According to his appropriately humorous web bio, actor Keith Powell is an “unqualified genius” and “a rising star of American stage and screen.” In all likelihood, he’d probably attribute his being cast as a regular character on NBC’s 30 Rock—where he plays the writer, “Toofer”—to his spectacular performances in regional theatre, a Wendy’s commercial, and appearances in two out of the three Law & Order series.
Now, Keith Powell is making his name where it really counts: on the Internet.
PowelltothePeople.net is Keith’s website and it features the usual actors’ web necessities: personal news updates, photos and blog. As the man himself says, “I wanted to make a site that had original content, so everything you see here is made for the express purpose of entertaining you (i.e., showing you me).”
In addition to a growing collection of pet projects (intelligent observations of sexual behavior, race relations, homophobia and media coverage of politics among other topics, most of which are directed by and co-written with Patrick Flynn, a collaborator of Powell’s from the Contemporary Stage Theater of Wilmington, DE), the main attraction on PowelltothePeople.net is an ongoing series of video shorts, Keith Powell Directs a Play.
Co-written by Powell and Flynn (who also directs and features), the series begins as actor Keith Powell, playing actor “Keith Powell”, meets with his agent to discuss upcoming roles. However, Powell’s agent is having trouble finding him work because, since being cast on 30 Rock, Powell is “difficult to work with” and “fussy” about his roles. The only work his agent can find him is in Connecticut. For a repertory theater production of Chekov’s Uncle Vanya. As its director.
In a similar vein to Michael Stahl-David’s Behind the Star, in this series the real actor, Keith Powell, utilizes his fictional self to explore the domineering pomposity of the self-important actor. A constant source of both laughs and uncomfortable awkwardness, Powell mines this peculiar brand of egotism and utter unawareness of self with the same aplomb that Ricky Gervais or Steve Carell do in their respective versions of The Office.
In perhaps my favorite line of the series so far, Powell the director expounds upon the importance of theater and his vision for the play. He states to his troupe, “People don’t go to the theatre to be entertained, they go to the theater to appear cultured.” And, thus, what better way to appear cultured than to sit through “a four act drama about family issues or something like that.”
Act III, the latest installment, features Powell “directing” his actors through a series of “improv games” that play out like twisted Freudian confessions. The troupe is bored with his lack of focus on the play itself and is clearly not amused by his antics. I was also less than amused by this act as it leans a bit too far towards painful social awkwardness than good comedy should. However, it still has its moments and I look forward to the next act to see where Powell and Flynn take this series.
I daresay as 2009 quickly approaches, we could be seeing the likes of Keith Powell more often (even if you don’t plan on seeing Night at the Museum II: Battle of the Smithsonian).