la Ketch

my life story

Friday, December 02, 2005

A Rose by Any Other Name

When I first moved to New York I was in this horrible, horrible production of “Romeo and Juliet”. The girl playing Juliet was really good, even if she was about 35 years old but the guy playing Romeo was so bad that he single handedly destroyed the entire production. He was also one of the producers. Everyone knew he was bad, even the other producers and the director but they were all stuck with him and so was the rest of the cast because he was paying for it.

Part of the play's concept was that there was a Greek Chorus on stage throughout. I was a part of the chorus. There were sixteen of us, all young and green and desperate to act in anything. They dressed us in these white sheets and made us paint our faces white and wear these little white skull caps. We looked like condoms.

I was miserable through the entire process and I should have quit in the first week. Instead, I stuck it out and made sure everyone else was as miserable as I was. I complained constantly. I had a permanent scowl on my face. I was completely self righteous and out of hand. My behavior was not entirely unwarranted however. The whole deal was absolutely torturous. We had these horribly long rehearsals. We rehearsed for like two and a half months. The choreographer would just make the stuff up as she went along, waste our time standing there thinking for 20 minutes about what we should do next while our arms were falling off. It was sooo fucking boring.

They had us standing on risers in three rows. We sat sometimes but not ever for very long. We would do movements which consisted of very broad gestures like reaching out towards Juliet or putting our arms out like Jesus on a cross. We were always moving from one position to the next at a painful, Kabuki-like pace. Our movement was undetectable to the human eye. It could take us four minutes just to raise an arm.

Just indulge me for a moment and take a second to stand up out of your chair. Are you standing? Good. Now take both of your arms and hold them out to your sides like Jesus on the Cross. Continue to hold them up just until your arms start to ache a little bit. Now imagine what it might feel like if you had to keep them up there for another six minutes straight. Now imagine that on top of this arm aching pain you are feeling, you are being forced to watch the worst acting you have ever seen in your life and you can’t close your eyes or plug your ears or run away and kill yourself.

Sorry, you can put your arms down now.

By the time we opened I was such a raving bitch that everyone hated me except (thank God) for the two guys who were next to me and behind me in the chorus. We spent a lot of time together during the whole process and these guys were in just as much pain as I was. They were also both really funny and we would all try and crack each other up while Romeo was rolling around on the ground in the most ridiculous overwrought overacting fits imaginable. We would whisper things to eachother like, “Die Romeo Die” or “I’m going to go get a coke. Anyone want anything?” When Romeo finally did die, one of us would always say, “thank God” or "finally."

We were supposed to be “in character” the whole time, whatever that was: 100 billion year old Gods or something? The Fates? The Furries? No one really explained it to us but they definitely wanted our faces to be expressive. By the second week of the run, my facial expression was that of someone getting a manicure. I would just do the movements and think about whatever popped into my head, anything to take my mind off the horror unfolding before me.

Then one performance, I think it was a matinee, the most wonderful thing happened. We were in the middle of one of Romeo and Juliet's scenes during a particularly boring movement where we had our arms crossed over our chest and we were supposed to rock forward and back as far as we could go without falling over but so slowly that no one could tell we were moving. It was when we were in the forward part of this sequence that the girl who stood directly in front of me on the risers totally ripped a fart. She was really sweet, young and waifish, a dancer. You just wouldn't expect it to come out of her. It happened to be during a very quiet moment on stage and it was so loud that Romeo and Juliet heard it and of course we all heard it on the risers.

There was this second where time seemed to stop and we all asked ourselves, "did that just happen?" Then we started snickering and then we started laughing and then we could not stop laughing to save our lives. We were doing that convulsing thing, tears streaming down our faces. The actors playing Romeo and Juliet were not laughing. They were quite pissed off actually and tried with all of their might to go on with the scene but the laughter had spread down the risers like wildfire. Even the god damed goodie goodies who were so polite and had positive attitudes all the fucking time were cracking up. Of course, when you are trying really hard not to laugh at something, it only becomes that much funnier. We were all so tired and delirious from the whole process and I had been so angry through the whole thing that it was like someone had pulled the plug on a dam. Plus, I had these two yahoos sitting next to me and they both had the sense of humor of nine year old boys.

We were probably laughing for twenty minutes. One of us would stop and the other would start up again. We would get rid of it for a minute and then it would float down to the other end of the risers and come back to us. One by one we would have to go down and hide our faces. It was a wonderous wave of laughter, raining down on us, crashing over us, a wash of pain and pleasure. I was crying at one point, I was laughing so hard, and then I started peeing my pants. I do this when I laugh really hard and when I start to pee, I only laugh harder. My God. It was just so fucking funny.

When the curtain went down for intermission we all roared, falling on the ground, smacking our knees and retelling each other what had been going through each of our minds when it was happening. The girl who farted was mortified of course and she was apologizing up and down to Romeo and Juliet. I thought she should have been given a medal. It was the only real moment that happened in the entire run of the play. Why hadn't I thought to do something like this myself? I wonder what it looked like from the audience. They must have thought it was part of the show, unless they heard the fart too. It was pretty loud.


At 1:29 PM, Blogger dup said...

Oh man that kills me. The manicure detail is great.

At 2:21 PM, Blogger A Large Slice of Cake said...

Oh my gosh, I seriously can't remember the last time I laughed that hard--I think I laughed pretty much through that entire piece. Stories about people laughing are a huge challenge, becuase you end up saying dumb things like, "it was sooo funny!" but I was right there with you. I'm sorry you had to undergo that torturous experience, but I'm glad about the fart!

At 3:07 PM, Blogger P'tit Boo said...

Hil, that was gold !!!
I am still crying from laughter !!!

At 3:12 PM, Blogger Eve said...

That's so funny! Way to lighten up a pretty dreary experience! haha!

At 10:08 AM, Blogger Sammee said...

That is so hysterical! Thanks for sharing.

At 12:14 PM, Blogger la Ketch said...

thanks everyone for such great comments. I appreciate it! Glad you thought it was funny.

la ketch


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