I was going to write about WIFI today. Something along the lines of was there life before WIFI? because ours has been down for the past 24 hours and we’re rattling around all shiftless and lost, trying to remember how we used to spend our time.
We used to read more, not just during the blank patch on the ferry from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen and not just in bed or in the bath. We would read just because.
A few hours into our WIFI desert, Graham (Mr. When I’m 64) picked up a book and four words in – no lie, four words – asked “what’s solecism?”
I don’t know, I told him. And you can’t Google it.
So that’s how it’s been for us.
But then we heard the Shaw tech guy was on his way and I roar around my office in a frenzied tidy up, the kind once spurred when my parents would call from a pay phone down the road, saying “we’re in the neighbourhood. Be there in 10 minutes.”
I’m shoving papers and folders onto a closet shelf and this fell down to remind me why I’m not an actor.
Since I have the attention span of tse tse fly, I took it to mean I should write about it, although it has more to do with when I was 44 than 64. Sometimes I go off topic.
Anyway, I was at work 20ish years ago when a former colleague called to request my help. She’d written a play about Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli. She’d also be directing it and had cast every part except that of Judy’s mother, Ethel Gumm. Please, she begged. It’s a very small part and you’ll just be a voice from the wings. You won’t have to go on stage.
Acting, however small the role, was about number 86 on my list of aspirations and I reluctantly agreed to this one small part. A few minutes later the fax machine whirred and brought me the script with Ethel’s lines circled along with those of a reporter and a member of the public. The latter two were not voice-from-the-wings roles, but would be on stage.
There was also a note about the rehearsal schedule – twice a week. The play, a musical, would be on stage over three nights at the McPherson Playhouse in Victoria, a venue at which people actually pay good money to see real talent.
So here I was now with three bit parts and roped into rehearsals. There was some talent among the other cast members and no shortage of enthusiasm as they moved from Judy’s youth to the Wizard of Oz to Liza’s big voice. Lots of singing and dancing for them; happily none for me.
But then it came to the last scene. The play needed a big close and the director wanted it to feature the entire cast, not just the main players.
Opening night, the theatre was half filled. My family was in attendance, along with spirited representation from the LGBTQ community.
The performance was lumpy but lines were more or less delivered as intended. Then it came to the closing number.
(I came across another picture recently of my high school band on parade. I was the first clarinetist, which speaks more to the quality of the clarinet section than to my talent. We’re marching. Every single band member is marching with right foot forward and there I am, at the front, striking out with my left.)
Back to the play. I have a bit of amnesia here – probably PTSD – so I don’t recall whether we all linked arms to sing Meet Me in St. Louis or We’re Off to see the Wizard. I was between Auntie Em and the Tin Man. There was choreography involved and coordination required; some side stepping, high kicking and skipping.
I was Mr. Bean.
Performance over, I could see Graham waiting for me at the top of the long hall from the dressing rooms to the lobby. Arms crossed, a half smile.
“Was it awful?” I asked.
He nodded. “Awful.”