In Ghost Money, all of my story in 1972 will be animated. Animation is a complicated process. Before anybody starts drawing frames, we start recording the voices that will go into the soundtrack. Once the soundtrack is roughed in, the animators can start drawing. Today, we started recording voices at Clark Salisbury’s home studio. We were honored that Chris Coleman, the artistic Director of Portland Center Stage voiced the part of John Sheehan.Chris and I met at 24-hour Fitness. I recognized him as the director of a recent production of the musical “Oklahoma” featuring an all black cast, and the guy whose team has made PCS one of America’s premier regional theaters. I asked Chris if he would play one of the characters in my film. I needed someone special. The character, John Sheehan, was one of the few Americans in Vietnam I was friends with. We worked in Command Military Touring Shows, a division of the U.S. Army’s Special Services whose mission was to use talented servicemen to entertain the troops.
In those days, they were drafting everybody. So the Army was full of actors and musicians. We found talent from around Vietnam and put them on the road. Some actually came out of the bush to play guitar for two months. Pretty cool. So, John came to us as a staffer who was supposed to try to put plays together to tour around Vietnam. He was a theater lover. In the evenings, while we sat (usually stoned) around the “hooch”, John would entertain us with presentations of Broadway musicals, explaining the stories and miming all the parts. It’s not exactly the scene you’d expect in a Vietnam War film!
So, today, Chris played the scene where John presents Ethel Merman singing “Everything’s coming Up Roses.” I wanted a director to play the part, so he could tell us, as John did, what made him think so highly of “Gypsy.” And Chris killed it.
The point is: people in war need to have talismans, rituals, objects, books, songs, pictures that take them back to “the world,” as we put it. For John it was his records. That’s why the men in the hooch tolerated somebody miming Broadway musicals, because they knew that this was his way of going home, his ritual… and everyone had there own way, however wierd. We accepted that in each other.
Thanks, Chris, for your great work voicing John Sheehan! And, folks, he’s opening Othello this weekend in Portland.