Last night we had a great house, and a good friend brought Robin Williams and his wife to see the show. I think I engage in a modest amount of celebrity worship for an American--I don't have an altar set up in my home or anything--but it was interesting to experience the very real electricity that filled the space when he arrived, and given that the thrust stage at BRT lets the audience watch itself I could feel throughout the show a curious "bouncing" as audience members watched me, then watched Robin watching me, then laughed if they saw Robin laughing, and back again. It made the audience hard to manage, but I got my arms around them, and it really turned into a big, rollicking show.
Celebrity is a strange phenomenon, but I think Robin's affability and public persona as a comedian do a lot for loosening things up; fame seems to amplify what is already there, and he's a grounded and empathetic guy. I think this surprises people, as his energy onstage sometimes makes folks think he needs massive Ritalin injections, and we all have hours and hours of memories of him doing WACKY SHIT over the years embedded in our minds ahead of time, which can't help but affect impressions.
Meeting him after the show was fun. Years ago one of the earliest pull quotes we used was from the New York Post, which called me "between Robin Williams and Spalding Gray"--and as it was one of the earliest high profile pull quotes we plastered it on everything. Beyond that, he's had a big role in my life--I remember watching his stand-up as a kid and being delighted at the connections he'd make, leaping from point to point at will. Along with Bill Cosby he's one of the lodestones of my early childhood experience of live performance.
He was very generous after the show--he was the first person who leaped to his feet at the curtain call, and I feel he deserves some credit for the standing ovation that followed, because I'm sure some in the audience thought, "if Robin Williams is standing up, why aren't I?" Speaking afterward he was modest, funny and sincere about the show, and we had a great conversation.
One anecdote: they don't drive over to the East Bay very often, and when they parked, in the two blocks to the theater they ran into two bums who instantly recognized Robin and shouted at him, "LOOK! IT'S ROBERT WILSON!" I suggested that he should immediately have begun performing a seven-hour piece called "Man Walks Very Slowly On The Beach Toward The Theater" for them, which we all agreed was funny but works better in theory than in practice.
Today is the final marathon for GREAT MEN OF GENIUS--all four shows happen today and today only, and then we are DONE. It has been a tremendous experience for us, and I'd like to thank Berkeley Rep for having the balls to let us create a six hour monologue and stage it in June, the most beautiful month in Berkeley--our houses have grown and grown, and I couldn't be more delighted with the way it has all turned out. It was genuinely frightening at moments, when I didn't know if we could have the beast ready in time, but we did it by the skin of our teeth...thank you, everybody, for believing in us and giving us such a tremendous canvas to paint a gigantic story.