Like all performance artists, local actor John Klapko has missed being on stage. He’s managed to get back in the spotlight for the first time in over a year by performing the ever intimidating one-man show, and though you won’t be able to watch it in person, it’s been beautifully shot and edited at the Ramsdell in Manistee to air this weekend.
Thom Pain (based on nothing) debuted as an Off-Broadway show 16 years ago. Written by Brooklyn-based playwright Will Eno, it’s considered a revolutionary piece of theatre and was nominated for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize. The one-man show is about a man named Thom who according to Eno, “is trying to tell his Life Story and is constantly being interrupted by the fact that he’s alive.”
The 31-page monologue is a fever dream that takes the audience through a not quite middle-aged man’s life, from shattered childhood illusions to grapplings with lost love in young adulthood. With no co-star, Thom engages in a game of push and pull with his affections towards the audience. In one moment, they’re his confidante, the next, his enemy. Is his erratic behavior the result of what’s happened to him in life, or has his life been shaped by his behavior? Viewers will ask themselves these questions and others while watching the show and they’ll have the opportunity to watch it this weekend with Traverse City local John performing as Thom Pain.
The selection of this play came to John in 2020. In these pandemic times, Thom Pain’s isolation feels particularly poignant.
“I don’t think anyone starts off saying that they want to do a one-man show, it sounds kind of presumptuous. I read this show 10 years ago and at the time I don’t think I was mature enough to do it. It’s got the perfect title for who the character is. The character talks a lot about the pain of life which sets the stage to make it seem like it’s this really dark, heavy piece, which it is. But it’s punctuated with these moments of levity and humor. I think that’s what keeps you watching,” he said.
Paired with the fact that productions can’t be performed in an ensemble, it’s a perfect way to get on stage again. A challenge for John was performing without the reciprocal energy from the audience. Instead of performing a more intimate, studio show, John performed the monologue in the large and stunning Ramsdell Center for the Arts. Traverse City-based photography, videography and graphic design duo captured the show. He performed to one audience member beside Micah Mabey and Kristen Stewart.
“As far as I think about it, the second character is the audience. He’s playing tricks on them, baiting them, and then disrupting their expectations. So to look out and not have the theater populated, it’s just, you have to pretend. Kristen’s mom was in the audience the day we filmed everything, and it was nice to have someone fresh to the material.”
Another facet of the show that makes it pandemic perfect is that there’s no set or props used. All of his closest theatre friends have provided the compilation of feedback that he’s used to direct himself. Local theatre friends Kit McKay, Sarah Hartley, Jeremy Hogue, Nick Viox, Minda Nyquist, Stacia Sexton and Sarah Bielman all lent fresh, outside eyes to the show.
“I didn’t get everyone to see it who I wanted to, but I got a lot of good feedback from the friends who did. It doesn’t feel like I did anything really by myself.”
Rehearsals were done in these friends’ living rooms, his car, his head, and at Old Town Playhouse, but his performance can be watched from the comfort of your own home. Whether you’re looking for a lesson in understanding the life of a lonely man or looking to support local art, check out Thom Pain this weekend. The show will be available on-demand from Friday, February 26th through Sunday, February 28th. Tickets are $5 plus a $2.76 processing fee. Admission to the online event can be purchased at .
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