So I mentioned in a previous post how I fell in love with live community theater and that, at some point, I would share some of the stories from my days treading the boards.
I have to be careful when I share anecdotes because, well, there were others involved and as much as I'd like to share that time a 50-something (supposedly) former Radio City Rockette seduced her 20-year-younger cast mate, therefore causing all kinds of awkwardness, not to mention nearly causing the entire local community theater group to disband.
That would get me in hot water, I would imagine.
And then there's the risk of committing a classic Guess-You-Had-To-Be-There kind of offense. You know, you're having cocktails with friends and telling them what you remember as being the funniest friggin thing that ever happened to you. You've got tears in your eyes and can barely tell the story, but when you're finished you straighten from a bent-over-clutching-your-sides-position, and everyone is staring at you like you've just shit your pants in a public place.
So ... I'll try to stick to stories that don't damage the reputation of others (more than they have themselves anyway) or stories with a lot of inside jokes.
Ok. Here's one.
I was cast as "Prez" in the musical "The Pajama Game." This is a rollicking good show, with big songs, quirky characters, and a really typical 1950's plot. Meaning, cheesy.
It takes place in a pajama factory in the Midwest. Our set, therefore, comprised three or four rows of desks, maybe four desks deep, lined up at an angle to the audience. The first row of desks were adorned with honest-to-God sewing machines. Big, ugly, cast iron and steel machines.
The desks in the rows behind them had mere plywood cutouts of machines, to properly extend the illusion of being in a pajama factory without having to go out and find 40 of these machines.
Well, we produced our musicals at the local private academy's auditorium, which meant that after our mid-run Sunday afternoon show, we had to clear the stage for the school. So, at intermission, we moved the biggest items off the stage, down a flight of stairs to the basement beneath the stage.
We had a fire brigade set up. Two hands to each desk. And one by one we lugged these things down the stairs.
I got paired up with a lovely older woman whose name I will not mention here. But she was a lovely person, very quiet, very friendly. A nice Vermonter. The kind of person who bakes things for people for no reason.
We had the misfortune of being last in the fire brigade line, which meant we got saddled with one of the front desks. One of the real sewing machines. Heavy as a Chevy.
She and I grunted and groaned our way off the stage, to the back set of stairs, and proceeded to descend. I opted, chivalrously, to be on the bottom so that she did not have to risk hurting her back going down the stairs. I had the desk resting on my angled back while she took much of the weight off by pulling toward her as we descended the stairs. It was a pretty good partnership. Until I lost consciousness.
Here's what I remember.
From my meek, lovely, quiet, baker, lifting partner.
Then there was a very angry-feeling thud against the back of my head and then I was standing in the women's dressing room staring at the Miss Former Rockette as she primped her fishnet stockings (okay, remember that image: a 50-something, unnaturally blond woman with NO right to be showing off her legs, standing there in fishnet stockings...it comes up a little later in the story).
What happened was that the crew had failed to brace the sewing machine to the desk itself. It was unhinged. It was free to float. Down onto my head.
And my shrinking violet moving partner tried to warn me the best way she could when she shouted (in a whisper of course) "Oh. Dear."
It hit my head so hard that I don't remember putting the desk down. I don't remember walking to the women's dressing room. And here's the "kicker."
I was in the number to open the second half, singing and dancing in a number called "Steam Heat" a Bob Fossi, hands-hands-hands jazz number, with the gloves and vest and hat and cane and legs kicking.
The former Rockette (yeah, sure, and I'm a former porn star) choreographed the number and led me and three other male cast members in it. She was the talk of the show. And I'm not being nice. the point is ...
I DON'T REMEMBER DOING IT!
Later that night, after the show, my wife said it was the best she had ever seen me dance.
This was before I told her I had been hit in the head by a Freightliner.
"It was kinda neat," she said. "You were, um, really kinda loose up there."
I wish there was a video of it. I could have urinated right off the edge of the stage into the orchestra pit and not remember it.
But, true to my professionalism, I carried on despite the concussion which, by the way, ends the careers of most professional athletes.
At the end of the show's run, my non-loud friend baked me a pie because she felt so bad about it. She truly felt like it was her fault. At the cast party she presented the pie to me and said "I'm so, so sorry," (whispering of course) and I said, "Thanks! Um...sorry for what?"
"Dropping the sewing machine on your head."
"Wait. There were sewing machines in this show?"