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Thread: Wonderful

  1. #1
    Phil Captain Pike's Avatar
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    Wonderful

    A tear rolled down my cheek as I stood on the darkened stage looking at the props and flats in place for an upcoming show. It had been a lot of years since I had been in this auditorium, a lot of water over the damn, as they say. Back then, this had been the heart of the theater department when I went to school. I had been in the building a million times it seems, traveled through on away to some class or event. But somehow, never seemed to have any interest in drama. A long time roommate had been in a number of plays -- even did some dance routines, I remember his flailing about our small, two-room arrangement, trying to get a key sequence of steps committed to memory. But why was I never interested in auditioning? I love to be the center of attention today, and I did then too. Being a math and computer science student, I could just as well have taken theater as an elective, as opposed to French or swimming. I even went to a couple of performances while I was living on campus. Often some friend or friend of a friend had gotten a part in some play. But I don't remember ever even considering the idea of taking part in any stage production.

    Many years later and soon after I had finally gotten sober, I remembered seeing an audition notice for "It's a Wonderful Life". I was at a friend's house, just heading out the door, she had the audition notice pinned up on a little bulletin board by the door, the little drama masks caught my eye. It said that next weekend, they would be auditioning multiple roles for men and women and that a handful of kids would be needed also. I couldn't seem to get the idea out of my head. It's a Wonderful Life had been one of my all-time favorite movies. I imagined playing the role of George Bailey and dancing with Mary Hatch on the opening up floor over the pool. I imagined other scenes as the week progressed. I thought how fun it would be to be thrown out of Martini's Bar, claiming to be out drinking with an angel who was over 200 years old! By the time the actual weekend arrived, my enthusiasm to actually audition had more or less fizzled out. By Saturday, I'd forgotten all about it, but my friend called up to tell me that her son was going to go audition, wouldn't I like to come along. I agreed to go but decided to take my own car.

    The theater was at the top of a hill, there were several cars parked up near the entrance. Even though I had never had any acting experience whatsoever, somehow I imagined that as soon as I began to audition for the role of George Bailey, that the people putting on the play would stand up and ask me "wow, where have you been?", or maybe they'd call me a "natural actor". As it turned out, there were a lot of talented people there. Most of them had been in multiple plays before. Other people seemed to be working in various areas throughout the theater. There was an odd, fabric-ey smell there that reminded me partially of my grandmother's hat boxes and partially of an old shed where paint cans were stored. There was an energetic nervous excitement which pervaded the entire theater, the mood of the place was shot through with a strange competitive friendliness; my widening grin put me out of place, like a farmer, in his overalls, gleefully wandering around New York City -- gaping up at the tall buildings, a nervous hand on his wallet. When I finally got a chance to read some lines, I wasn't on the stage at all, instead, in a small room cramped with several people who seemed not to be listening to me. Even though I thought I knew how the movie went, I couldn't seem to read the correct line at the right time. I would read the script, look up and say my piece, then, when I looked down at the script again, I seemed to lose my place, every time. I left feeling very frustrated and felt sure they would have no use for me.

    A few days later I received a letter from the theater. They offered me the part of "Bert the cop". Acting insulted would have revealed my vanity so I feigned indifference even though inwardly embarrassed. It turned out to be a perfect part for me -- there was plenty of action and a good smattering of lines to remember. During the rehearsals, I became more and more grateful that I wasn't trying to depict George Bailey. That character has tons of lines, a bunch of really quick costume changes and he has to kiss a girl, right on the mouth, down center -- right in the front of the stage.

    As it turns out I'm not a natural actor. During one performance I really fouled up. There is a scene where Bert is running after George and stops down front, draws his gun and fires a few shots in the direction of where George ran. On this particular night, my blank pistol, which usually sounds pretty authentic, simply clicked. Click, click, click. My face turned red, and I turned out towards the audience, reportedly with a quizzical look on my face and kind of shrugged before I walked off. There are always any number of ways that an actor can improvise in a situation where a prop fails. The only thing you never do is come out of character. After all, the audience never knew that the gun was supposed to fire properly.

    I've done a lot of acting since that first show. I've always had fun and I've always made one good mistake. I've even been paid to act. Being on stage night after night is like living life and always having that just-right-thing to say at just the right time. Acting has provided a good outlet for my creative energies without risking life, limb and incarceration. When you're in a stage production it's almost like magic: you're doing a thing together that would be impossible to do alone.

    The other day I was struck by a statement made in a book I was reading. It was out of Jody Picoult's "19 Minutes" and a character was stating: a high school student who starts to find herself not fitting in and expelled from the elite group usually finds herself drawn into the drama group or the druggie group. Wow, I wish they had had drama when I was a kid. Wait just a minute, they did have a drama department that died my senior year in the worst way. The English teacher was responsible for putting on a "senior play". I can remember my friend's older brother portraying the role of Scrooge, in the Dickens play "A Christmas Carol". He actually got to smoke in school under the auspices of his teacher and the principal.

    Anyway, the thing was, the young English teacher, who was putting up the play, a very tall and leggy blonde gave me a great part -- she said I'd be perfect for it. Then she summarily canceled the play on account of poor turnout at the rehearsals. I can remember thinking, at the time, "oh well,", and I never thought about it again, for years. Instead, just as the reference I paraphrased from Ms. Picoult's book says, I joined up with the druggie crowd. It's a tremendous, butterfly-effect type thing to consider: a decision made on a whim, with other possible motivations, set in motion a 20 year long destruction of a man's spirit.

    I have no regrets about my past. I do think I'm lucky to be alive. I guess I wouldn't be the me that I am, had I had a different experience. I'm just beginning now to recount some of the crazy antics I went through for the consideration of booze and dope. And I don't blame anybody either. I do wonder, though, what my response might have been to the high one gets from drama on stage.


    2018 Phil Oliver

    Ничего нет лучше для исправления, как прежнее с раскаянием вспомнить.

  2. #2
    TheFairyDogMother kiz_paws's Avatar
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    Loved this, Phil.
    Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty
    ~Albert Einstein

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