Monday, January 22, 2018

Opening of the Closing

I am not good with small talk at cocktail parties of people I don’t know.  It’s work to converse and it feels like I am having to perform. It is not the fault of the party or the people, it is just an old deep seated insecurity and shyness from childhood.  I have developed copping mechanisms that help me get through these stressful times but employing those methods makes it seem even more like performing.  
We opened the show in Perth last Friday night to a very enthusiastic audience and a lot of invited VIPs. There was a champagne party at one of the theater Bars after the show.  This time I remembered to bring a new jacket that I bought in Melbourne so I felt a little better dressed. But for me it was still awkward.  I watched Harrison and Brett waft through the crowd like swans in calm waters.  They did not shun the contact but sought it out and there would occasionally be busts of laughter coming from the groups they occupied at the time.  

There was a ten year old  boy who came up to me with this family and wanted to say hi.  I am usually pretty good with kids since they relate to me on their own level, or maybe it is me who does that.  Nonetheless, I found out from his family he wanted to be a ventriloquist.  When I tried to engage him in conversation about it he replied without moving his lips. I really didn’t understand what he said with his mouth closed, but I said, “Very good. Looks like I have some competition.” The family giggled, the boy did not. He insisted on continuing the conversation with out the use of his lips.  The noise of the party, his lack of projection and the inability for me to read his lips, made any substantive conversation impossible.  I turned to his folks and with a compliment (perhaps a cautionary tale) toward their son’s ability I was able to slip away.  It was not a clean break however.  More than half a dozen times through the rest of the evening this kid would show up intently staring me in the face and mumbling something inaudible and inarticulated.  

There was a Scotsman  in his late 70’s, friend of the producer with a very striking (read obvious and old) hair piece who appeared from the crowd.  He was very complimentary of my act as he not so subtly sneaked in his own performing and producing credits.  It went something like this, (Poetic license taken)  “Your act would be great at the Beesworth Liaman Laugh Festival.  It is one of the highlights of the Farthington region.  Of course you have heard it... the one held in Bemington every other August?”
It doesn’t matter what you say in response. It is not a question just a pause so he can take another breath.
“I started that festival back in 1961, when my partner and I did a black face comedy act with hoopla hoops and rope.  Yeah those were the days. The days when you didn’t have to worry about what they call ‘political correctness’. In thoses days if got a laugh it was funny, you didn’t worry about it. Everyone went home with a smile on their faces.    Your act would kill at the festival today....if you want I can call the guy who runs it. He would be thrilled to have you there.... now they don’t pay anything, but you get into all the shows for free and  Bemington is such a charming place.....(etc etc)”
As this point the lighting designer/set designer walked by.  I quickly grabbed him and said, “Here is someone you would like to meet. This is the lead designer for the production.” When Scotty’s attention went to the designer I faded into the crowd like a Ninja..  As I got out of range the last thing I heard was “Braveheart” telling him what he thought was wrong about the set.  Later I apologized to the designer for leading him to the lions den.  He said, “No problem mate, the old guy just mistook me for someone who gave a fuck about his opinion.” 

It was like running a gauntlet to get to the bar for a taste of the champagne I had earned. By pretending to be deaf and not making eye contact with anyone other than the bartender my mission was accomplished.  Unfortunately I had not made an effective exit plan.  As I turned  with glass in hand, an older woman in an odd red dress blocked my path.  She said, “I saw the show.” She paused like I should be surprised that a person standing in the theater where we just did THE SHOW half an hour before would have actually seen it.  She had one of the big color souvenir programs under her arm.  Inside is a well crafted comprehensive bio of my career printed for all to read.  After what seemed to be a longer pause than even her age would require she said, “So what other things have you done.”  There was another pause as she looked at me intently. There was a vacant look to her eyes which I did not perceive as intoxication. 
“Pretty much all the things in that bio of the program.”  
Quickly and without much of of a pause this time she said, “Oh, surely you have done more things than just that.”
To give her the benefit of a doubt, for no reason at all, I think what she wanted was some funny story about my time in the theater like I would tell on the couch of the Tonight show. This time I waited a long time before I answered; like I was thinking it over, remembering the funniest road story in the world.  I waited, took a couple of sips of my champagne, thought some more and said, 
“No, that is pretty much it...”
As the comedy gods would have it suddenly the mumbling 10 year old appeared waist high to my right and I was able to bend down as if actually trying to listen to what he was saying. Conversation over. 

Perth is fun.  I like this theater the best.  It does not have the bragging rights of the Sydney Opera house, but for me the production has finally gotten it all together, video, staging and sound to make my job the easiest it has been.  Everyone is talking about their next booking and their next tour.  The host travels directly to Dubai, and the arielists have been signed to six month contracts in Reno.  As for me.... I have never had a schedule where I knew what is next.  Next for me is just the next show when ever that might be.  I am looking forward to getting home to be with Sandi, hoping that my dog Boo will still remember me. And I think it is time to buy that Mini Cooper  I have been looking at.
As you were,
Jay


3 comments:

Paulette and Bob said...

Enjoy your time at home and hope you get that Mini Cooper!! Let us know what color you choose! 😍

P. Grecian said...

Yeah, I always feel awkward at meet 'n' greets, too. I always just figure I'm playing a character with my name. Makes it easier to talk to people rather than hide behind the rubber plant in the corner.
I love following your tour in this blog.:)

suzanne gattenio said...

Great story, Jay!! Buy the Mini, I love love love mine❤️🚙