Friday, May 20, 2016

Walking the plank

The school play was a success, and so pleased was the director with my performance that he asked me whether I'd be in a 3-person 10-minute play he was directing for the Boston Theater Marathon.

The BTM is an annual fundraiser; 50 10-min plays are performed, represented by various area theater companies. I was honored to be asked.

Then I arrived at rehearsal and it was explained to me and my two co-performers that the entire scene was to be acted out on a plank about 10 feet long and a foot wide.

The premise is that two warm-blooded "tiny, insect-eating tree dwellers" discuss evolving, which conversation intensifies when a predatory cold-blooded creature comes along.

We had to "explore" how to move around, on, and under one another on this plank (the director has a thing for movement).  At first, I was all "are you kidding me?" but by production was all about the physicality.

Performance night came, and the other two actors and I were in "costume" backstage, "costume" being crocheted animal hats with ears for the mammals and dragon spikes for the reptile. Oh, and foam noses for the mammals. We walked the hallways backstage to curious stares ("It's very high concept" I told one gawker.)

Finally, in the green room with some other teams, one of them said, "So what are you guys anyway?"

The room got quiet as people listened.

"No idea, really" we said.

The stage manager came in. "MAMMALS!" he called out, and we took our places.

The one time I'd been to the BTM was well over a decade ago, and it was held in a small black-box space on a local university campus. Since then, it had grown and was now performed in a very large performance venue.

"Cripes, there's a balcony," I'd whispered, rattled but excited, at our brief tech rehearsal.

So we went on, and that magical thing happened: The audience filled in the missing piece.  We had to hold for laughs; I had a monologue that got applause, and we gave each other telepathic "really? huh!" looks onstage.

At the party afterward, we were told over and over how much people enjoyed the piece.

Go foam noses, kids' hats, and a plank. Cirque du Soleil, eat your heart out.

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