NOTE: Michael Dunn left the company of Dude after the first period of previews closed, and was not in the final version that opened.
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Michael Dunn, the 3-foot-10, 75-pound dwarf who's as popular in show business as the big guys, has seen many strange things as an actor but none more amazing and amusing than the behavior of the geniuses producing Dude at the Broadway Theater.
The head genius, long-haired Gerome Ragni, co-author of Hair - including "Age of Aquarius" and "Let The Sun Shine In" - recently wanted two tons of dirt dumped on the stage - for an earthy effect.
Michael and property man Abe Einhorn were talking about it the other day. Only Einhorn wasn't talking - he was screaming. "You know what it was like when the kids ran through the soil...80 50-pound bags of soil" howled Abe. "A dust storm! I'm very smart, so I watered it down. Know what I had then? One big mudpie!"
Michael, who plays Rags, a part he hasn't been able to describe yet, groaned, "Took you two hours to get that mud out of your nose and hair when you got home."
"So," continued the bombastic property man, "Mr. Holzer - always has a friend or a cousin who's got just the thing. He had friends in the garment district who had some mill ends." Mill ends seem to be left-over fabrics, the unused ends of materials, which, if dark in color, could resemble soil, and certainly wouldn't be muddy or gooey.
"Feel these mill ends," Abe Einhorn invited. Michael Dunn and I did. "I had a guy with scissors in here cutting them into small pieces," Einhorn said. "Do you know what these mill-ends look like? Mill-ends!"
Ragni, whose song-writing genius is such that people sometimes wish he'd do that exclusively, also had another idea.
"He wanted to release 100 butterflies in the audience every show. He said to me, 'Get me the price of 800 butterflies delivered here each week.' I said 'You can't do that, they'll eat the seats' But I got eight guys working on it. They're setting on butterfly eggs right now. He also wanted a guy carrying a tree eight inches in diameter on stage every show."
He looked at Michael Dunn. "It takes King Kong to carry an 8-inch tree! See this pond?" He indicated something resembling a bathtub. "Figured we might as well have a duck too. It died of pollution."
The property man, who wrote a comedy, "Agatha Sue, I Love You", was of course joking and exercising free speech.
"I think ragni is from some other planet sent down here to infiltrate us." he said.
Ragni was sitting with some new pictures of the children in the show, occasionally talking to the new director of the show, Tom O'Horgan, who directed Hair, and takes hair serious. (He wears his hair in a braid.)
"I'm in love with children," Ragni said, studying the pictures. "Are you in love with children?" "No," I said, "I have one."
This is Broadway's first theater-in-the-round. It's very baffling.
I walked very confidently into the orchestra section of the Broadway Theater - and found myself in deserted darkness under the stage. The "orchestra seats" are now where the balcony used to be.
I climbed stairs to the balcony - and there were two bodies lying outstretched. They were two actors waiting to make their entrance on stage from the aisles. I was constantly afraid I'd be run over by an actor.
And then I saw the children playing in the mill-ends with
another largish child - no, no, it was Michael Dunn. Strange world!
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