Wednesday, October 22, 2008
All the World Is My Stage. So...Get Off.
Acting. It is in my blood. Along with hemoglobin that transports oxygen from my lungs to the far reaches of my body. Acting--while not a metalloprotein but really more an ability to pretend really well--transports my brilliant facial expressions of surprise and dismay to the eyes of an audience sitting in a theater. It carries my really loud voice outward to the ears of grateful people waiting to be entertained. Acting transfers my enormous stage presence to the hands of theatergoers and manifests itself in the form of thunderous applause and repeated curtain calls. And as I curtsy my way off the stage in an entirely humble manner, I will know that my audience will leave changed for the better. If they didn't enjoy the theater before, they certainly will after seeing me on stage.
I was first bit by the acting bug in first grade, cast in my break-out role as the queen in "The King and Queen Who Wouldn't Speak." I later insisted on a title change that gave my role a bit more prominence. "The Queen Who Was Awesome and Everybody Loved Her" was an enormous success. As I fell upon my sword at the end of the production, much to the dismay of my teacher, Mrs. Votapka (who did not understand the importance of ad libbing), my fellow cast mates stood around in awe. Most likely because I had rigged a blood pouch hidden under my robes to rupture upon the sword point. It was spectacular indeed. Several kids threw up, and someone's grandma died.
In second grade, I was cast as Mother in the hit play "Tom the Turkey," wherein a brave turkey took on the corporate farmer who intended to slaughter him for the Thanksgiving feast. When Tom began to stutter over his lines, I confiscated his beak and wattle and began to perform my part and his simultaneously. When the axe was about to fall at the end of the production, snuffing out Tom's life and his hopes and dreams for a happy existence, I, as Mother, stepped in and saved my own life. And then, I performed a musical number on the spot about the importance of ham.
In third grade, I broadened my horizons just a little and dabbled in puppet theater. We fashioned our own puppets out of tennis balls with yarn for hair and glue-on googly eyes. My puppet arrived at our production of "Say No to Heroin" in a stylish pink Corvette borrowed from Barbie for the afternoon.
Through fourth and fifth grade, I began to face issues with typecasting. "Dancer #5?!" I raged. "Shopkeeper wearing hat?!" Entirely unsatisfied, I searched the prop closet for a sword upon which could throw myself.
In sixth grade, I was cast as one of the seven deadly sins in "Pandora's Box." I portrayed Pride. It was the performance of a lifetime. In order to prepare for the part, I went out into the streets of my very small town and talked to people who were more prideful than I. A minister. My grandma. A guy carrying a tuba. And then I rushed to my dressing chambers to begin to tear into the part of Pride with the kind of gusto usually associated with Richard Burbage or a young Dustin Hoffman.
But as time went on and I entered junior high, my acting career fell to the wayside. I began performing in the private theater on the landing in our house, writing and producing plays that my brothers inevitably turned into comedies with their fart jokes and unapproved costumes and props. In one production of "I Am Dying and Am Dead," my older brother arrived for his performance as Mackley the Zombie Cab Driver wearing a giant sandwich costume from the previous Halloween.
My one last great performance on the stage was as a Munchkin in our high school's production of The Wizard of Oz. I auditioned to be a member of the Lullaby League, but my voice was too deep. My vocal teacher compared it to Edith Piaf gargling the phlegm of Barry White. I then turned my hopes toward the Lollipop Guild but was again turned away and in devastation threw myself upon my oversized lollipop in despair. I played the part of Munchkin #12 with hardly any enthusasm at all. I just mouthed along to the words of "Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead" and at one point gave Dorothy the finger.
I have since completely retired from acting, although there are certainly times when I am called upon to be dramatic. In a cab going the wrong direction. When I forget to put on deodorant. It is at these times that I raise my fist into the air and cry, "Oh, happy dagger!" and hurl myself onto a sharp object found in my purse, releasing both my acting and my hemoglobin out onto the dirty ground.
That little trick still makes the kids throw up.