, Fain lets loose.
Mitchell being an actor first (he's currently touring with Chicago's famed Second City) and a director second (he's directed with some of the finest theater's in Chicago)...and as I've been telling him for years, one The Best musical comedy performers ever...all these gifts serve him in this interview. And if you're at all interested in movies of any kind, or actors of any generation, or even if you're not, the conversation between Sheila and Mitchell is absolutely riveting. It's two actors talking about the thing they love the most:
And with Mitchell, I can hear the joy, the anger, the release, the aggravation, and the unrelenting admiration he has for his profession. It's fascinating. All of it.
Here's Part Two as well.
I'm honored to have this kind of wit and insight in my life, but more to the point, I'm blessed to have this man as part of my family. There are very few like him on the planet, and he's worth a look.
Trust me. You won't be sorry. And I think you might see what I see when I'm with him:
That Art is in all of us. All the time.
You can count on it.