Bob McPhail 6:31 a.m., May 19
Six years ago Brian Salmon moved to Sacramento. He was on to new adventures and - owing to several negative experiences - told friends he would quit acting forever.
"Thoughts of acting never leave you. I was a season subscriber to ACT [in San Francisco] and saw some stupendous theater. I read reviews in The Chronicle, The New York Times and New Yorker and kept in touch with San Diego via newspapers on line: check to see what's happening and who's happening. I also had a shelf of unread plays glaring at me."
"If you're an addict and don't want to use, don't hang out with addicts. If you're an actor, same thing. Otherwise you'll hear 'There's this role. You'd be great' - and pretty soon you're using again."
What about going to the theater? Did just sitting and watching have a Squirm Quotient?
"I have a friend who's a contractor. He looks at buildings much differently than I do. Goes on for hours about some technique, use of space, alternatives the architect should've taken.
"That's any actor in a theater, I'm afraid. Even after I quit, I watched plays and studied each separate part. Generally if it was good, I wanted to be up there! If not, it confirmed my decision."
So you still felt the pull?
"For roles I could conceivably be cast in, yes. I tried to strangle that voice inside saying how much better I'd have been in the part. Get over it! 'But I would have been awesome because I would have turned on the line and delivered it upstage and...' - and shut up and watch the dang show!"
It sounds like you were never 100 against and zero for, but more like 60/40 or even 51/49. What tipped the scale?
"For all my big talk about quitting, I never really did. The nice folks at Scripps Ranch [Theatre], Jill Drexler and Bob May, were staging California Suite. Bob said there was a part for me, then added 'but you're all done with that, aren't you?' ('Well, am I?'). And Jill made it happen.
Actors talk about connecting with a live audience. Did that help pull you back?
"Yes, definitely. You don't know a role until you're on stage performing it. I have a line in the show and try to get a reaction. When I get a gasp or a chuckle, it feels like we - the audience and I - built that moment together. FANTASTIC."
You'd been away for six years, how did your first time back feel?
"After the Old Globe burned down in 1978, the seasons continued, first at the Spreckels [Theatre] and then at the California, which seats something like 1600. I was in You Can't Take It With You at the California. Just before my entrance I was perched way up: behind the flats at the top of a flight of stairs - like having to jump from a plane. Opening night at Scripps Ranch, I remembered that moment. Felt just the same. Sometimes you just gotta jump."
Scripps Ranch Theatre, 10455 Pomerado Road, playing through June 24.