Tuesday, June 25

In the Arena

Like gladiators waiting their turn in battle, the actors wait anxiously to perform.The Actor's Table of Eugene was started by Judy MacKenzie as a homage to her late sister. A year later I finally get to join in the fun. The crowd at Tsunami Books is large and enthusiatic. 

We sit in the "green room" a quaint term for any place where actors sit, stash their stuff or rehearse. This one is a large store room in the back of the store with a book shelf on one side, extra chairs stacked neatly in a corner and a very large window letting in the afternoon light. No matter how well prepared an actor is there is always an air of nervousness before a performance. Everyone has their rituals: some sit quietly, some engage in minor chit-chat or checks their costumes. If someone needs to be left alone we leave them alone. Some pace, some go over their lines, some pass the time checking their ubiquitous cell phones.

I glance at my script to remind myself of cues, do this do that but other wise give it a cursory scan, assured that I have my lines down. I'm dressed for the part, dark blue pants and short sleeve work shirt . A prop ID badge that I made up hangs around my neck. It's a nice touch. The mop and bucket I'll use as a prop is tucked in the corner of the stage.

Jen, our emcee strides before the crowd and give her clever introduction to the show and reminds folks to turn off their cell phones. Her dire threats work because I didn't hear a single one during the show. I'm the third act out of fifteen which suit me fine, the earlier I end the stress of  waiting, the better. I step up on stage and aside from a momentary blank I stay in the moment, the script tucked in my pocket.

"That's where he sat. . .this guy. . ." I begin Penn Station by William Monstrisimone. It''s a poignant glimpse of a lonely janitor and the almost forgotten longing for love and companionship that haunts her. I've wanted to do this piece ever since I read it years ago. I missed the chance once before and I'm thrilled to finally do it here. Uncut it runs about seven minutes but me and the director Laura, edit it down to under five. Even then I'm daunted at the task or memorizing it.

"He looks me straight in the eye with this smile and goes 'how ya doin' ". . . .

I used to be a janitor long ago so I know how it feels to be invisible. I too have never been in love and her pathos speaks volumes to me. I'm a bit nervous but it works for the character , who is almost a bit nervous at the possibilities she encounters.  But the opportunity doesn't turn out the way she dreamed and she returns to her sad little life.

"How ridiculous would that be- a janitor with lipstick." she ends sardonically. I leave the stage amid applause and the relief of getting it right. Afterwards I'm touched by compliments from the audience and fellow thespians. It feels good. Pavarotti was right, applause is like oxygen.

Everyone does well and afterwards everyone celebrates at a local restaurant with good food, drink and each others company.

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