Saturday, June 27, 2009

All the world's a stage, and I'm not much of an actor

Friday night, on the main stage at Geva, in front of 500 generous and forgiving theater-goers, I proved once again that as a thespian and a singer, I'm a pretty good sportswriter.

Let's just say that acting is not my forte, and that my warbling is best confined to the privacy of my shower stall.

For reasons that still escape me, I was asked once again to make a fool of myself as part of the "Summer Curtain Call,'' which raises money to support the Geva Theatre Center's education and outreach programs. It's a wonderful cause, and I happily agreed to confront my stage fright because I've been a long-time fan of this cozy, Fenway Park of live theaters. And, deep down, I'm a ham.
This year's production was titled "Les Biz,'' a hilarious spoof of the famous Broadway musical, "Les Miserables."

Mark Cuddy, Geva's artistic director, did a marvelous job rewriting the musical to give it a Rochester theme. And somehow he managed to convince a bunch of Rochester's movers-and-shakers (many of whom, I'm happy to report, are as theatrically challenged as me) to give it the old college try.
Mark warned us on several occasions during rehearsal not to imbibe more than two drinks at the pre-show party in the tent outside the theater. (Several of us aspiring actors were hoping there was no limit placed on the audience. The more dulled their senses, the less bad we would look - and sound.)

For my main scene, I was on stage with my friends Jack Garner and Brother Wease. I was sitting at a cafe table, my character on the prowl for women, and Wease and Garner were talking about me out of ear shot.

They told the audience what a lucky stiff I was to be married to Beth Adams (that part couldn't be more true), and when they were done talking, I sung some altered lyrics from "Lucky Ladies.'' While I did that, Beth, Jennifer Johnson and Norma and Andrea Holland, sauntered onto the stage. Once I finished assaulting the audience's collective ear drums, the four women serenaded and seduced us. I wound up walking off the stage with my real-life wife. (I am indeed a lucky stiff.)

Two years ago, Beth and I participated in the Curtain Call. It was called "R-Town," a take-off on Thornton Wilder's "Our Town,'' and we were married on stage. In a case of life imitating art, the play took place roughly six weeks before we were married for real.

Before the fictitious wedding ceremony in "R-Town,'' Beth and I had to sing Sonny and Cher's classic, "I Got You, Babe.'' Let's just say that, somewhere, Sonny Bono, was spinning in his grave, and Cher was probably demanding that her lawyers serve us with a "cease and desist'' order.

Nick Francesco, who was doing entertainment reports for WHAM radio, wound up writing a hilarious review for the station's web site in which he accurately stated that "singing was committed.''

I'm happy to report that neither Beth nor I were the worst singers on stage that night. By his own admission, that dubious distinction belonged to Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy, who proved to be a great sport while futilely attempting to sing "The Impossible Dream.''

One of the surprising personal sidenotes to all of this, is that I was once so painfully shy that I was deathly afraid of getting up in front of audiences. In fact, it ranked slightly ahead of dying on my list of fears.

I'm still not a great fan of speaking (or, egads!, singing) in front of large crowds, but I'm much more comfortable with it than I used to be.

And, even though I'm no thespian or singer, I had a blast making a fool of myself at Geva Friday night in front of friends and strangers for a good cause.


Anonymous said...

Wish I could have seen and heard that--Priceless!!!!
Dorothy P.

ron said...

Thanks for the Lou Gehrig update on his speech being recited. Nice gesture.
I reviewed his book by Eig and it was great.
I once asked John Antonelli if he had heard anything about LG and he said 'only that he hit hard line drives'