Actors who don't arrive onstage in plays until late in the game have various strategies for passing the time. Some meditate, or even nap, in their dressing rooms. Some listen to music. A few, at least at Lincoln Center, have been known to knit. Henry Vick, the young actor who plays Andrew Price in Rain, and who doesn't appear recognizably in the play until the final scene (at the top of the show, he has a run-through under an umbrella), is more no-nonsense.
"My routine is pretty strict," Vick told me the other evening as we sat near the vending machines on LCT's lowest level and musicians from South Pacific surrounded us with ever-mounting levels of gab. "I sit backstage left during the first half, and backstage right during the second half. Occasionally, I peek through a vom curtain to observe the actors. I like to stay in the world of the show throughout the night, and this routine helps me do that."
If Vick is near-Spartan during the performance, his offstage demeanor is more Athenian. To wit: he is the founder, writer, editor, and, I reckon, chief cook and bottle washer, of The Antipode Pilgrim, a one-sheet weekly that, according to its nameplate, has been around "since 1968" and is "serving Adelaide, Alice and London."
The fact that Rain also involves the decades since 1968 and the locations of Adelaide, Alice and London is no accident. "I wanted to have a chronicle of the show," Vick says, "something that I could bind up at the end of the run and give to everyone." (In the meantime, copies are available on the show's backstage bulletin board.)
Each article in the Pilgrim - that part of the name refers to the fact that so many of the play's characters make pilgrimages, geographical and otherwise -- uses a line or two from Andrew Bovell's text. The most recent issue has a story headlined "Dementia Seen in Women Who Lose Virginity to Vegetarians," which folds in the Rain phrase "fussy-eating." Another story, titled "Salt Creek To Vote Down Light Rail To Adelaide," includes "don't turf our husbands out on an ugly night in the middle of winter." (In case you are irony-challenged, those headlines, like the Pilgrim itself, are tongue-in-cheek.)
Both the tone and the form of the project combine at least two strands in Vick's bio. "I was born in Charleston, West Virginia," he said. "My dad worked on a newspaper as a photographer and graphics editor." After high school in Kansas City, Missouri, and college at the North Carolina School of the Arts, Vick moved to New York and the other Pilgrim strand appeared: he worked as a page for The Late Show with David Letterman."
"That experience showed me that I wasn't cut out for stand-up," Vick explains, explaining that pages are allowed to submit jokes for Dave's monologue. "But I do enjoy creating humor, and I do like to write."
Vick has written plays, and their subjects - the Iraq War, Abraham Lincoln - don't sound exactly light and airy. But their spin tends toward the thoughtful and the fanciful. In the Iraq story, set in 2003, Helen Keller is the President of the United States and Anne Frank the President of Iraq. The Abe project, loosely known as "The Lincoln Bicentennial," in honor of last year's commemoration of the 16th president's 1809 birth, was performed in a banquet hall at St. Anthony's Roman Catholic Church in downtown Manhattan.
"I've always been interested in history and politics," Vick said. "I grew up in a household watching stuff like the McNeil/Lehrer Report, but with SNL, too. It was all good training." In recognition, perhaps, of that background, Vick will be bringing his mother to 's opening night. "She deserves it," the actor said. "This is the biggest thing I've ever done, and I want her to share it with me."
BRENDAN LEMON is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com.