Thursday, March 31, 2005

Theater memories

Concentration has never been my strong suit, and a typical day of translation work is peppered with internet searches for something urgent, such as an early 1950s-vintage Citroën Traction (more on that another time). That I am supposed to appear on stage and sing a song Friday in front of 100 or so strangers as part of my voice workshop is not helping me to concentrate (more on that in a few days if I survive). But it is making my daydreaming performance-oriented.

My last – and only – period of intense theater activity took place in high school, between the ages of 15 and 17. As this was Long Island, NY in the 1970s, the repertoire was the American musical comedies of the 1940s and 1950s (you have to please the parents): South Pacific, Carousel, Kiss Me Kate, Bye Bye Birdie and others. The memory that pops into my head was from a summer production of Applause, the then-recent Broadway adaptation of the 1950 film All About Eve.

I rarely had a major role in these shows because they all required solo singing. Maybe that’s why I’m doing a voice workshop now, though it’s a wee bit late. So I was usually in the chorus, which required singing, but no solos. My friend L., however, landed a minor role in Applause. It was minor compared to the major roles, but it was major compared to the chorus. This status got L. access to the “stars” dressing room. He liked that. To stoke my jealousy, he described the scene. Among other things, the stars often had to make elaborate costume changes at lightning speed, and there wasn't enough space for privacy. He liked that, too. Would I like to see for myself, he magnanimously offered.

A few days later, during one of the dress rehearsals, L. and I wandered into the “stars” dressing room, deep in conversation (on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, if I remember correctly), as nonchalantly as we could manage. Sure enough, there was F., who played the leading role of Margo Channing, her top half bereft of all clothing, her face attended by a make-up artist, her look generally fretful. Satisfied, L. suggested we continue our conversation (by now we had moved on to Much Ado about Nothing) elsewhere, as it was noisy in the “stars” dressing room.

During one of the performances a few days later, I took advantage of a few scenes in which I didn’t have any entrances to watch the play from the wings. After a few minutes, N., playing Eve Harrington, the other leading female role, appeared, looked around anxiously and asked me, could I hold this dress for her please. She then made her entrance in the next scene. A few minutes later F. appeared.

“What are you doing here?” It was all she could do to keep her voice a whisper.
“I’m watching the show.”
“What are you doing with that dress?”
“N. asked me to hold it for her.”
“Give me that. You just want to see N’s tits.”

Over the years, whenever this scene has wafted forward in time from its never-too-distant hiding place at the mouth of some cerebral cave, it has always been accompanied by the responses I could have offered, but didn’t.

Defensive: “But I was just standing here …”
Apologetic: “I really was rather boorish the other day, wasn't I?”
Wise guy: “Oh, is that why she asked me to hold it?”
Vicious: “Not to worry. If they’re anything like yours, I won’t be sticking around.”

Alas, never was a young face whiter, a young jaw slacker, young eyes wider and a young mind blanker than mine were that evening. I handed her the dress and fled.

On Friday I’ll be singing Un Homme Heureux (William Sheller) as part of a duet. Wish us luck!

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At 12:37 AM, Blogger Warrior said...

you crack me up and have given me an idea too, maybe I can translate my play into french and get you a leading role too.

At 1:26 AM, Blogger David Santa Cruz said...

Convocamos a todos los blogueros del mundo a que el día 4 de abril a realicen un solo post,para protestar por los asesinatos de miles de focas bebes, escribe lo que gustes contra esta cruel matanza, sube fotos, se creativo, protesta contra esa masacre de seres vivos.

(si puedes traducirlo a otro idioma y mandarlo hazlo)

The nex april 4 we invite all blogers in the world to post just ones, ones against the murder of baby seels in Canada. Post anything you belive, maybe text or maybe photos but do someting, against these crimes against living beings.
(if you can translate it to another lenguage do it an post it)


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