|Jospehine Cashman, Max Zener, and Ken Simon in Linguish|
My friends have often (and fairly) accused me of being a word nerd. It is fitting, therefore, that I was cast in Untitled Theater Company’s play about language and communication. I cheerfully told my friends that Linguish was like No Exit with a dash of The Outer Limits, but it’s core, I believe that this play is about the need for human communication. That need is so strong that in the absence of one language, humans will create another one.
In Linguish, (part of UTC’61s Neurofest), four people catch a contagious form of Aphasia and are quarantined together. I enjoyed investigating the precise and delicate text of Edward’s delicious word salad, and playing Beth became a very rewarding experience for me. Our characters may have been unwillingly forced to deal with each another, but I think it’s safe to say that the cast bonded quite happily. Onstage our characters tickled, kissed, fought, laughed and quibbled over Latin pronunciation (classical or medieval?). Offstage we had fiery conversations about the rules of our onstage card game “pinochle” (nothing like the actual game). Even though Edward told us there were no rules to the game, we made them up anyway. During one rehearsal, the “Linguish” language took on a life of its own as one day I mistakenly renamed our “Pinochle” game as “Neepocle.” Somehow, the nickname stuck and became a part of the show. It was a hilarious but telling moment about how fluid language can be, and how easily we took to the new name.
Linguish also had a second life, when we went to Chicago to perform for rooms full of neurologists. A heady experience indeed. Imagine performing the different forms of aphasia for a room full of experts, studying our every movement and the language we used. Happily, they not only understood what the play was about, but they enthusiastically participated in the discussions afterwards. I remember having a talk with a doctor after a performance, trying to explain the rules of our fictional; Neepocle/Pinochle game, simply because he thought it looked fun to play. From Mirroring Neurons to made-up card games, acting Linguish was an amazing experience; I got to work with actors I admired in a play full of delicious challenges. What more could an actor want?