Sunday, December 03, 2006

My First Dash Through the Snow...

Did I ever mention that I haven't acted onstage in a play since my freshman year in college? It's true. That was in 1986. 20 years ago. I did forensics (speech and oral interp) in college, but I was far from great. I had lots of potential, but was distracted by part-time jobs, study and of course, music, the biggest distractor of all! (Only back then I just listened to it and collected it rather than playing it.)

But I've been onstage hundreds of times since then in Chicago Gay Men's Chorus, in which I used to sing for 8 years. That was sort of different, though--I was one of the stalwart "chorus" members, who just propped up the back wall, didn't have a solo, wasn't usually part of a small group ensemble, and (thankfully) didn't have to dance.

So imagine my trepidation Friday night as Jodi the Stage Manager called "places" for the opening of "Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer." I had been fine before that--David Cerda asked me "aren't you nervous?" I replied that I wasn't, really. For some reason, I felt comfortable in the environment. I'd been playing in the pit band for "Caged Dames" and was practically IN the audience, while performing, for the whole run. The actors at least have a buffer of about 3 1/2 feet from the audience. Any crazed fan would have to run up the stage stairs to knife them. As for me, they could have just shivved me in the back with a nail file right there on the floor and nobody'd have been any the wiser.

Nevertheless, I felt the familiar butterflies Friday night at 10:00 as the blizzard sound effects came up and the cute young elf actors stood next to me delivering offstage lines. By the time I came onstage to berate Elfano (Terry McCarthy), I was experiencing that "tunnel vision" you adopt so that you don't have to see audience members in your peripheral vision. It helped, since I only had to look directly at Terry, utter my two lines and chase him off the stage. My next entrance was at the end of the "Christmastown" song, when I chase all the other cast members offstage for my scene with Mrs. Claus (Ed Jones). By then, I was calmed down a bit.

The entire show Friday went great. The house was packed (even with the weather), I didn't miss any lines (although I was less than pleased with my diction in a few places) and all the cues were right on.

Last night was a little rougher. A few of the sound cues were off a little bit (they'd recently been split in a few places and were reorganized), Ed was quite under the weather (although he still performed wonderfully), and the booze bottle that I use to coerce him into doing a lewd striptease in our first scene together (yes, folks, you MUST see this show!) lost its cap and splashed its contents over him. (We never did find the cap--I must have loosened it so much during my lines that it fell off or something. I told him I'd bring a cork for the next performance to stop it up.) All in all, though, it's been going well.

Another thing I'd forgotten about was the culture of the dressing room between scenes. In college, our theatre dressing room was pretty huge (well, it was a prop room, too). Not the Bailiwick! Space is very limited. We're sharing all the space with Bare Naked Lads, so we have to pack everything very carefully and last night, many things were missing right before the show since Jodi and Ed had had to pack all the props in boxes at the end of the night.

We also have one cast member who shall remain nameless, but sadly, not voiceless. I'm thinking of bringing a stash of Willy Wonka's Everlasting Gobstoppers to keep this particular gob busy until it's needed onstage. Or perhaps a small dose of morphia. For me.

But, on reflection, this was all part of my original theatre experience in the 80s, too, so this has been sort of a homecoming for me. It's almost like I just started my adulthood over. And I'm seriously thinking about using this experience to examine my life and change it. I think it's time. I made some really dumb choices during and after college because I was too timid and lacked confidence. I thought, stupidly, that silence would save me, and by being nondescript I could find some measure of happiness and security.

Well, I didn't. So fuck it. I have a feeling 2007 is going to be a year of big changes (hopefully for the better). Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I will take you all on my "Rudolph" journey with me! Come see the show! Details at Hell in a Handbag's website.


Blogger BC Kalz said...

You are such a natural on stage, Aaron! I would never guess it had been 20 years since your last show. Keep up the great work!

11:34 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Thanks, doll! And I can't wait to work together again!

10:32 AM  
Blogger Brigitte said...

I'm sorry I had to miss your Chicago theatre acting debut. I was suffering through a case of strep throat (which I haven't had since college) I hear you were wonderful and now I'm very excited to read about your acting process.

4:43 PM  
Blogger dirk.mancuso said...

"...coerce him into doing a lewd striptease in our first scene together."

If I weren't already planning on catching this show, this removed any doubt...

2:15 PM  

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