Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Me-Me-Memory....

For those of you that DON'T watch television news 24/7.....

It's kind of like watching the entertainment during the wee hours of the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. It's slim pickin' at 0300, my friends.

MSNBC re-runs their centerpiece evening programs ad infinitum; FOX runs pretty much the same thing...all O'Reilly, ALLATIME!

Other channels run the dreaded infomercial, which makes me wonder what advertising genius chooses the fictional panels for the Magic Bullet: the old lady with the cat's eye glasses, chain-smoking the cigarettes is particularly jarring, if they are aiming at realism.

And can Ron Popeil be any more excited about the newest RONCO product? They guy is going to need medicating, if he's not careful.

I once did a pilot for an 'infomercial' type thing. It was written and produced by a guy named Chris Bearde, who produced Laugh-In and The Gong Show and such...he's a very funny guy. We met when he used a part of something I put together and produced for a theatre out in California; he came, he saw, he liked, he borrowed. And he put me into this little variety program. I think I have a tape of it somewhere.

I'm recalling my terribly manic version of "there's no business like show business", while whipping the company into shape. It's a bit hazy, though. I could be wrong.

It did give me an opportunity to meet Cheryl Ladd (who is stunning in real life) and her husband (who's kind of a doofus, but a good-natured one). I also got a chance to shake hands with the great Jonathan Winters, and I should have had him sign something, but I was being all stoically professional.

But this pilot was something he was doing for one of the shopping networks, on spec. The premise was unique at the was a soap opera kind of thing, with characters and plots and such, but everything on the set was for sale. And every so often, one of the characters would describe an item, show it off, and such; all in character, and all integrated into the storyline, such as it was.

I played the villain. It was a great time. There was some interest in it, but I think they passed on it. In either case, they would have re-cast.

Wish I had a copy of it. Chris Bearde is a nice man, but forgetful. He's married to a psychic,, every so often, I send off a vibe. Maybe he'll get the message.

The vibe usually includes my address, just in case.


I'll talk about how much more fun it is to play a villain than it is a hero.
Be warned: scenery will be chewed.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bridge; Gasoline; Match.

I am having nightmares, of a kind.

They involve the elements of debauchery that I've struggled to set aside; and the nightmare is that I'm really, REALLY enjoying them.

So....struggling just a little more than usual, in my waking hours.

Which leads me to a story, and not a good one.

Years ago, when I was young and impressionable (there was a time), I met a girl whom I will call Shelli; I call her Shelli because that was her name and I'm damned if I'm going to change the name to protect the innocent; I won't, cuz she wasn't. In fact, she (and by extension, I) am responsible for f**king up my relationships for DECADES afterwards.

And continues to this day.

She was an attractive girl, no denying; quick witted, with an easy laugh.

I should have run when I had the chance.

She strung me along like no other had up to that point; suggesting that we should get together, and then not being able to make it. Often. Not really wanting me, but not wanting to give up the naive attention I was paying.

Loved to watch me act, and probably fell for that. I thought it was deeper; I clung to the idea that perhaps it was.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Come to find out, it was the 'out of sight, out of mind.' kind of love.

So, the outcome is not hard to guess. I have a hard time saying that I love. And I don't, under any circumstances, believe it when somebody says that they love me.

Close the book and end the story. That's what I do.

Because my believer is broken.

And my sadness is profound.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Karaoke-ist.

In the late 90's, if you were in Saginaw, Michigan, and you drove West on State street until you were almost clear out of drive until you get to some weird fork in the road......

Well, right in the middle of that fork was a little house that was the famous bar called Casey O'Coffey's. And I never went in there, except on the occasional Saturday night during the Fall/Winter of '98-'99.

I think back with great fondness to Casey's, because it was always warm and welcoming on those bitterly cold Michigan winter nights. And, not to put too fine a point on it, there was precious little else in Saginaw that was warm and welcoming on a bitterly cold Michigan winter's night; at least, not for me.

Saturday at Casey's was Karaoke Night.

Now, there was a bunch of us that had mistakenly signed contracts to perform in a Children's Theatre company, and Saturday nights were a chance to perform for adults for a change. No matter how bad the week was, there was always merriment to be had at that little bar. And on Saturday nights, it was always packed.

There were regulars; but I only really knew them by the songs they would sing.

There was the guy who sang New York, New York with a gusto that eclipsed his occasional move to the flatter part of the scale.
There was this charming old fellow who would break us up with his rendition of Funky Cold Medina. I still smile at the memory of it.
There was this woman who would always sing this sad country song about Strawberry Wine....

And then, there was us.

Everybody had their things, of course....sometimes, some of us would our own, and wing a duet, or a trio....heavenly harmony abounded. I can recall Aaron singing some Neville Brothers number, pitch perfect. Misti singing the hell out of a Barenaked Ladies ditty. And you couldn't help but dance when Jason did the Ants Marching bit from The Dave Matthews Band.

Me....I did songs that didn't require a whole lot of melody. Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama; Travelin' Band by Creedence. But what tore the house down was the night Jason and I sang Southern Cross by CSN. The harmony still lingers like the memory of a fine cigar.

It was odd in a wonderful way, really......there was griping and sniping and some bad blood in that company, but at the table in the corner on a Saturday night, all that was forgotten. The smiles were broadened by the never-ending pitchers of cheap beer; the malice temporarily forgotten in the mist of Marlboros.

Casey's is gone now; the building is still there, but there's another bar there now. Like so many things of the past, they have faded like the last chord of A Day In The Life, but they linger in the memory, like the taste of 30 year old Scotch.

And there are some times, in the bitter cold of a Northern State winter, that I wish I had a place like that to go, and a circle of friends like that to go with.

I really could use it.

I surely could.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Last Plane Out.

I can remember the first time I heard this tune; I was sitting in a seedy housing unit, known affectionately as the Boone Docks, and my great friend Eric was playing this on a cassette across the hall. The music was great, but it was the lyrics that attracted me; cynical.

'Cuz that's how I roll.

Someone said the Big Man will be joining us soon;
But I never was the kind to hang with the Harbingers of Doom.
This party is addictive;
Self-destructive, no doubt!
So, I hope that someone saves a seat for me
On the last plane out.....

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Sadder But Wiser Idiot.

Thus Spake the Prophet Shimoda:

"If you will practice being fictional for a while, you will understand that fictional characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies and heartbeats."

I've practiced being fictional; in fact, I have two degrees in the fine art of being fictional. Fictional was one of my favorite careers.

And, Donald Shimoda was right; the fictional characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies and heartbeats. Largely, because the limitations of my realities didn't play into the limitations of the fictional.

I can remember a classroom of students, having seen me in a play (I believe it was The Glass Menagerie, and if you know me, you know which character I played. You have a fifty-fifty chance of being right.), and they marvelled at the fact that for most people, they put on the mask when the go on the stage and take it off when they leave, and I do just the opposite; that I am more open ON the stage than off.

Clever class of students; they found me out.

Because I've never been hurt on the stage.

Oh, well...there were temporary physical pains throughout the years, but never an...injury.

I mean, I've tried, with limited amounts of success, and those successes are those people who have touched my heart, in some cases saved my soul, and carry me through to this day.

But I get tricked so easily. And the tricking is the thing that causes the mask; if you can't see me, you can't hurt me.

My friends see past the mask; they ignore it, and it goes away.

Those who are simple acquaintances, they don't recognize the mask.

The ones that truly hurt are the ones that get by me, inflict the damage, and move on.

Still happens. Even after all these years. And I'm smart enough to know to accept my responsibility; I opened the door, after all.

I should use that little peephole thing in the door. But I don't.

Because I'm not done learning the lessons yet.

But when it all falls down like Humpty Dumpty, I have those friends and loved ones who take me in, pick me up, dry clean me, and send me out again, a sadder but wiser idiot.

Yup, it really is true: to those that love you, no explanation is necessary; and to those that don't, no explanation will suffice.

So, my friends....thank you for doing, and being, and helping, and hoping.

And to the others......Pththththththth!

Good night, and good morning.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Recovery. Kind of.

Welcome to Friday. I got up early to prepare if for you, and I hope you like it.

It was reasonably warm early this week, and today we've gotten the cursed Canadian cold front. Temperatures have plummeted. So, I'm looking forward to a week in Florida; ten days and counting.

The muscles in my lower back continue to remind me that I've skipped my semi-annual drink at the Fountain of Youth; but the feeling in my feet has returned, so I'm not as concerned today as I was yesterday. But, it does make walking a new and interesting pastime. Occasionally, I list to starboard, with a spike and a curse.

Hi diddle dee dee; a pirate's life for me.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Arrrrrgh. And not in a Pirate Way.

Back in 1993, when I was a good teacher and a part time actor, and I was in love with a very tall German girl, I spent a summer in the south of Indiana, doing a couple of musicals; one, an historical musical about the early life of Lincoln, and the other a musical version of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn.

I enjoyed both of them, very much; even in the heat and humidity that IS Southern Indiana in the summer, every night was a ball.

And, as an added bonus, there was the aforementioned tall German girl.

But this is not about any of that.

In July of that year, I had a small, seemingly innocuous accident upon the stage; I had this wireless microphone pack that usually lived under my shirt, and in a small pocket underneath my left arm. But one night, the thing slipped, and wound up in my lower back. And, during a exercise in stage combat at the top of Act II, I rolled over it.

Didn't give it a thought. Until three days later, when I begin to get his annoying kind of buzzing in my toes. And three days after that, I stopped feeling them at all.

To make a long story short, I lost the feeling in my legs. I could still use them, I just couldn't feel them.

I'm feeling muuuuch better now.

At least, I was until two days ago.

It's back.

It's incredibly painful right now; I can't seem to walk for any length of time. I'm heating and cooling and all of the things I need to do to relax the muscles in my lower back, in the hope that I won't need additional therapy.

I'll keep you posted.

Oh, and in case anybody wonders, yes, it does SUCK. Bunnies. Through a straw. Ears first.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Well.....does it?

I stumbled across this recently, and it reminded me of my old friend Dawn, who left us far too soon, with too much conversation left to share.

She taught me this song, a long time ago; and she'd laugh as we sang it around a roaring campfire, when we were young and lived in the cedar forest. I think she was tickled by my early attempts at the dialect.

The laughter comes a little harder these days, but when it does come, no castle wall can withstand it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Looking for the Big Red S on my Chest. Nope.

Okay; I'll admit to some difficulty. Not that you'll be able to see it, specifically, but I'm struggling, my friends.

I woke up this evening (my morning, as you probably know, starts around 10PM) from some strange, barely remembered dream, with the sharp taste of vodka on my tongue, the fragrance of tobacco in my nostrils.....

And a perfume that is unforgettable.

I'll get through it; because as Churchill stated, "If you're going through hell, keep going."

I'll be the person I'm expected to be.

I will rise.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

One Year.

A year ago, at 7:30 AM, Central time, my telephoned buzzed across the surface of my desk.

It had been a long morning of paperwork, and as I recall there was a little bit of trouble in Fargo that had to be sorted out. 7:30 AM is the end of my day, as you who read regularly well know; it's a kind of twilight time, brushing off the tension of the night with the prospect of getting a good night's sleep. I have multiple phones on my desk, each with a distinctive, annoying ring; so, it's not a surprise that I keep my personal phone on the desk, but on vibrate.

And there it was, crawling across the desk; stopping. And then starting again, like an annoying inchworm.

My Father was calling. And I knew what that call would entail.

I kept my voice as level as I could; it was news that was expected, but not invited. Surely, I did NOT want to hear what my Father was about to say, but he's a good man, and I love him, so it was important not to come apart when he needed strength.

"Good morning, Dad."

"John, you're Mother passed away twenty minutes ago."

"Okay. Okay. I'll be there tomorrow."

"I'll have you Brother meet you at the airport."

"Okay. Do you need anything?"

"No. I love you, and I'll see you tomorrow."


We have no trouble with joy; grief just flummoxes us.

My boss was sitting in a chair in the corner. He had the kind of look on his face that lies midway between, "Can I help?" and, "Can I leave?" But he's a good man, and he stayed silent.

I excused myself for a minute, and moved into the conference room, where I unclenched the fist that was my soul. Just a little. Enough to ease the pressure, but enough to dampen my face. Enough to hitch my breath.

I went back into my office, and there were more people there by now; and I simply said that I was leaving now, and that I wouldn't be back in for awhile, and I'd call to tell them when, but right now I need to leave this office or I will surely fall apart like a scarecrow in a windstorm.

And I went home, and had what my Okie friend would call, "a full-fledged come-apart."

My tears were a tribute; and as I write this, I'm crying again. Another tribute to a woman who taught me everything that mattered. Who encouraged my talents, bandaged my youthful wounds, laughed at my jokes, taught me to bake, liked my friends, and loved me beyond the telling of it.

I miss you, Mom.

See ya when I get there.

Friday, February 11, 2011

My White Plume.

Yes. I guess I DO have a role I'd kill to play. And it would probably wind up killing me, as well, but oh, what a way to go.

I can recall a student of mine, telling me a story of an old character actor he worked with in some theatre in Ohio, back in the 90's. This old actor, playing a role in You Can't Take It With You, who felt that he could die a happy man if he just put together one...perfect performance.

Apparently, he had a good night during the last part of the run. The producer commented on the fact that that night's performance was, "just about as close to perfect as you can get." And the old actor agreed, with a smile and a nod of his head.

And that evening, he retired to his home, and passed away peacefully in his sleep.

An actor's death, certainly. The role that could kill us is the one we most want to play.


Oh, GOD, I'd love to give it a try.

He and I are tied together, for some reason. During my days as itinerant actor, I would read the play the night before a major audition. Just me and that blusterous, confident, heroic, romantic fool. Sacrificing all of his dreams for the dreams of one he loves more than life.

Weaving tender words of love for another from the bushes beneath her balcony; because she wished for him, and he wished for her.

Fighting 100 men because "this man is a friend of mine!"

And appearing every day after, serving as a 'gazette' to his love, now 'shrined in a convent, just to be near her.

I'm tearing up just writing about it.

Could I ever be this man?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

How many days has it been since I was born? How many days 'til I die?

This song speaks to my soul today, stuck as I am in a mire of profound sadness.

There has always been this feeling that I didn't fit.

I'm a Stranger in a Strange Land.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The C Suffices.

I had this day, today.

It was the kind of a day, that on it's face, was pretty much like any other day here in the Northern State. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the snow was scattered about the acres, and the temperature was well below zero.

On its face.

Every so often, something comes along and shakes you by your lethargy.

For those of you running for your dictionary (and I say that to establish humorous intent), we define lethargy as something that looks like a collar, but is oh, so much more stangulating.

Yes, I made up that last word.

And yes, I was shookened.

And I made up THAT word, too.

But a light began to shine in my mind for the first time in a sonavabitchlongtime.

To sum up:

A Blank page, or Canvas.
His favorite.

And for that, I'm thankful; and grateful; and stunned; and satisfied.

Thankee, sai.

Monday, February 7, 2011

It's not a rant.

In fact, it's a justification.

I caught the highlights of the Super Bowl; having done a show, been to work, and done another show, I needed sleep more than I needed some good old fashioned American Stimuli. But I knew that there would be endless re-caps (I mean, seriously...the damned pregame show started last MONDAY), and I could even wade through the commercials on YouTube, as well.

Nothing will top that Dorito's commercial from two years ago, with the guy and the Snowglobe who pretended it was a Magic 8-Ball, and it wound up not only through the glass of a snack machine, but also into the crotch of the boss.....I laughed long and hard at that one....

But I digress.

I think it was a good game; I didn't bet on it, but I was going to bet on the National Anthem; I was going to bet that the last note would be longer than 6 seconds, that the song would drag out forever, and that, quite possibly, the once and former Pop Princess would muff the words. I mean, after all, they are more than one syllable and there's no sampling going on to cover your lapses.

I coulda made a mint.

But, here's the thing:

I don't care for Miss Christina; I find her voice overblown, and her need for arpeggio horribly compulsive. But in her heyday there were all sorts of singers doing all sorts of hooks; and her hook was to take a three minute song and turn it into a six minute song, without actually adding verses.

And I honestly don't think that the National Anthem should be interpreted. At all. It's to be sung as written. Did you know that there is one country in the Pacific that actually FINES you for singing the National Anthem off-key, or in a manner considered parody-ish? So....sing the song, and leave your ego at the door.


The National Anthem is a difficult song; it's written in the key of Francis Scott, and the words are archaic. And I am of the opinion that it really doesn't say anything about OUR COUNTRY.

I think GOD BLESS AMERICA is a good song, that describes our country. It's quite like O, CANADA. "My Home and Native Land" indeed.

But that GOD thing is tricky. AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL would work as a lovely substitute.

And the best part is, they're SHORT songs. And easily sung, with great gusto, by a crowd of Barley Fueled fans at any event you could name.

So...Christina....on behalf of the country, let me thank you for pointing out the flaws in the Anthem, and for encouraging all of us to start thinking about an easier, quicker, and more descriptive National Anthem.

And Crown Thy Good, With Brotherhood...From Sea To Shining Sea. And up there, just West of Canada...and over there, in the middle of one of those Shining Seas....and Puerto Rico, our silent brother.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

And now, the News.......

I have random thoughts.


All the people who are using the 100th Anniversary of of the birth of President Ronald Reagan really, really need to shut the f**k up, and pick up a history book. Reagan, for all his flaws, was a man with a clear compass; the people who are currently quoting him wouldn't know true North if it came up and punched them in the crotch.

And even though I didn't always agree with the man, the way he brought more attention, and by consequence more research money to the affliction known as Alzheimer's Disease....well, he earned my unwavering respect for his quiet dignity in the face of the Wrecking Ball.


We perform the last one of SCREWTAPE this afternoon at 2pm. I have immensely enjoyed the experience. The cast is filled with good people who have a love of the idea, and I was impressed with the way they worked, and more importantly, how they treated each other, and how the usual suspects treated this newbie with kindness and respect. I hope to do it again someday.

That being said....I am really tired.


The Super Bowl is today, as well, and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to see any of it. The last one I saw all the way through was a good game, with Pittsburgh doing a classic 2:00 drill to squeak past the Arizona Cardinals. I had the opportunity that year to spend the afternoon with my Father, my older Brother and his family, and a couple of Buddy's Pizzas (A Detroit tradition) and the familiar feeling of calm that can only be produced by a non-holiday family get-together.

That being said, I am silently rooting for Green Bay, so I can bring out my Cheese Head without opening myself up to ridicule.

Yes, I own a Cheese Head. Unashamedly.

But seriously.....The BLACK EYED PEAS? In DALLAS? REALLY?


One of my newest favorite people has admitted to Atheism. I'm trying to figure out it that means that they don't believe in a Deity, or they don't believe in any kind of Universal energy at all.

It's not a deal breaker. She will still be one of my newest favorite people.

In other news, Christians protected Muslims as they prayed yesterday, forming a human chain between the worshipping protesters and the tanks. Just when I begin to despair for the human race, something like this happens......


Rain, snow, a little cold.

But, whether the weather be cool, or whether the weather be hot, we'll be together whatever the weather, whether we like it or not.

(Play me off, Marcus!)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Can I get a "Doink-Doink!"?

This is quite possibly my favorite actor; and this is my favorite monologue from one of my favorite television programs. Twenty years was too short a season.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Post To Be Named Later......

A few posts ago, I wrote about some of my first footsteps into the world of the theatre; memories brought on by my recent return, albeit temporary, to the stage.

I did mention a girl named Cathy, whom I had a HUGE crush on.

Surprisingly, Cathy actually READ the post. And commented, privately, to me. It was a very nice comment, and we have been in touch for some time on the Gweat and Powewful FACEBOOK, and we've traded stories of how we got to this point.

I told you that it was another post, completely, and with apologies to Cathy (who's actual memories may vary), this is THAT post.

Let's get one thing straight. I was a lousy high school student.

Some things I excelled at, of course; I was fond of the theatre, I enjoyed playing an instrument in a couple of bands, and there was a creative writing class that was long on writing and short on creativity.....but there were some things I was terrible at....

The sciences and mathematics were just two of them....

It was a science course that put Cathy and I in the same vicinity, all those years ago. She was small, and cute, and she had this look in her eye that suggested that she knew far more than she let on. We wound up sitting near each other during the second semester of the class, and I think she did her best to keep me, well, if not ON track, at least in the stadium....and since it was a subject to which I had no real desire...well, it didn't take.

But she introduced me, in no small way, to some of the major influences that make me who I am.

Yup. Cathy's to blame. I can give you her address if you feel the need to castigate her in private.

Music, for one. Her family, I learned as I went, were very musically inclined, and she would tell stories of the music that sprung forth from her household. I imagined what such a household would be like; my imagination was filled with guitars and dulcimers, clanky pianos and firelight. The music was always accompanied by the sounds of a summer night....

The Marx Brothers. Truly, she did not so much introduce me to that lovely lunacy, but made it more clear. I'll admit that the first song I ever sang to a girl was, 'Hooray For Captain Spaulding.' She gave me that look; the one I described earlier....the one that suggests more knowledge than transmitted.

In fact, she was kind enough not to critique the voice, or call me an idiot.

Yeah. I had a crush on her. But at that time, at that place, there was no way on this side of Heaven that I was ever going to speak the words.

Cathy married her high school sweetheart; yeah, she had one that wasn't me. I have recollections of him, mostly in connection with Cathy's older brother Joe, whom I also knew and who ALSO influenced me. The things I most remember about the fellow is his smile was genuine, filled with light and life. I remember an intellect, as well; the kind of fellow you'd enjoy a wide conversation with. And, I also remember that he adored Cathy.

The last true recollection I have is seeing them together at some function; it may have been his graduation, it may have been ours....I'm not sure, but he had his arm around her, lightly, and he was smiling that smile. And Cathy had a look like that spot, right there, surrounded by his arm, was the safest place she would ever know.

They are still married.

And she is still kind.

And I still know all the words to 'Hooray For Captain Spaulding', just in case it should be needed again.

PS: I will not be writing a post about how Cathy's older brother Joe influenced me: if you really want to know, I encourage you to pick up any one of his albums; my personal favorites are Talk of Heaven, Short Man's Room, and Trampoline.

PPS: Hi, Joe. Just in case YOU'RE reading, as well.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Playing is better than not.

I haven't talked much about the actual experience of stepping onto the stage again...well, I did when I hit the grass during last summer's production of SHREW, but this one...indoors, in a community theatre. A new and interesting experience.

And before you start trying to....HistoriClemoize the term 'new and interesting', let me say that so far, it's been fun.

Again, for those of you who have been in the profession (and you know to whom I speak), it is immensely freeing during auditions and rehearsals when your behavior doesn't influence your next job, meal, or tank of gas out of town.

But I don't want to talk about the rehearsal period so much; not that it wasn't fun and all, but....

It's funny, but there is a special sort of agitation that comes with an opening night; it has always been, for me, a cross between Christmas morning, and being buried alive. There is joy at the idea of putting this thing in front of people to see if they respond (laugh, applaud, throw rocks and garbage); there is the feeling that it's time to put away the things of rehearsal, stop cooking and start eating. But on the flip side, all sorts of things go through your mind; "Where are my pants?" is usually the first thing. Followed by, "oh CRAP, I can't remember my first line!" and things of that nature.

It's a process that after many many repetitions becomes second nature: you enter the theatre, sign in, put your stuff down, check to make sure all costumes are there ("Ah, there are my pants."), go upstairs, walk the stage, listen to the silence for a second, go back, check the props, set the costumes for changes, take a deep breath, and go and find your make up.

There are trepidations: when you work professionally, you tend to trust instinctively; everybody has the same reasonable range of experiences, and have been hired to do a job, and are innately trustworthy to get the job done...and if they weren't, you'd know it in rehearsals, and either fire the poor wretch, or begin to build stabilizers in the event that said actor goes insane. In the community theatre, sometimes the basis of casting is because they can actually attend rehearsals. So, when the lights come down and the stage is peopled, you are never sure what you're gonna get...the rehearsal performance that was tuned over a matter of weeks, or a hellish nightmare brought on by the audience's reaction.

It is with great pleasure that I work with this particular group of people.

One definition of Amateur is somebody who does something for pleasure, rather than payment. There are a few people in this cast who have never stepped foot on a stage before, but thought this might be fun. There a few who have come back after a very long absence. And, there are a few who have been doing shows at this theatre for a long time. Each has brought unique perspective to the process, and reminded me a little of why we do this stupid s**t in the first place.

So, I've put on the makeup, run the first couple of pages of lines through my head just to make sure. For this particular production, I broke my own cardinal sin; I kept a script backstage. Some of the transitions come out of nowhere, and I would rather be prepared than look like a fool. I put on my costume, take a long swig of the Mountain Dew, and wait for the moment.

Standing behind a black curtain, I find that my legs hurt. I realize that the tension has all pooled in my legs, and I'm actually standing on my toes. I force my heels to the floor.

The cue comes.

Off I go.

During the first performance, I am more attuned to what the audience is doing; I'm keeping one ear to the ground. I have a pretty good idea of what's going to get a reaction from an audience, but they're weird, you're taking that extra beat after what you THINK will occur, to allow it. There is nothing worse than stepping on the first couple of reactions...because they'll shut up. They will. The dialogue is very important to them, and not laughing is better than stepping on dialogue.

This is the best and the worst part of the first performance; but at the same time, it is so fulfilling. It's like you become one with the Universe; this small Universe of people and costumes and things to sit on. And it's exhausting and exhilarating, when the response comes when you think it will...and controlling the space, and hitting the right notes at the right time.....

And, it's exhausting.

But you really only have to be that tuned once. There's still connection, there's always that concentration and that listening and that watching...but once the map is drawn, and you know where the land mines can drive a little more relaxed.

I'll tell you one thing that I don't like about the theatre.

It doesn't have a back door.

After all is over, I have to walk through the lobby to get to the street. And usually, there are still people in the lobby. I've never been one to actively seek praise, and am embarrassed by when it is thrust upon me; so, I put my head down, and leave as fast as I can....and if I am approached, I hope they don't see my ears turning red.

There are no review here, and that is fine with me; I have a couple of people I respect that see the show and offer critique, and it's been very positive.

And I get to do this for one more week. One more week of great audiences, one more week of exhausting scheduling, one more week to work the muscles that have been dormant for so long.

(Insert contented sigh here).