Tuesday, January 31, 2006

My first day in costume

I have no idea how I continue to draw breath. Eight hours teaching, two hours scurrying around the suburbs looking for a cheap pair of overalls, half an hour standing in line behind an irate soccer mom who came to return a coffee maker, half an hour standing around, three or four hours of straight rehearsal (which entails a lot of standing around for myself) and flubbing my lines, and now, instead of popping off to sleep, I'm here to bore the Internet community with the trite details of a High School Play Production.

Be that as it may, I did get in costume today. My Captain costume.

It's imposing, with gold medals and a shirt so starched you could play pool on it. It's also made of wool and itches like hell. My legs look like a Chernobyl survivor's, but the respect the uniform commands is not to be underestimated.

No matter. I still flubbed my lines. Partly because other people flubbed theirs. Acting in a high school musical, I'm starting to think, is a lot like running a concession stand: it's a fuck of a lot harder than it looks. I never thought it was easy, truth be known, but now, while waiting for my cue ("Hey everyone! Let's go to Washington and let 'em know what we knows!"), I'm apt to zone out, wonder if I should be grading papers, wonder if I should have assigned papers in the first place, wonder if I'd be missed before I made it ten steps out the door...only to realize that my new cue had come and gone ("Hey everyone! Let's get to Washington and tell the President where he can send his bombs from now on!"). It's amazing how often a cue line turns to "Oh, shit" when the stakes are high.

Anyway, I didn't come here to tell you all that.

If Tso is correct, the Cult is back together. And while Tso's politics leave a lot to be desired in the way of...oh, what's the word I'm looking for...reality...he's rarely wrong about concerts.

The Cult. Back. This March.

Life suddenly has meaning again. Screw the play. My new line is, "Gentlemen, peace is a dirty word."

Thursday, January 26, 2006

What's my motivation? Getting off this hot stage and into a cool bottle of vodka:

hurriedly scratched out longhand, to be transcribed later. at the time, this felt like something worth taking down. now, I'm wondering why the hell I didn't just stay in bed an extra fifteen minutes.
The past several practices have been a piece of cake compared to what we've been doing this week. For starters, we're not allowed to use our scripts any more. Secondly, we have to walk while delivering our lines. And finally, the kids, who have known their lines since the New Year began and are probably wondering why in hell they agreed to work with a bunch of surly old farts like us in the first place, are now pushing and prodding us gently, reminding the slackers (not me), distracted (sometimes me) and raging incompetents (definitely me) that Opening Night in this case does not refer to the next baseball season.

So I've done some tripping over my own feet, listening to my heart race as I deliver my lines in a deathless monotone that would make Ben Stein proud. We got out of there at 8 one night, 8:30 the next, 9:30 the following. If we stay true to course, we won't even have to leave the theater in order to arrive when the show premieres.

The kicker: some of these guys and gals are eating their parts for breakfast. They are fantastic. If the character is elderly, a twenty-something sophomore teacher can make herself sound like her nickname has been Granny for the past twenty years. If the character is hillbilly, our resident art teacher can make himself look like he ought to be playing a moonshine jug in a backwoods band. Other hillbillies make James Dickey's ensemble look like the frigging Smurfs.

And then there's me. Pivoting and marching on stage and off for a grand total of five seconds apiece.

TAKE 1: "Gentlemen, I'd like to debrief you right down the road."
TAKE 2: "Gentlemen gentlesladies, your briefs are right down the road."
TAKE 3: "Gentlemen, the road to briefing is less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."
TAKE 4: "Gentlemen, the road to debriefing is within all of you. Now get our there or I'll shoot your asses."

I mean, seriously, when you wait around to deliver one line (though I am not complaining--it satisfactorally cuts down on the amount of singing and dancing I'll wind up having to do for this bad boy--I convinced the director I couldn't do the Stomper number because it would throw out my back), that one line takes on the magnitude of the 127 lines another character has to deliver. There's no diffusion. No saturation.

No way to go unnoticed if you screw it up.

TAKE 21: "Gentlemen, what's the deal with debriefing? I mean, when you demystify someone, you're taking away the mystery, right? And when you deform, your form is not good. So if you want the brief, let's de the de, am I right?" (insert Seinfeld theme here)

I know, I know. Don't worry. I haven't quit my day job. It's my day job that got me in this frigging mess in the first place.