I had a fantastic birthday weekend. Jim whisked me away to the city for a show and an overnight stay. When we came home, my sister presented me with the best birthday cake EVER, which you need to check out before you go any further because ohmygodyoujusthavetoseeit. Click here, and then come back. I’ll wait.
I bet you’re wondering about the title of this post. Believe it or not, it’s totally true! How many people can say they made their stage debut dying at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, especially if they have never had any desire whatsoever to be on stage at all? (Good question, right? I’ll Google it later.) Here’s what happened.
Jim purchased tickets for us to see “Murder For Two: A Killer Musical” at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. It was staged in their theater upstairs, which is a much more intimate theater than the Jentes Family Auditorium on the main floor. We had front row seats and in fact the front edge of the stage, which was not elevated at all, was just a toe-tap away from my seat.
What was interesting about the show was that there were only two cast members, Joe Kinosian and Adam Overett. Adam played the detective, and Joe played all thirteen other characters, the suspects. Oh, and they took turns playing the piano. Amazing.
So there we were, watching and enjoying the show, and (without giving too many details away in case some of you locals decide to go see it before it closes at the end of this month) there was a part in which one of the characters drinks some tea spiked with poison and, well, is dying. The two actors have an exchange and there is some discussion about how the detective needs to talk to the character that’s dying (who is, as you probably remember from the previous paragraph, being played by the only other actor there), but that someone needs to play the piano.
At that point, the actors started looking around at the audience, and Joe made eye contact with me. It was very surreal because in a split second I remembered reading a few years back that the way Blue Man Group chooses their audience participants is a little bit of a science: they can tell by body language whether a person is receptive to going up on stage.
This is where I have to back up for a minute. During a 1970′s visit to Six Flags in St. Louis, my family went to a live H.R. Pufnstuf show. During the show, the villain chased another character through the audience with a (fake) knife, and I was terrorized by it. That’s what started my life-long uneasiness of mascots (except for those at Walt Disney World, oddly enough.) and others who come off stage in costume.
It took several times of seeing Blue Man Group (who come off the stage several times) before I could really relax, and I have always been a nervous wreck at the thought of going up on stage myself.
Now you’re caught up.
I’m sitting there, totally locking eyes with Joe as I’m remembering the business about how Blue Man Group chooses their audience participants, and I don’t avert my eyes. In fact, I distinctly remember smiling at him, which is so out of character for me I have no idea what happened. (Not the smiling part, because I do that all the time. I’m talking about the “Sure, pick me. Go ahead.” body language.)
And guess what?
Joe asked me to come up to the stage and take his place as the dying character while he played piano.
It was hilarious. I responded to Adam’s detective character, totally pulling out the improv skills I’ve obviously gained from watching years of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and then, I convulsed and died.
The odd thing for me was that I was more comfortable up there than I ever imagined I could be. (No worries: I have no desire to take acting classes now!) After my three or four minutes of fame was over and I was back in my seat, I smiled. I’ve come a long way, baby. This was not something I ever thought I could do without having a nervous breakdown, and I did it.
I guess you could say I went from worrying about dying in the audience to not worrying about dying on stage.
All I know is, now I’m a writer AND an actress. If I want to be a Triple Threat I need something else. Any ideas?
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