Tuesday, April 06, 2004

The smell of the crowd

I just got an email from BOB, a gal I used to do community theatre with back in my hometown of Springfield, IL. I have recently been blown off by someone from that scene, and related such in a humorous email to her and several others of the old crowd. She responded that this person has blown her off as well and related a humorous incident of her own. Now, Mr. Blow-Off is the walking stereotype of a community theatre bigshot. He has a normal job - a dorky one at that - but due to his impressive hidden talents at singing, dancing and tumbling, (No, I did not mention acting) he has managed to "make it big" in the community theatre scene.

He's a weatherman.

I used to say that Springfield was the opposite of New York. If you can't make it anywhere, you can probably make it in Springfield.

My old friend JD from Springfield called me on the phone a few years back laughing his ass off that the hometown theatre scene had sunk so low that the local weatherman was now the biggest star in town. I defended the guy. "No, he really can sing! I've seen him! And he can do some basic tumbling and tap-dancing!" JD says "Every guy that can walk across the room without tripping gets cast in leading roles." I couldn't argue with him there.

My Mom used to quote someone who said it's more fun to be a star in the sticks than to carry a spear on Broadway. Christ. I'm sorry. The sticks are the sticks, and my hometown sticks in particular sucked ass. Moving to New York was the best reality check I ever had. Finally really understanding just how pathetic my hometown theatre scene had become was utterly validating. Man, we all thought those shows were so great. Lord. What naive, stupid, ego-maniacal idiots some of those people were. At least I can say I was just naive.

It always cracks me up how community theatre people think they're all that. Did you ever see that episode of Roseanne where her sister Jackie started doing community theatre because she was unemployed and bored and thought it might be a way to meet men? God it was SO accurate. She was understudying Roxanne in Cyrano de Bergerac. During weekdays she was "working" answering phones at the theatre and taking ticket orders. For no money, of course. But she took it so seriously. "I am a member of the theatre now, Roseanne. I must do my part." When the actress playing Roxanne got sick, Jackie said "So, I guess I oughta read the play?" Then she does the role - with Roseanne standing backstage feeding her the lines. Afterward, the beer-truck-driver-looking guy (just for you, Z) playing Cyrano says "Come on, Jackie, you know there was something between us during that scene! You can't fake that!" "I was ACTING!" she says.

I don't remember which aging actress said it, but it's my favorite quote: "He loved me, but the show closed."

Most of my friends out here in NYC are actors - like, professionals who get paid to do it, often on Broadway - and they are the first ones to destroy the diva-and-glamour myth. When my friend was in a certain recent Tony-award winning Broadway revival, it was the crappiest job of her career. She has done leading roles in Equity houses all over the country, and not stupid ones either - the kind of roles that we dreamed of playing when we were 15. She finally accepts a Broadway job, and it was a totally miserable experience. Underpaid, overworked, bitches backstage, bitches onstage, politics, layer after layer of bullshit. You couldn't have paid me enough to take her place.

I think I always knew I never wanted to make a career of performing, but I sure as hell could never do community theatre again. Unless my friend WS was directing. I've never seen anything he's done, but I hear he's good. Even if the show sucked though, it would be fun just screwing around with friends. In fact, I think it would be most fun if it sucked. Lots of Springfieldians can't tell the difference anyway! Oh man, let's do that! Paint the sets in splashy colors - BIG sets - cast big, loud singers and a couple of party-trick comedians. The crowds will flock. The reviewers will gush. Man.

Oh wait... I don't live there anymore... Damn.

I'd better get back to work. I'm cramming act II of Don Giovanni. My first rehearsal is tomorrow night. I'm singing Zerlina.

It's just a hobby.

No, I swear to God, it really is.

Did I mention I'm singing Zerlina?

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