Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Think about your life, Pippin

Since Joe brought it up I might as well tell you. This one is a real life nightmare come true.

My senior year of high school I got a part in the chorus of Pippin, the musical about Charlemagne’s son’s search for fulfillment in life. The musical has a real carny feel with its wild movements and extravagant costuming. Joe in fact played the titular role (for the uneducated reading this that means that he was cast as the character whose name is the title of the play. It does not mean that Joe had breasts. He does have nice pectorals though and if you ask nicely I am sure he will make them dance for you.)

I was having fun singing and learning the dance steps, and for a non-named supporting character I was given a remarkable amount of lines and even a short solo, though I had never been in choir. Everything was going great until we got our costumes. We immediately realized how daring the costuming for the show was going to be. Low necklines, spandex, weird facial paint, masks. Then it was my turn.

“Jonnyten!” Mrs. Hoffman called out. From her hand dangled a sinister blue unitard with certain accessories. I looked at it, uncertain. The charming fellow who was our costumer noted my concern. He came to me and let me know in a San Franciscan accent that if it would make me feel better he would be waiting outside the bathroom when I tried it on.

I donned the costume. Blue, spandex, skintight, all over. There was a golden disk that velcroed over my shoulders and sagged like a saddle chip decorated in faux jewels. The kicker however was a black thong with a poofy gold-decorated wasteband. The secondary effect of this thong was to very clearly delineate each hemisphere of my gluteus maximus, and of course, the main effect of this thong was to draw all attention in the room to my black crotch standing out against a field of blue. It felt like the costume was yelling, “Hey everybody! Check out my area!” It felt like I was naked with neon no-no’s.

I walked back out onto the stage and saw people snickering. I distinctly heard someone say that I looked like an anorexic smurf. There was a girl named Risĕ (pronounced Reece-Uh) who was lying on her stomach just staring at my crotch. I said something to her and she responded without taking her eyes off it. I felt like saying: “Up here?” Now I know what women feel like when perverts keep staring at their chest. Eww, it doesn’t feel good.

I thought I was over it. We were rehearsing and the show was really coming together. My makeup was a blue question mark painted on my left cheek. My right eye was a black diamond. During one scene I had to exit stage left and then enter stage right. We were told to go around the back of the audience for those transitions, but I didn’t have time and I had found a quick shortcut through the cafeteria. I was the last offstage and the first back on thanks to my shortcut.

Now I come to the part that I don’t want to tell. I can feel the heat creeping into my face even now as I write this. It was a performance night. I remember the rush of getting into our places and hearing the crowd murmuring just on the other side of the lowered curtain. Stage fright manifests itself differently to different people. For me it is gas. Just before the curtain comes up I get nervous gassy guts. So there I am lying on my side, left-cheek-sneaking like mad and the place smells like the Hippo car on Barnum and Bailey’s train. It’s doubly bad because I am wearing two thongs. A dance belt is under my costume and there’s that extraneous thong on the outside. Between the two butt-strings I am doing my best not to blow Yankee Doodle. I hear another chorister whisper to me: “Gosh, who is doing that?”

I respond, “I don’t know but they are nasty and they probably feel bad about it.” The curtain comes up, the music starts, and we begin our episodic review by asking the audience to

Join us, leave your field to flower
Join us, leave your cheese to sour
Join us, come and spend an hour or two

The musical is roaring along and then comes that exit and entrance I told you about. Ah man I don’t want to write this. I digressed a bit, but I have still come to it haven’t I? I exited stage left, whipped around the side and walked into the cafeteria. . . past a man. . . in a suit. . .talking behind a p-p, a p-podium. There were chairs set up on both sides filled with jocks and parents in sports coats and ties with a path down the middle. It was the Hockey awards banquet.

The speaker trailed off and just stared at me with an open mouth. The Hockey jocks were staring at me with sideways grins. The only way I survived was by staying in character. Blue spandex, black exterior thong, ponytail, makeup. I calmly walked down the middle aisle, unwittingly displaying every bulge and strain in my well delineated gluteus maximus as I passed. The room behind me volcanoed into laughter. The speaker tried to remember where he was in his speech.

But at least I made my entrance in time. The show must go on.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

OH, My, WORD! Is all I can say!! I can only imagine the look on YOUR face when you walked in to that room! LOL!! Nice one!


9:24 PM, January 03, 2006  
Blogger Joe said...

If only the speaker could have said: "And now, here are next year's new hockey uniforms!"

Good stuff, Jon.

9:21 AM, January 04, 2006  
Anonymous serina said...

Oh, Jon. Too funny. You can't make this stuff up.

10:38 AM, January 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Jon, I am finally able to reach your blogg from the comfort of my own home. I am eagerly awaiting the opportunity to aid your in your quest to post embarrassing incidents of which unfortunately I probably have first hand knowledge of or took part in unwillingly. Another reason may be because my psychologist recommended this as a form of therapy. Actually, as I type away the flashbacks are starting to pry themselves from their long term memory coffins of which I was sure I nailed shut again...and again...and again. No matter, who needs sleep anyway? Thinking just now, I could confidently fill entire blocks of memory with the the nightmares you made me deal with. At any rate, this could be a blessing for you as I could personally vouch for most of these stories if they were simply not believed by your readers, barring the uncontrollable shakes which keep me bedridden and unavailable for the duration -or- a curse for me because...well...how did your uncle so gracefully put it? "Dead men tell no tales." Trust me, with some of these memories I could save you the trouble. One thing is for certain, I won't get within ten feet of a toaster for the rest of my life -Just to get from my dining room to the living room now I have to go around my house and back through a window! I'm sure though that if any of these readers know you personally, they won't have a difficult time believing them at all! However, I do realize I could totally be opening Pandora's box here so I will certainly clear all comments through you first, ok? Sorry for the long reply but the stuff that needed to be said needed some sayin', so I said it.


12:38 AM, January 12, 2006  
Blogger nicolas said...

It was 1995. I was Tony in the production of West Side Story. Tony and Maria have just expressed their love, and now Anita is frantically knocking on the door to tell Maria that Tony has just killed her brother. Tony and Maria kiss quickly, passionately, and Tony looks longingly at Maria as he steps up to the window...

...gives her another loving look, a small smile and wave...

...then promptly falls out of the window, headfirst, presumably falling only down to the fire escape and not to his death on the street below.

The "window", of course, was just part of the set. Unfortunately, the window sort of moved (that part of the set was on wheels) and I lost my balance, toppling out of the window. What's really great is that this was the night the show was videotaped, and you can hear the nervous little titter that goes through the audience when something goes wrong during a play, breaking the fantasy.

I had to sing the opening song of Pippen once too...and I always thought that the second stanza of the first verse went:

Journey, journey to spot exciting,
mystic and exotic
Journey through our anotomic review

In your case (and apparently Joe "Gifted Pectoral" Pellerito), it was a anotomical review of the most intimate, personal parts.

I was thinking-ever seen Starlight Express? With all of those people on roller skates? If you truly did get very nervous before the show, you would have no problem propelling yourself quickly around the stage with no visible effort on your part. The only odd thing would be why no one would be within 20 feet of you.

7:47 AM, January 13, 2006  
Blogger Martini said...

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 1999, Indiana State University. Brought in as special guests for the set, 5 small children to pose as oopa loopas and 11 year old Derek from the local elementary school as Charlie.

The set designer decided that since this was his first major assignment, he went all out on design, complete with fully constructed elevator that "flies" with LED lights, and a big tractor tire underneath that made it bounce along. He will still not disclose to me the manner in which he got this tractor tire. But it still wasn't enough. SD also decided to build a turntable. Turntable took up half of the stage and allowed for all the rooms to be effortlessly changed during sets. For continuity, there was always a door on one side through which the cast walked as they entered/exited a room.

Opening night for Wonka. Everything is going just fine. Giant and small cast members alike, everyone is having fun. Then comes the first set change and the lawn motor engine running the turntabe decides to give and the set is half on and half off the stage, doorway stuck half between both.

Wonka saves the day by saying, completely in character, "I've heard of a doorjam, but this is ridiculous".

9:38 AM, January 13, 2006  
Blogger Joe said...

Speaking of Pippin:

I'm dressed in all black, singing a prayer on my knees, facing the audience. Let's just say the audience got to see my nice new white underwear... (Thankfully they were NEW!). A spotlight highlights white on black rather boldly; apparently, the back row could see it, too.

Next night, I searched for a safety pin to help keep my zipper together. Remember, I'm in high school, and I went to ask a mom to see if she had one. Her reply: "Well, you gotta keep that little monster in their don't you?!? Just sec..."

As she looked in her purse, I exchanged a nervous glance with another cast member who had heard the whole thing...

12:34 PM, January 17, 2006  

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