The True Professional Behind Piven, Speed the Plow Debacle

The last big news story for 2008 landed on Broadway a couple of weeks ago when Jeremy Piven quit Speed-the-Plow because it was reported he suffered from mercury poisoning.  The New York Times reported that Norbet Leo Butz was called in to quickly replace Piven with William H. Macy pegged to take over the role as of Jan. 11th.

The theaterosphere lit up as Mike Daisey critiqued Butz for being unprofessional in performing the role without being fully memorized. An unprepared Butz was pegged as a hero when it seems like he could have waited another week as there was an understudy who was quite proficient.  Daisey’s critique was debated by a couple of other bloggers.

An argument that was presented was the producers aided this unprofessionalism for the sake of promoting the show, and the NY Times ate it up.  The producers would rather send a semi-popular actor on stage with a script than a no-name understudy who had his lines memorized and was prepared.  I am impressed Backstage chose to focus the attention on understudy Jordan Lage.  Lage is a 25 year veteran who has seen it all.  As a working actor, his story intrigues me the most.  He spoke honestly about the process to Backstage and took it all in stride.  His perspective is refreshing in light of someone like Piven.  This is  where the true story lies and in fact it would not have been much of a story because Lage is a professional who was ready to do his job when it was called upon.  There is no drama in a man showing up to do the job he is paid for and to do it well.  And unfortunately drama sells tickets. This is an actor who cares about the work and not the drama.

“You cannot open a straight play on Broadway without some kind of a name attached, plain and simple,” Lage said. “I’m not going to rail against the system, because I don’t think that would be very productive. It kind of is the way it is.”  Being a Mamet protégé, Lage isn’t one to sit around and mope. In addition to his acting, he teaches at the Atlantic and New York University. “I tell my students, most of whom are not going to get jobs right after they get their degree: Stop whining, quit being a cry-baby, and create your own goddamn work,” he said. Wednesday night around 10 p.m., after 36 hours of intense preparation and, between rehearsals and performances, six full run-throughs of the play, Lage went to the Atlantic’s black-box theatre to watch his students perform a revue of the sketch-comedy material they had written during the semester.

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    One thought on “The True Professional Behind Piven, Speed the Plow Debacle

    1. Dennis Staroselsky

      Jordan Lage deserves all the praise in the world, for understanding the machine that is broadway…that being said condeming Norbert Leo Biutz is ridiculous….the producers are at fault, as they always are. Look at the last Mamet play that was filled with names, American Buffalo, oh wait you can’t cause it closed in a week…create your own damn work, because the inmates truly do run this asylum…

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