Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Cutaways

It was my senior year in high school, and I was talking with Chad and Stacy Courtney as they were going to tryouts for "Anything Goes" at the Civic Theatre. They were all like "you should come and watch." Of course! Time with Chad and Stacy, no question, I went. Big love! As the tryouts began and I was sitting on the folding chair in the room and director Fred Scheibe turned to me, I was all like "I'm just here to watch" and he was all "You're what?" and laughed. Chad and Stacy were both "C'mon, you should do it." All full of encouragement, and well, it was Chad and Stacy after all.

cast photo, "Anything Goes", Lewiston Civic Theatre
So I did, and ended up being cast in my first show. Go figure! (Only with hindsight did I realize that this was probably their nefarious plot all along. Sneaky, sneaky, sneaksters.)

Like all Fred Scheibe musical theatre productions, fabulous dance numbers were an integral part of the show.

Now, I should mention, I can dance. You know, free form, dance to the beat stuff. Boogie down action. I have rhythm. I can shake a groove thing. No "Soul Train" dance line stuff mind you, but still.

However, as anyone who has attempted it can tell you, general dancing to music, and being able to do timed choreography in sync with others are two completely different things.

So there was this one number where I was included in the dancing chorus, and ended up center stage, for just a few precious moments, but square center stage. In those few precious moments, the choreography called for cutaways. And, to put it mildly, I just couldn't seem to manage it.

I'd start on the wrong foot, or I'd go the wrong direction, or my arms would be out when they were supposed to cross or crossed when they were supposed to be out. I'd bump into someone. People could've been wounded. We'd move on.

Stacy would practice with me downstairs before the next rehearsal, and that number would come up again and everyone was on point, except for me, apparently having a seizure. "And again. From the top." All others still had it down, yet now my move has progressed to giving the appearance of being overcome suddenly with a spastic colon. We moved on again.

Stacy would practice (again) with me downstairs before the next rehearsal, patiently and persistently, encouraging and walking me through it. And I had been practicing in the garage at home each night as well. (Where, I might add, my moves were fucking flawless. Flawless I tell you. Our dog Brandy was way impressed. Way.)

And finally, I don't know, the fifth or sixty-fifth time or whatever, and we got to that number and I just knew this time, this time, I would get it. Repeating the steps in my head as it approached... tonight: I… would… dance.

Fred however (quite understandably, given the carnage he had repeatedly been forced to endure) moved me from center stage in that particular moment to the back. No cutaways required. The safety of other cast members assured.

I understood, and put my head down and started to step back, and there was this quiet moment. You know the kind... where it is a quiet moment that seems particularly quiet, and lasts forever... and then I hear Stacy. "But he's worked so hard!"

Laughter surrounded, awkwardly bursting open and free, me included... and the show later went on (quite fabulously I might add), now spared from any possibilities of spastic colon seizure based cutaways at center stage, or the need for tending to an injured cast member.

And with me able to look back on it today, smiling and remembering Stacy practicing with me again and again, and years later, still totally hearing her…

"But he's worked so hard!" 

And that's more valuable than being able to do choreographed cutaways anyway.