Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Curtains! (Part Three)

The last couple of days, I've been 'putting to bed' my one man show, on which I've been working the last couple of months. Where I left off yesterday, I was just on the verge of the first performance. With a variety of stresses on my mind, I had to focus my energy on the last things I had to get done for the show. There was that headshot to think of. I had procrastinated, and it became too late to come up with something terribly good. Eventually the best I could do was to find the highest-resolution picture prominently featuring my face that I had on hand. Then I made a desperate last-minute run to the mall, hoping against hope that I could find ink cartridges to fit MY printer, which you'll be aware is not easy (I suspect I'll be writing about that at length in future). Luck was with me, and I was able to find them and print out that picture, in addition to certain visual aids that 'Twain' would require for his lecture. The show then beckoned...

The day of the first performance, I had little to do before hand, which was fine by me. At the appointed time, I headed out to catch the bus. An interesting monkey wrench here was thrown into the works. I had always wondered why there were both the 180 and the 181 buses, both seemingly running the same route. Well, on this occasion I found out just where they diverge, and without any warning. The upshot of this was that with half an hour before my call time, I found myself some two miles away from the show location with no means to traverse the distance except my feet. I had to get there on time, as we had yet to fully hammer out the technical cues pertaining to the music I had selected (banjo covers of The Beatles' "Get Back" and Lynard Skynard's "Freebird, along with a conventional version of "Bonnie Blue Flag"). You can imagine that I really hustled in order to not be late. I hope I'm not sharing too much in saying that my shirt was soaked through with sweat by my exertions. It paid off.

The first show went well. A good number of people came for me, and I think I managed not to disappoint. I did about as well as I did on any single occasion. I was only performing the first half of my total show, so it was easy to give it my all. I would like to have do it all at once, to make things easier on my friends, but then some could only make one night or the other anyway. In any case, it was a good night. There was some anxiety as my moment was imminent, but mostly I was able to enjoy the fruit of each performer's labor and not just my own. Everyone had worked so hard, and it showed in all respects. I can't speak for others, but I celebrated by going home, scrounging up some meager meal, then finishing reading the autobiography of Roger Moore which I had picked up earlier in the week. Extremely pleasing was to then see the still photographs of my performance which had been taken by one of my friends. He's really very gifted, and the proof lies in his ability to make me look by turns both talented as an actor and possessive of an ominous and physically imposing presence.

The second show went as well as the first, and I was grateful for this as I had been somewhat less sanguine about my show's second half. I hadn't managed to perform in before live audiences as much, and it seemed as if it might not be quite as strong of material. Those fears were allayed by the audience's response, which was almost uniformly positive. My piece being of a comic nature, I could depend on laughter telling me how I was doing, unlike others doing more dramatic material. It seems to me that that kind of resonance in an audience can't be detected until well after the moment, so how is one to know how to move on from misses and double down on successes? I guess you really can't, so you have to chart out what you're going to do and have faith in it all the way through. You see how I still think as an improviser first.

After each performance, there was a 'talk back', where the audience could give comments and ask questions. It was neat. I don't have an easy time processing praise, but I enjoy talking about the process, so there was that. I wish more people had things to say, but that did improve the second night. It was extremely gratifying to see some of the people who had come. With some I had hoped, but was sincerely caught by surprise and simply delighted that they cared enough. It's a lot to ask, as it was quite a distance and everybody has stuff like this going on periodically. A person just can't make it to everything, so that they did come meant a lot to me. After the whole thing was done, a handful of us went to a nearby diner, spending most of the time discussing the finer points of tailoring stand-up comedy to the venue and audience one is faced with. I had a roast beef sandwich with fries and clam chowder- truly a meal fit for someone who had just conquered the world of scripted theater.

Tomorrow, I'll tell of the post-script which was our own instructor's performance the following night!

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