Here in Gladstone, I’ve been doing some stuff… thinking mostly, about How and Why stuff happens to me? Like everything else that’s awry with my life, generally it’s all my fault.
Tomorrow night at 8pm, I will walk onstage and take part in the first ever showing of The Mousetrap here in Gladstone. With a bit of luck, I won’t freeze, faint, or worse, forget all my lines and stare mutely at the laughing crowd.
I’ve been reduced to practicing my lines in the solitude of the bush, because my family don’t want to listen to me prattling on anymore, and then there were some very embarrassing moments on the footpaths involving passers-by who were startled by some of my outbursts while I was out and about walking the dogs.
In the build up to tomorrow night’s performance, I’ve been experiencing moments of fear, exhilaration, excitement, and terror. Why? Why do I do this to myself?!
The build up started started about a year ago, beginning with me taking The Littlest Princess (TLP) to see a play at the Gladstone Entertainment Centre, a ripper comedy by the Wild Goose Theatre Company: Unoriginal Sin. I wanted to expose her to the ‘art’ side, before she got much older and refused to be seen with her ‘Daddy’ in public.
Anyway, it was a great show, and during the interval, TLP and I wandered about the foyer meeting and greeting our friends. One of them asked TLP if she was enjoying the show, “Very much!” she replied.
“Well, how would you like to be in a play?” asked our friend.
TLP shook her head. Now, this was the exact moment when I opened my mouth and started the ball rolling on the chain of events that would lead to my public debut as an amateur actor… (very amateur).
“Look, it’s Peter Pan,” I said, “you’ll love it!”
“No Daddy, I don’t want to.”
“Well, that’s ok, if you don’t want to do it that’s fine, but sometimes it’s good to get out of your comfort zone, try something different, or new.”
Shaking of a little head.
“Anyway, they only want you to be a mermaid, you don’t even have any lines, all you have to do is sit on the stage, look pretty, and waggle your tail.”
“Oh, I could do that!” came the eager reply.
So off to rehearsals we went. Long Suffering Wife wasn’t thrilled, “Great! Just what I need, more time in the car, carting kids off to something else!”
Anyway, a star was born. In addition to being a mermaid, TLP also got to be a dancing fairy!
Because I signed her up, it became my job to run her to and from rehearsals. During which I went for long walks (only because I couldn’t find a coffee shop, or snack bar, open anywhere in Gladstone’s CBD after 3pm!)
Then one fateful afternoon, I was chatting with my new mate, Dave Winter, when Beryl Wood (the Director) introduced herself. “You’re perfect!” she cried, pointing to me.
“Of course I am,” came my modest reply. But having developed a certain amount of cynicism in my 40+ years on planet Earth, I immediately added, “Perfect for what?”
“Have you ever heard of The Mousetrap?” Beryl asked.
“I sure have! I can’t wait to see it, I’ve wanted to see it for years!”
“Well, how would you like to be in it? Have you ever acted?” she asked.
“No. But I am a card carrying member of Over Actors’ Anonymous!” I replied. And at this point I did my little ‘Over Actors Anonymous’ routine that I used to entertain my mates with at school. Beryls face lit up and she clapped her hands, “Oh, you must join us!”
I told her I’d think about it.
What followed was two weeks of phone calls, and pressure from TLP, “Dad, you should get out of your comfort zone and do something different…” Even my boss said, “Go for it!” Short story; I cracked. “Look,” I said to Beryl over the phone, “Is it a big role? Are there many lines?”
“No darling, it’s a small role, and you’re perfect for it!”
I hesitated, then jumped in with both feet uttering those fateful words, “Yeah, ok, how bad could it be?”
Well, after reading the play and highlighting my characters’ lines, I spent the rest of the night lying in bed gibbering to myself.
My characters is described as a wild eyed, shabby haired, neurotic young man. He isn’t gay, just childishly flamboyant. In the darkness, I waved a languid hand in the air, ‘Of course,’ I thought, ‘I’m ‘perfect’ for the role…’
And after months of practice, I’ll be introducing him to the people of my town tomorrow night. Fortunately, I’ll be surrounded by some very talented people, who have been a great help in bringing me out of the acting closet. I hope they can fight… because I’ve got to navigate a semi dark car park after the show that may contain certain homophobic elements.
And when all’s said and done, I’m glad I did it. I’m sure everything will be fine on the night. And with a bit of luck, this experience will have taught me how to say ‘NO’ in future.