Tomorrow is Christmas and, if I needed a reminder, I just watched the 1938 movie “A Christmas Carol” based on Charles Dickens’ novella. Sadly, this is our second “Covid Christmas” which is why I’m hoping for a much-needed joyous holiday. That’s why I have my fingers crossed. (Which also might explain any typos.)
For Paul Sand, a friend and neighbor for thirty-five years, Christmas came early. The son of Ernest Sanchez, an aerospace tool designer, and Sonia Borodiansky, a writer, for decades Paul has been an actor, director, producer and playwright. Recently he received the perfect holiday gift from a long-time benefactor, enough money to fund a workshop to get his latest play, “The Pilot Who Crashed the Party,” up on its feet with the ambitious goal of one day taking it to Broadway.
Paul knows a thing or three about Broadway having won a Tony for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in “Paul Sill’s Story Theater.” In it Sand played 11 characters, including a dog which, according to reviews, stole the show.
In person, I recently saw Paul’s uncanny understanding of canines when we were schmoozing in the Shores library. We were chatting about his new play and remarkable career that included, at age 17, studying mime in Paris under the tutelage of the famed Marcel Marceau and, at 20, touring with mega-star Judy Garland.
Suddenly, in the lobby, we heard two growling dogs about to fight. Paul volunteered that he could mimic those noises and proceeded to do just that. He sounded so remarkably realistic we were immediately visited by a handsome Samoyed named Sherlock and his owner named Peter. Sherlock barked as though he was searching for the right words and Paul barked back so expertly Sherlock rushed over to continue the “conversation.” Paul shrugged, “I only wish I knew what I said.”
Before I get to Paul’s play, I want to share his endearing story about Judy Garland who would soon be going on a tour of the country via train with her talented cast which was what Paul was auditioning for. So young and nervous, after his audition, Paul immediately went into the alley and, for lack of a better word, got sick. Suddenly he felt a soothing hand on his forehead… Judy! Paul was thoroughly embarrassed but Judy replied empathetically, “When we go on tour you can use my bucket.” (Suffice it to say, Paul had gotten the job!)
Another story of Paul’s many good fortunes during his youth is how he became a member of Marceau’s troupe. A recent high school graduate, Paul flew to Paris knowing no one and not speaking French. He went to the “International Herald Tribune” hoping they knew how to contact Marceau. He met with columnist Art Buchwald who one day would be syndicated in 500 newspapers. Having grown up in foster homes, at 17 Buchwald enlisted in the Marines, became a Fighter Squadron Sergeant, moved to Paris after the war and had Marceau’s contact info in his Rolodex.
Given his easy charm and enthusiasm, Paul talked his way into being the only American in Marceau’s company. (Or maybe I should say he “mimed” his way because his pantomime audition was a bullfighter on his first day on the job.)
As for Paul’s playwriting the initial play he ever wrote “Louis From Work” was for the legendary director/producer Jerome Robbins whose credits included West Side Story that won two Tonys and 10 Oscars! As was the custom, Paul’s play, part of “The Festival of Two Worlds,” was performed in an ancient village two hours from Rome and was a huge success. For his efforts, Paul received an award from Luchino Visconti the highly revered Italian filmmaker, stage director and screenwriter.
Regarding “The Pilot Who Crashed the Party,” Paul says cryptically, “To me, the title says it all … and then some.” He confided, however, that he once shared the play with the late Gordon Davidson, the famed Artistic Director of Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum, who produced over 300 plays. Optimistic, Davidson told Paul, “The theme of your play, everybody goes through and will be easily translated worldwide” Davidson predicted, “One day “Broadway.”
Since he already has actors on board, Paul’s looking for a space large enough to workshop the play. So as not to entirely use up the Christmas present an ideal space would be a modestly priced empty theater or an empty hangar-like at the airport.
As I’ve nearly run out of my allotted 800 words, my holiday wish for tomorrow is summed up by the hopeful sentiments of the very wise Tiny Tim, “Merry Christmas to us all and God bless us, everyone.” (Also, if you happen to have an empty hangar laying around please e-mail Paul.)