July 17 Players Pen

Best Decision Ever

by: Noah Simon

Around two years ago I found myself sitting in Joe Foust’s and Molly Glynn’s living room on Chicago’s north side surrounded by several actors, teachers and directors. We were all there for a singular purpose: to read through Joe’s new play, “Once a Ponzi Time.”

I’ve had the great pleasure of knowing Joe for more than a decade now. Joe is one of the founders of a Chicago theater company called Defiant Theatre, which unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore. In the early and mid 2000s, I appeared in a couple of Defiant’s productions, most notably, “Dope,” a history in two hours of the 200-year war on drugs, and the remount of Defiant’s uber-successful, “Action Movie: The Play,” which was co-written and directed by Joe.

My casting in “Action Movie” is what I would consider the beginning of a friendship with Joe that can and should be described as sympatico. I was actually on the verge of moving to Phoenix, Arizona. I guess I wanted to get the heck away from cold weather for a while. I was coming to the end of my apartment lease, and beginning to either pack up or give away my possessions, when my phone rang.

It was Joe Foust asking me if I wanted to play the part of Alec Smarty in Defiant’s remount of “Action Movie,” I was honored, of course, but my impending move would not allow for an entire rehearsal process followed by a six-week run of the show.

Here’s what you need to know about Joe Foust: when he gets an idea in his head you’re unlikely to change his mind. His will is the stuff of legend. I was certainly no match for him. At the end of that conversation I had not only accepted the role but was already thinking about which couches I could sleep on to get me through until the production was at its end. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

So, after that day of reading the part of Louie, the simple-minded yet charmingly innocent nephew of the ponzi’s perpetrator of “Once a Ponzi Time” in Joe’s living room, I didn’t think about it again.

Not for lack of interest, but because I was knee-deep in my journey through graduate school at Depaul University’s theater school. Then out of the blue this past May came a call from Greg Vinkler, Artistic Director of The Peninsula Players.

Peninsula Players was mounting the inaugural production of “Once a Ponzi Time,” and Greg invited me to audition for the part of Louie. I gratefully accepted the opportunity, was in front of Greg within a couple days, and a couple days after that Greg offered me the role.

It all happened that fast, so fast that I never bothered to check the dates of either the run of the play or the rehearsal process. As it turns out I had no conflict with the performance dates, but rehearsals were due to start before I was technically finished with school. I wasn’t scheduled to graduate until June 15, and rehearsals were meant to start Wednesday June 12th.

What could I do? I politely, and with a heavy heart, declined Greg’s offer with the hope that one day I might get another chance to work at the Peninsula Players.

The next phone call I got, about 30 seconds removed from hanging up with Greg, was from Joe Foust. The first thing he asked me was if I was anywhere close to being in my right mind.

I explained my predicament with the start of rehearsals. I was going to be in Los Angeles with the rest of my graduating class for a showcase performance for industry professionals until June 13, and then I was walking in the graduation ceremonies on Saturday, June 15.

And in a three week rehearsal process, as it was for “Once a Ponzi Time,” missing a whole week of rehearsal was not acceptable. Well, if you remember what I said about Joe’s will and how fighting it is an exercise in futility, by the end of our conversation I had agreed to let the school know I wouldn’t be traveling to LA with the rest of the class so that I could be with the cast of “Once a Ponzi Time” for the start of rehearsal, and in return Peninsula Players gave me Saturday June 15 off of rehearsal so that I could go back to Chicago and attend the graduation ceremonies.

And may I say that since I’ve been here in Door County on the grounds of Peninsula Players Theatre I’ve been treated to awe-inspiring sunsets, some of the friendliest and most talented theater artists I’ve ever had the good fortune to be around and a chance to perform in a play that is a criminal amount of fun. The decision to come here just took the top spot in my list of best decisions ever.

If you are interested in tickets to “Once a Ponzi Time” or another offering at Peninsula Players visit www.peninsulaplayers.com or phone 920-868-3287 for more information.

Noah Simon is making his Peninsula Players debut as Louie in “Once a Ponzi Time” at Peninsula Players. He has worked with Goodman Theatre, A Red Orchid, American Theatre Company and Strawdog Theatre Co. among many others.