My LA Stage Debut
I’m associate producing a play in Los Angeles, which means I serve the refreshments during intermission. I like to think I’m an integral part of the show. Tonight we had a class of college theater students, and I imagined they would write about me in their essays analyzing the play. It’s a Christmas play, so my serving apple cider during intermission becomes an extension of the holiday spirit expressed by the play. I break the fourth wall to bring people a tangible piece of joy. It’s really very Brechtian, especially since I serve the food on the stage.
I prepare for my serving of the goodies like I am preparing for a performance. I check all my props (candle-lighter, cookies), put on my costume (apron) and wait anxiously for my cue. Then I warm up the audience with hot cups of cider. I’m a performance art piece made of gingerbread. After I’m done serving, I collect trash from the audience, feeling like a stewardess. People ask for the cider recipe. They want to know the secret of my art. Unfortunately, I don’t make the cider. That’s the producer’s job.
Okay, I know I’m not really part of the show, but I haven’t been near a backstage in a year. I missed the adrenaline. One night, five minutes before we opened one of the producers asked me if I would do the front of house speech–“Please turn off your cell phone. Exits are this way etc.” I sputtered that I didn’t know what to say. No one had given me a rehearsal. I probably was the least qualified to represent the production. It was only slightly better than having one of the audience members read the program out loud, but I was ready to step out from behind the cider table. I felt like I was leading an army into battle, and I was petrified.
Every time I go to a fancy movie theater, where they pay the ushers to make an opening house speech, I think I would do the speech better. I would just talk, rather than making a show of it. When it was actually my turn to make an opening speech, I managed to just talk, but I talked louder. There were five people in the audience, but I filled the space with sound. I was announcing my presence, even as I tried to be nonchalant. A part of me loved being center stage.
Everything went smoothly until I tried to make a joke. I told people to put their cell phones away–to stop bothering people. I shouted, “Cut it out.” I got a couple of smiles, but I felt awkward. This wasn’t my moment. No one came to see me and my return to the stage. I scurried away. The actors waiting in the wings whispered “Good job,” as they went to take their places on the sacred stage. I felt simultaneously patted on the head, like a good pet, and proud.
I went backstage and shimmied with joy. All the anticipation, waiting to find my way back to performing was over. I stood on a stage and spoke to an audience purely coincidentally. A pressure lifted. If I put myself in the right place things will happen. If I stand with a ladle above a crock pot of cider, the two are bound to find each other.