Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Paticus' Past: Volume 5: 'She'll be back knocking down Captain Keller's fences in no time"

I thought I would tell you about my acting debut...Now, I'm not talking about playing the tree in the nature play in 1st grade, or even when I played Prince Charming's coachman in the Ralph S. Maugham School production of Cinderella...I don't know what you might call those "performances"...You certainly wouldn't call them acting, that's for sure...Well, I guess Hillary Swank might call them acting, but I certainly wouldn't...No, I am talking about my TRUE acting debut, and excepting a one-off appearance as Santa Claus in a Senior Class Christmas Pageant skit I co-wrote called "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace Love and Understanding", also my retirement from the stage.

The year was 1987, and it was announced that the Fall Drama production would be "The Miracle Worker". Me and my best pal JZ decided that,as seniors, we should try out for the play. I believe my choice of reading was the "John Bender/Principal Vernon Confrontation" from "The Breakfast Club", and if I do say so myself, I was stunning. I really nailed the "Don't mess with the bull, young man. You'll get the horns" line, and I firmly believe that my grasp of that authority is the reason that I scored the role of "The Doctor". JZ scored a role too, but for the life of me, I cannot remember what role he played. Oh well, this is all about me anyway.

That's right, boys and girls. I played the doctor who told Helen Keller's parents that she would be just fine. It's a small but pivotal role,it really makes or breaks the whole play, if you ask me.

Things were going relatively well...I had an easier time remembering my lines than I had feared, but I apparently did have one acting quirk. Here is how I found out about it...

Director: Okay, that was good. Paticus, can I talk to you.
Paticus: Sure thing.
Director: are your glasses too loose ?
Paticus: No, I don't think so. They're brand new in fact.Why do you ask ?
Director: Because you are almost constantly adjusting them.
Paticus: really ?
Director: Yes. And honestly, it's quite distracting.
Paticus: Oh. okay. I'll work on that.
Director: Please do.

In retrospect, I should have claimed that it was part of my "method", that in order to play the bumbling, inept Doctor, I thought he needed a physical quirk. Alas, I did not think that quickly.

Here's the other thing...have you ever had someone point out something like that to you ? It became almost IMPOSSIBLE for me to not do it. I also discovered that it was (and probably still is) something I do when I am nervous. I adjust my glasses. Quite macho and studly of me, no ?But have you ever tried to STOP doing something you were previously unaware you did ? It becomes hard to think about anything else. And as I said, I discovered that it was something I did all the time.

Here's where I would love to say that I, in the spirit of Helen Keller, defeated my own physical quirk, but...alas and alack, I did not. I kept doing it. Finally, the Director had a brainstorm.

Director:Paticus, what would you do if you only had one arm ?
Paticus: eat with the other one, I suppose ?
Director: Well, from now on, the Doctor only has one arm.
Paticus: Okay.

It was genius. And it worked. Mostly. My last performance, I did attempt to adjust my glasses(which I was not even wearing), but I played it off rather well with a thoughtful head scratch, certainly something in character for a country doctor. I also blame that little miscue on the fact that my head was covered in white shoe polish(for nurses shoes) in order to make me look age appropriate for the Doctor. we had already went through the supply of regular white hair dye the first two nights, so we had to improvise, and the white shoe polish was all we could find. The fumes were a bit much, to Say the least, but the show must go on, and all that.

My first night, however, did not go so well. All through the rehearsals, we were told the same thing..."If you miss a line, keep going. Do NOT go back and say the line." Over and over we were told this.Over and over.

Can you guess what Paticus did on opening night ? That's right, I got a massive erection just as the curtain was raised...No, I'm kidding...I, of course, muffed a line...Okay, that's not the end of the world, just keep going...right ? Don't go back, just skip the line...Keep going...No...I stopped talking...backtracked, retrieved the line, and said it. Nice.

Of course, this was the night that all of my family and friends were there. Most of them were very nice, didn't say anything. Of course, my friend Jeff said 'You fucked up" as soon as he saw me afterwards. You can always count on your friends to keep you humble.

the rest of the cast was very nice about it, but that was mostly because in the scheme of things, my faux pas was not that bad, and it was actually eclipsed by someone else in the cast.

As I came offstage, the Director smiled and patted me on the back. I was only in the opening scene, so I had the next three hours to sulk backstage and be overly dramatic about my mistake. Then something happened.

I will stop short of saying that something wonderful happened, because even though it worked out well for me, I am not happy that it happened, and I would not have wished it to happen either. Having said that, it did wipe my little gaffe right out of the public consciousness.

Let me set the stage(pun fully intended)- there is a scene in the play where Annie Sullivan is interacting with the kids at the school where she teaches. the kids are imploring her about something, and they all have lines that sort of play off of what one another is saying. This particular night, in this particular scene, one of the girls started giggling. And never stopped giggling through the whole scene. Did not deliver ONE of her lines. So the other kids were essentially throwing out semi-non-sequiturs. Not good. Not good at all. I felt bad for her, but sorta good for me.

Man was everyone mad at her. And my little mistake was mostly forgotten...By everyone but me, of course. It has haunted me every day since. I often wake up screaming..."Don't go back !! Just keep going!! Don't go back !!" I tell My Special Lady that I was having a nightmare about my time in the Boy Scouts.

So there you have it. My acting debut as a one-armed incompetent country Doctor.

No comments: