Jitters About Jitters

August 13th, 2011 0 comments

The following is a great story received through the “Send Us Your David Story” page on the site.  It’s from Matt Walsh, who appeared in the original Tarragon production of Jitters.  Thanks so much for sending it, Matt!

I first met David French in the late fall of 1978. It was the occasion of my audition for a new play he had written called Jitters to be produced at Tarragon Theatre.  Lucky to be asked to audition for the play with help through a connection of mine (my wife, Gay Revell, worked at Tarragon,) I knew Bill Glassco pretty well but I had yet to meet David. To me, a young actor at the time, these two were giants of the theatre, of course, and I remember well my own “jitters” going in to audition.

You see my candidacy for a role was a long shot…because the one remaining role to be cast (as I recall) was for Robert Ross the “playwright” character in Jitters and one modeled on David himself. Also I was very young, only 23 and untested in any significant way, I did not even have my Equity Card yet, and the character in the play was supposed to be 32 years old. Really it was a situation where Bill was being gracious and kind seeing as I was a member of the Tarragon family at the time — if only an extended one at that.

I remember vividly reading with Moe Bock, the actor who eventually played the stage manager in Jitters…and from the first words out of my mouth…literally the very first line spoken by the Robert Ross character…David French, standing somewhat pensively way back in the theatre, began laughing.

He continued laughing too at just about everything I did…

I remember Bill Glassco at one point stopping me and taking a moment to look back at David chuckling away ten or so rows behind him…Bill had a surprised and perplexed expression on his face because it was evident that David liked me in the role a lot. Me, the dark horse, too young for prime time.

Bill Glassco eventually cast me in the role of Robert Ross. I am very proud to be able to declare that I inaugurated the role in the  premiere production of Jitters at Tarragon a few months later.

The playwright character is not the funniest person in the script; in fact the way I played him Robert Ross turned out very much the straight man for the other characters…but David always laughed at me whenever he was in the audience…I could always hear him.

I will remember him for the quiet happy glint in his eyes whenever we two chatted together during the run of Jitters…he was not the most talkative man…and I will be forever grateful to him for casting me. Because I am certain that he did the casting for this one time, this one character.

I was very saddened to hear of his passing…to know that happy look in his eyes was gone from us forevermore.

Rest In Peace David French and thank you.

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