"I am the whole catastrophe!"...Zorba the Greek
TONY FORKUSH (Actor / Writer) -- BIO
Actor/Playwright/Bloggist TONY FORKUSH is that rare artist who defies conventional modes of expression. A performer since he was five years old, Tony was making waves from the beginning. In his first play, “Alice in Wonderland” performed at the local PTA meeting room, he caused a scandal by refusing to oink as the little baby that turns into a pig. From his first missed lines he was a rebel. Shortly after that he became a hippie. At seven, urged on by his lovely but unavailable music teacher at Pinecrest Elementary School, Tony knew then that to be brilliant was to be unlucky in love. But when Miss Schwartz first played The Beatles “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” on the first grade class’s record player, he knew he was hooked forever.
That summer of 1968 was fortuitous for Tony. After wetting the bed at Christian Commando Sleepaway camp and having a song sung to him called “He Wet the Bed…Tony wet the bed…Hi Ho the Derrio…Tony wet the bed”, the young budding genius decided to take out his frustrations in an artistic way by dropping a ten pound bolder onto the head of a mildly retarded school mate. Several ambulances and fire trucks later, Tony’s grandmother arrived in her beat up old Dodge Dart, the family’s elegant mode of transportation (and a heck of a ride!). Tony was busy wiping the tears from his face and shitting his pants with fear at the potential repercussions of the event. A particularly kindly camp counselor held Tony in his long and waspish arms, cradling Tony while softly singing “Jesus saw Tony…Oh lord Tony…Jesus saw”. Although from a family of observant Jews who saw the Good Shepherd as equivalent to a swastika, Tony decided then “ if you can’t beat ‘em, join’ em.” Since that day, Jesus has seen every single thing Tony has done, and boy, are his feet tired.
A Classical and a Contemporary performer
In the late 60’s, Tony took his extraordinary feats of bed wetting to new and stellar heights. His own family hooked him up to an experimental device called “the sonic rehabilitation electrode bed wetting rehabilitator”. It consisted of a series of electrodes hooked up to the genitals of the small Tony. At night, when the little bed wetting fairies danced in his sleeping head, Tony urinated away his fears and terrors. As soon as the moist liquid hit the electrified sheet, a giant noise buzzer, deafening to all within a three block area, sounded its shameful clarion. The lights came on as mom and dad came in to wake Tony and change the bedsheets. A stern talking to ensued as “big boys” don't do this kind of thing. Through hot tears, Tony vowed to never do it again, much to the detriment of his future sexuality and intimacy issues, still a disaster into his forties. The nights when he didn't excrete, a small golden star was placed on a chart above his bed. Tony has compromised himself ever since.
Winning at all costs
When Tony reached High School he was met by a kindly old German man named Lobenstein. “Drew” gave Tony a pep talk about joining the speech and debate team. Tony, having come from low self esteem and narcissistic parents, decided that this was his ticket to ride. What Drew didn't realize was that they unleashed a monster. Tony became a winning machine, gobbling up trophies from here to Timbuktu. The events he didn't win were met with depressions so vast and unrelenting that he redoubled his efforts to dominate all he came into contact with. This led to a series of alienating encounters with other family members, siblings and normal citizens of society. Tony became a sociopath by the time he was 18. By 19, after his enrollment at Moorpark Jr. College, insanity and nervous collapse were just a stone’s throw away.
At Moorpark College, Tony continued his dominance of the California speech circuit. During his times out from Woodview Calabassas Mental Hospital, he would search and destroy his competition from Bakersfield to Barstow. He was the two time winner of the Jim Miller award for the outstanding speaker in the state of California. Toast Masters was calling.
It was at Moorpark that his directing talents manifested, when he directed “Krapps Last Tape”, by Samuel Beckett, in the Forum, a multi-purpose room and music appreciation lab led by the truculent yet affable madman Orbie Darrel Ingersoll, whose post-modern music classes featured ax throwing and wrestling students. This would be Tony's only directing foray as the cigarette smoke in the lighting booth damaged his lungs and ability to lead others.
Tony experienced a period of ennui shortly after this time in his life. He had been removed from the play “Equus”, in the part of Allan Strang, by the director for failing to show up to a single rehearsal, a punishment he still considers harsh and unnecessary. What would be next for this wunderkind?
In 1980 Tony was driving along the “5” freeway on the way to his nightmarish job at Magic Mountain where he sold coupons to disgruntled visitors and cleaned the sky cups that flew over the park. He noticed a bunker type building on his right hand side as he drove by the McBean Parkway exit each day. He wondered to himself what place this may be. It turned out that this bunker would be the most significant locale of his entire life.
California Institute of the Arts
On a particularly difficult day off from the funny farm, Tony was given an audition for a very prestigious and hilly theater school on a hill in sunny Valencia, Ca. California Institute of the Arts, the former Chouinard Art School and a music academy rolled into one, had established itself several years before. It consisted of numerous art schools, including a theater school. Tony was unsure what to do with his life, so theater seemed a natural evolution for him. But he still wanted to win.
At Cal Arts, Tony immediately found a home. He was cast in numerous shows. Most notable among them were:
- Sam Shepard's nightmarish “Buried Child”, in the role of the decaying old patriarch, Dodge
- ”Blood Engine” for the Los Angeles Actors Theater, in the role of Wheelie, a boy who turns into a car.
- Lonnie Roy Mcneil in “LoneStar”
He performed many more studio and full length shows. He studied with the puckish Robert Lloyd, who played Puck in Peter Brook's “Midsummer Nights Dream”, the large bear-like genius Robert Benedetti (“Seeming, Being and Becoming”), Libby Appel (Artistic Director Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon), Jules Aaron, Los Angeles' most prolific small theater director, and numerous educators and professionals. Among his contemporaries were actor/star Don Cheadle, director Jim Mangold (“Walk the Line”), Rob Minkoff (director “Lion King” for Walt Disney films) and numerous theater and film actors and educators.
Professional Acting Work
In 1983, Tony and a group of recently graduated Cal Artians were hired as acting interns for the re-launch of the La Jolla Playhouse, in La Jolla California. A theater that for many years hosted the likes of Gregory Peck, Christopher Plummer and other veteran stage performers, was reopening as a hip, New York modern style stage. Canadian director Des MacAnuff was hired to shepherd the new ship. The first season featured three shows directed by notable directors of the day. MacAnuff would direct “Romeo and Juliet” with lauded New York stage actor John Vickery as Romeo, and the ephemeral chimera known as Amanda Plummer. During the first rehearsal, Miss Plummer, who had a long flowing scarf over her head, was overheard wistfully lisping, “What's a sonnet”?, while smiling a smile of mad delight and instability. This was to be Tony Forkush's first professional role. And he was to play...Anthony the cook, who appears in one scene for a total of thirteen seconds. Tony was removed from any fight scenes because of panic anxiety disorder.
Shortly after the La Jolla season ended, Tony moved to New York where he performed below a brothel near the docks around 10th street in a musical called “Survivors”, directed by an Israeli Mosaad agent. Tony had a series of acting classes and bad relationships with violent punk rock singers during his New York stay. CBGB and OMFUG were in full swing in 1983 and Hashish replaced marijuana on the East Coast as the D.O.G. Tony experienced his first higher consciousness trips which affected his art tremendously. That, and seeing Brother Theodore.
In 1984, Andrew Shea of the Shea Family of the New York Mets, opened a regional theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Albuquerque. Andrew had been a friend, and fan, of Tony's back at Cal Arts. They met at the Dojo cafe in NYC over coffee and Dolmades. Andrew offered Tony a full season as an intern in New Mexico acting full-time. The offer was for $100.00 a week, no room and board, no transportation, and no equity contract. Great! It was just the break Tony was looking for and he moved lock, stock and barrel to the southwest, leaving his psychotic girlfriend Kimbo in the lurch for a great deal of money. Sayanara baby! I'm gonna beat the boards with the Bard.
Anthony performed with the rep for 7 long seasons. Among the shows were:
-”A Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams, as the young collector (one reviewer wondered why a full-grown man with a beard was playing this role).
-”A Midsummer Nights Dream” by Shakespeare, in the role of Puck (those who saw this considered it one of the most dangerously insane and unstable performances in the history of Albuquerque)
-”Cloud Nine” by Caryl Churchill, in the dual roles of Cathy and Joshua the servant. (During one particularly difficult entrance with a tray, cakes and champagne, Tony ripped through the set causing the remainder of it to collapse, halting the show for ten minutes).
-”The Mystery of Irma Vep” by Charles Ludlum, a quick change show which caused Tony to collapse from exhaustion into a pile of mush around his ten pound dress.
But Tony's really really big break came during the summer of 1990 when a young budding playwright named Howard Korder, who had seen Tony during a reading of his play “Boy's Life”, was to recommend to director David Chambers that Tony would be right for the role of the slimy drug dealer Ron in a new farce called “Search and Destroy” that would be having its premier at South Coast Repertory. The reviews were sensational. Tony was heading to Broadway, or at least another regional theater, like Yale Rep for example.
When Tony arrived at Yale, he was so taken by the beauty and grandeur of the ancient buildings, that when he passed the Skull and Bones complex he fell into a manhole, inverting his ankle into an offensively grotesque position. His foot swelled up like the Hindenburg, actually blowing the tennis shoe open. Tony had been in New Haven for half an hour.
But the show must go on. Tony was given a pair of crutches and no transportation. He was told to get to and from the theater by hobbling about and climbing the three stories to the stage. But once he did, the play was once again a huge hit. It now was set to go to Broadway, and Tony was going to go with it, launching the career that sunk a thousand ships.
Or was he...?
Several months later, Tony received a call from director David Chambers that there were some “delays” in the final casting of the Circle in the Square production of “Search and Destroy”. Actor Griffin Dunne now had control of the project (later he was to make a feature film directed by Robert Longo), and the minutiae of the business was taking its time. Tony had an offer to recreate the roles he played in Irma Vep (now at the Laguna Playhouse) and felt that a bird in the hand...well you know the rest. This was to be a moment of dramatic change for Tony. He turned down the Broadway run of “Search and Destroy”, went to the Laguna Playhouse instead, and collapsed onstage for a second time, thus beginning the downhill tumble that his life still takes to this day.
There's always Hollywood
After a ten year period of alcoholic imbibing and dual diagnosis, Tony returned with full colors to the stages of his own fair city. A four year stint at the modest yet incendiary Theatre of Note gated Tony an LA Weekly Award Nomination for the One-Act play “Ransomed Soul” by Christopher Kelley (He didn't win. Nope). He performed the plays “Futon Dialogues” by Hank Bunker, “Nobody Home” by Tim Hanson, co-produced and acted in a musical version of “The Birds” by Aristophanes, directed by Ken Roht. His most recent performance was in the role of the nasty man Frank in Jaqueline Wright’s dark comedy “Eat Me”. Also, showing his new found age range, he performed as Gremio in “Taming of the Shrew” for Zoo District at the Orpheum Theater.
His television credits include a series regular on “Camp Midnight”, produced by Dick Clark and Warren Bell, “Miracles and other Wonders” for CBS, “Herman’s Head” for Fox, and “CatDog”, in the voice of Cat for MTV and Nickelodeon (pilot). His brief foray into stand-up comedy was met with some success as part of the impressionist duo Forkush and Ward (Jim Ward is now co-host of the Stephanie Miller show on Air America).
As a writer, Mr. Forkush co-wrote “Celia: High Priestess of Shimkin-an aquatic fable” with Liane Schirmer, for the Carpet Company; “Tender” and “When the Peacock Sings” for Al's National Theater Festival of Five Minute Plays; “Godiva 23” for Sharon's Farm; “The Bubo” for Theatre of Note’s Play Selection Committee, and his perverted masterpiece “Lewyus Gonzalish” about a futuristic porn Bar Mitzvah, also given its reading premier at Note.
Tony premiered sections of his blog (Stop This Noise in My Head) for the 12th annual Theatre of Note performance Marathon, a work in progress.
You can read more of Tony's writings on his blog:
www.tonyforkush.blogspot.com (Stop This Noise in my Head: Working class blog devoted to daily ruminations of anti-social psychosis, transcendent liberation theology, Jesus Christ, Baseball, fast guitar playing and demystifying the false (or perhaps true) paradigmatic beliefs I carry about my ability to pleasure myself and others, particularly women who cannot love me.).