The Man Who Was Sunday

Over the last two recording sessions I’ve had the opportunity to record separately with two extremely fine actors involved in the show, however, both presented a unique recording challenge.

Peter Macon is a powerful actor who has been garnering attention recently up in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  Last year he played Macbeth in a powerful rendition, and the year before he appeared as Othello.  This year in Oregon Peter can be seen in Throne of Blood, Merhant of Venice, and Ruined. In order to have Peter appear in our radio play as President Sunday, we had to find a way to bridge the gap between Los Angeles and Ashand, Oregon where Peter is on contract from March through next month.  It took very little convincing for me to move the recording session up north to Ashland, as my wife and I love visiting there and seeing shows at OSF.  We left on August 28th for what would be our 4th vacation in Ashland, and our second bringing our toddler up with us as well (my wife and I trade off seeing shows– its well worth it).

Monday, which is the Equity day off for actors, we scheduled a recording session with Peter Macon.  Thanks to the help of Claudia Alick from the festival (introduced to us through a new acquaintance Debra Murphy), we were able to reserve a quiet room in the festival’s offices for the recording.  This session was more difficult than the others, because we would be recording Peter by himself in scenes that he will be interacting with sometimes six other actors.  For the first scene like this, the “balcony scene” as I called it, Gabriel first meets the dreadful Council of Days, the seven princes of anarchy, led by President Sunday.  I had already recorded the scene a few times with other actors, everyone except the Marquis.  So I edited the scene together, minus Sunday’s lines, and brought it up on my iPod to play for Peter.  During the recording session, he would listen in headphones to the other actors performances, and then fill in his lines whenever there was a gap.

For the other scenes, which weren’t as long, I had to feed lines as the other characters.  This was fairly tricky, as I was also in charge of the recorder and the sound quality, since I had to record the session alone with Peter.  I also should have taken notes as we went, but I didn’t even attempt it so that my mind wouldn’t have multitask meltdown.

When I first imagined Sunday as I read the book, I followed Chesterton’s visual description, which was a large fat man with a huge frame and a long white beard.  But like many others, I’m sure, when I read the lines he had the voice of James Earl Jones.  I wanted a deep voice for Sunday, but I also wanted him to sound different than everybody else.  Perhaps a little international, with less of an accent.  I also wanted him to breath power and force.  As Peter read the lines he would occasionally slip into a type of British accent that was tainted with an African flavor.  I really liked it.  Sunday is not a product of a certain country, he could come from anywhere, or in fact, everywhere.

Then of utmost importance is the last line of the book– “Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of?”  I think this will come across beautifully.  It’s in answer to Gabriel’s question, “Except you.  Have you ever suffered?”  It’s not an answer to the questions of the book, but Sunday’s answer does answer Gabriel’s question, and it also has to express his reaction to Gabriel’s final revelations.  We recorded the line about a dozen times.

Then last Tuesday I also had the pleasure of recording with Lisa Wolpe, the actor playing the Marquis de St. Eustache.  A woman you ask?  Yes.  More on that soon.

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