Why did you change your name from Borgeson to Winfield?
When Sa Thomson and I got married in 1993, we had to address the Name Issue. It had broken up more than one engagement that I know of, including my sister's many years ago to a someone named Bassett. She had a problem with the name; personally, I always thought it was a fine breed.
Likewise, Sa didn't want to change her name to Borgeson, and no wonder. No one can pronounce the damn thing. Borgon, Borgenson, Bergeron, Borgeon, Borgson -- I think I only heard it pronounced correctly twice in the thirty-two years I used it. In case you're wondering, it was pronounced bor'-je-suhn.
We also decided that hyphenating was a bad idea. I mean, what happens if our putative little Thomson-Borgeson meets and falls in love with somebody else's hypothetical little Hufzinger-Brockhausen? They're supposed to get married and become the Thomson-Borgeson-Hufzinger-Brockhausens? What are we, a society of idiots? So as a matter of generational responsibility, we opted against hyphenating.
We decided to pick a new name, start from scratch, clean plate, tabula rasa. After searching through our family trees for something we might have in common, we gave up and settled on Winfield, which was Sa's uncle's name. It's mellifluous to say, fun to sign in a signature, and almost impossible to mispronounce or misspell, except for you bozos who insist on making it "Windfield" (and you know who you are).
Why did you quit the Reduced Shakespeare Company?
Oh, I knew you were going to ask that. Okay, here are the top reasons:
- Management. I used to lie awake at nights wondering what the RSC's then-manager was going to do to make my life miserable the following day. I spent years trying to get the other boys to fire him, but they refused... so I quit. In a bitter irony, they finally fired him a couple of months after I left.
- I didn't like the direction the RSC’s second project, "The Complete History of America" show was headed. Don't get me wrong, I saw the America show after it was completed, and it's funny... just not my taste. We had "creative differences," so I quit.
- Sa, my lovely wife, and the RSC costumer and touring crew at the time, had quit the Company during its second London engagement, and gone home to California. I missed her and I missed California, so I quit.
- I 'd been doing the same play seven or eight times a week for the better part of a decade. I was going out of my mind, so I quit.
What's your current relationship with the Reduced Shakespeare Company?
It's kinda like the relationship between Roger Waters and Pink Floyd. I'm no longer a member of the Company, and the RSC no longer has exclusive rights to perform The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged). This means that you or any other yahoo can do the show, as long as you pony up the royalties. It also means that if you come up to me and say, "Hey, that Bible show you RSC guys do is great!" you'll likely get as weary a sigh as if you go up to Roger Waters and compliment him on the last Floyd album. (UPDATE: Like Dave Gilmour and Roger Waters, we’ve begun working together on various projects, such as the 30th Anniversary RSC video, which you can watch here.)
My theater company is doing The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged). Do you have any advice for me?
- Make sure you have the rights. This is America, and I'd hate to have to send those mythical jack-booted stormtroopers to your theater to take away your rubber swords and close down the production in the middle of the night. Plus if you get the rights, you'll be sent the Acting Edition of the show... with all sorts of funny new jokes. Getting the rights, via Broadway Play Publishing, is cheap and easy. Just click here.
2 Don't call yourself "The Reduced Shakespeare Company!" If this confuses you, think of it this way: just because you can sing "Hey Jude" doesn't mean you can call yourself The Beatles. The RSC is very protective of their name. Okay, enough legalese. On to your performance.
- Don't play "Jess" or "Adam" or "Daniel". In fact, don't play a part at all. Be yourself -- or at least, an exaggerated stage version of yourself -- trying to do the complete works in under two hours. Let your personality (assuming you have one) shine through. If a piece of text doesn't sound like something you'd say, for God's sake change it!
- Keep the pace up. As I said constantly when directing the show in Spain, "Mas rapido! Mas rapido!" Don't rush through the jokes, but the faster the play moves the funnier it is. In fact, the text isn't that funny. It's the energy and charm of the performers that make it work. After the audience participation section, you're in the home stretch. From Hamlet's entrance with Yorick to the end of the backwards encore should be an all-out sprint. If you're not an exhausted pile of sweaty costume by the end of the show, you're not working hard enough.
- The conceit of the show is that you're performing it tonight for the very first time. You were up all night finishing the script, and cramming the Cliff's Notes for the last couple of Shakespeare plays you never got around to reading. Some of it you've got down (Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet [until Jess' breakdown], Julius Caesar, Macbeth); other bits you're absolutely making up as you go along. It should all feel so spontaneous that at the end of the show, people will come up and ask you "How much of that was ad-libbed?"
- Have fun. Interact with the audience. Smile pretty. Be sexy. You're a Shakespeare rock and roll god!
Do you have any hobbies?
I adore my wife Sa, our two labs Orson and Hazel, our excellent friends and my passel of nieces and nephews and their spawn. My favorite hobby is hanging out by the pool and talking with increasing volume and vehemence about politics. Aside from that?
- Web design (All this is made by me, as well as the more-impressive site at www.theperfectburrito.com) I don’t love it, but it’s still a hobby.
- Playing golf. If your really wanna Meet Jess Winfield, make a tee time at a course I've never played, and send me directions and plane ticket if necessary. I'll be there.
- Rooting for the Los Angeles Kings. I love hockey games. Swoosh slap crash biff zap sock!
- Skiing. Whooosh!
- The endless and delicious quest for the Greatest Mexican Restaurant in the World. If you have a candidate, e-mail me at the link below. And did I mention my blog, LA Food Crazy?
- I also enjoy a cocktail or two now and then. In fact, you can probably find me at El Coyote on Beverly Blvd. right now, downing a refreshing house margarita on the rocks with salt...
What's your favorite piece you've ever written?
Since you've made it as far as possible into my site, here's your Easter Egg. It's here:
JAM JOY YES - JAMES JOYCE'S ULYSSES (ABRIDGED)