Monday, April 16, 2007

Give My Regards To Laurel

Back when I issued my friend test, one question was about what theater productions I was in. For those of you who haven't known me for the past 10 years or so, let me fill you in:

My first adult production in 1998 was Oklahoma!, the quintessential community theater performance. With Laurel (MD) Community Theater, I had a bit role as the guy who buys Curly's gun at the picnic basket auction, and sang in choruses for "Kansas City," "It's a Scandal! It's an Outrage!," "The Farmer and the Cowman," and the title piece.

Items of note:

  • Unlike this April, it was unbearably hot for these performances, and the AC couldn't be turned on in the school theater because it made too much noise.
  • I forgot my boots one night. Fortunately, LC dragged herself and the boots over to the theater in time for the performance after she'd worked 12 hours.
  • The guns with blanks used by Curly, Jud, and Aunt Eller repeatedly failed to work.
  • Our Will refused to dance for the Kansas City sequence, so we had to do it without him (which made little sense; he was supposed to teach US!). I am a hideous dancer. My poor friend Sorcie had to literally lift my pant legs at one point so that I could get the steps down. But I worked at it and did OK.
  • I was listed as the understudy for Jud, and before the last performance, the guy playing him totally snookered me into thinking he was sick; I had not really studied for his part, but I wouldn't mind having it in a future production. What was so wrong with Jud, anyway? He was a bit of a grump and dirty, but he wasn't a pompous blowhard like Curly.
  • The guy who played Will showed up rather hung over for one of the matinees. And our musical director arrived drunk to more than one rehearsal.
  • Of the three ladies who dressed in the can-can costumes during the dream sequence, two became pregnant soon after the performance. Must have been the costumes.
  • Speaking of which: After the "It's A Scandal!" song, I had quite a bit of time on my hands before intermission. So, during one performance, I headed back to the dressing room, which happened to be coed. Normally, the least you see anyone dressed is in his or her underwear. However, I walked in on the above-mentioned Sorcie who was about to put on her can-can costume (she's the one who didn't get preggers), the key words being "about to." She was, in the words of Radar O'Reilly, "naked with no clothes on." I did an immediate about-face, and my face was probably glowing red for the rest of the show.
  • Instead of giving us notes before each performance, the director gave them to us afterward. Even after the last one. Not the most encouraging guy in the world.
  • I made a huge save during the title song. After the lines "Brand new state! Gonna treat you great!," one of the characters was supposed to sing, "Gonna give you barley / Carrots and pertaters." He later admitted he was getting into the song so much, he completely forgot to come back in. The band vamped for another four measures. So I sang the line, and things continued from there.
Next was Dracula with the Burtonsville Players (actually, also in Laurel) later in 1998. Purists don't like the Balderston-Deane adaptation of the Stoker epistollary novel, and I do not recommend reading the latter at night on a redeye flight across the U.S. My good friend Jeff Lesniak (DB, for "Dittoboy") directed. His lovely wife ("Da Queen") suggested I read for the Attendant, and I got the part. B&D brought the Attendant in as a bit of comic relief, but he was also befuddled by why Renfield would never stay in his room.

Items of note:
  • Let's get this one out of the way early. The most embarrassing thing ever to happen to me on stage was in one performance where I was to make a pass at the Maid, get slapped, and then produce a mouse out of my pocket to scare her to death. I put my hand in my pocket and pulled out . . . a whole lot of no mouse. Not really having been coached in ad lib, the rest of the scene wound up being a train wreck. I was so upset at myself, but fortunately my friend Drew, who was playing Van Helsing, encouraged me to shrug it off and move on.
  • The Maid was played by a lesbian lady who was quite nice and never wore a skirt save in this performance, but she sadly rejected my gift of flowers at the run's end. So I gave them to LC instead.
  • The sound of a gunshot was supposed to be played at the sight of the bat in one scene, but the sound didn't work. I dashed around backstage and found two 2x4s to clap together after what seemed like a half hour of silence.
  • The effect of Drac leaving the room so quickly through a hidden door after first scaring Mina was really well done. He came walking back into the room just a second or two after the deed. My mom was quite startled by that.
In 1999, I joined up with the Rude Mechanicals of, yep, Laurel for the first of two Shakespeare plays. I actually nabbed a starring role in A Midsummer Night's Dream, playing Demetrius, one of the lovers. That was fun. We did this in a contemporary setting.

Items of note:
  • My female counterparts and objects of my affection, Helena and Hermia, were two 15-year-olds. At one point, Helena covers my mouth with her hand. Once, I licked it. :-D Before one performance, the actress playing Helena had such a bad headache that I started massaging her neck and temples the same way I would for LC. After the play, she called us her "mommy and daddy." That's her on the left in this album cover photo with her real mommy and daddy (click to enlarge).
  • Puck was played quite well by the most talented actress in the cast. Normally, Puck is male.
  • When Puck leads Lysander and Demetrius to chase each other through the forest, Lysander decided to do some of the Karate Kid moves in urging me to fight him. I responded with the Ali Shuffle. Puck did a great job of mimicking both.
  • Our Bottom was over the top. He practically ran the 440 in the process of dying during the "play within a play" at the end of the performance.
  • Someone in the audience was heard to say that our Titania had the worst British accent she'd ever heard. Except that our Titania WAS British.
After returning from three months' exile vacation work in Florida in early 2000, I rejoined the Rude Mechanicals for Much Ado About Nothing. I was slated to become Borachio, the bad guy, but because of a family commitment during the run, I took the role of one of the guards, the unlikely heroes of the play.

Items of note:
  • I had a heel spur when I returned from Florida from too much walking in sand, so I rehearsed in a big medical boot to stabilize my ankle. Eventually, some painful cortisone shots did the trick.
  • My buddy and fellow guard Arthur and I sang various songs as we marched across stage: "Heigh Ho," "Oh-WE-oh" from The Wizard of Oz, and the Imperial Death March from The Empire Strikes Back.
  • One of my jobs was to strike down Conrade while accusing him of trying to interfere with Hero's betrothal to Claudio. I hit him across the shoulders with my forearm in good pro wrestling style, but once I managed to hurt him. Good thing we were good friends; this martial arts master (the husband of Sorcie above) could whoop me with one hand and four other fingers tied behind his back. And that's before he would even make contact with me.
And last, and furthest from least, 1776 with 2nd Star Productions in Bowie (that's "BOO-ee," not "BO-ee" like the singer). I had the role of Samuel Chase of "Mary-land." Actually, I was just about the same age in this performance as Chase was when he signed the Declaration of Independence. Chase would go on to become a Supreme Court justice and have quite a row with Thomas Jefferson, resulting in Jefferson impeaching him.

Items of note:
  • What a cast, as you see in the show link. This was no group of hackers; many of these actors had 20 or even 30 years of theater experience. They definitely helped me elevate my performance. But even so, there was no snobbery among the members. We were a tight unit, and I think our dinners and cast parties were the most enjoyable of all the productions I'd been in.
  • The set was exquisite, and got applause when the lights came up. The band was excellent.
  • I was the only one allowed to use his own walking stick, a wood-carved one which I was given when I had the bad foot.
  • I wish I'd gotten to sing more; the only songs I was in were the first two, "Sit Down, John" and "Piddle Twiddle."
  • I got a couple complaints that I wasn't fat enough to play Chase; he was rather heavyset. Now, I'd probably have no such problem. :-)
  • I made the rest of the cast hungry because in each performance, I had to eat a turkey leg while boring legislation was being dealt with. Then I had to speak to Adams while holding said leg. I tried to have a bit of skin hanging off for emphasis. After marching offstage to New Jersey to investigate some "whoring and drinking" among the troops, I would go behind the theater and ceremoniously hurl the turkey leg into the woods.
  • My next entrance was once Rutledge of South Carolina finished his powerful song, "Molasses to Rum to Slaves." We would knock knuckles as he came off. A couple years later, LC and I ran across the actor who played Rutledge here in Frederick as he was off to another performance.
  • While waiting backstage, the lady who played Abigail and I ran lines for "Midsummer" which she had also been in as Helena.
  • Many thanks to the guy who played Franklin and his partner, who dropped me off at home after I locked my keys in the car after the final cast party.
I really want to return to the stage. All I need now is a job with more regular hours.

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