I went Sunday and watched the musical version of "It’s A Wonderful Life" at Warren Arts new/old building on Red Road and I have to admit I was very impressed.
The cast did a great job after just six weeks of practice, putting on a play of more than two hours with numerous singing parts, not to mention extensive spoken lines.
Watching the performance this weekend, I was almost persuaded to return to the stage until I paused to remember that being a member of a cast means you have to learn your lines. With me, it’s not nerves or fear of speaking in public. Interesting fact. Studies show more people are afraid of public speaking than death itself.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been part of several critically acclaimed stage performances during my time of thespianism. I began my acting career as “Wise Man No. 3” (the one bearing frankincense, whatever that is) in my church Christmas play back when I was an early teen and was able to parlay that experience into being one of the disciples by my high school years. I’m not sure which one I actually played other than I wore a really cheesy fake beard that smelled like the church attic while pretending to eat the grapes on the table.
“Remember. Don’t eat the grapes,” the director warned during dress rehearsal. “We won’t have enough for the performance if you eat the grapes during practice.”
As an aside, I ate several of the grapes and they were delicious. It was the Last Supper for crying out loud. I was hungry.
After excelling in grape eating that year, I got the big call a couple of years later, my silent performances as Wise Man and Disciple obviously catching the eye of the casting department. I got the part of Pontius Pilate. That’s when I realized that learning lines did not come natural for me. It’s always been easy for me to get up and speak, sing, and play the trumpet as long as it’s not mapped out what I have to remember. I can make it up on the go without a bit of problem. However, recalling written words, that’s another issue.
That first year I was shaking under my toga as I performed my lines as Pilate. I’d practiced the part for two months but was still not confident. It was to the point, during my first performance, that I wrote key lines in my palms and on my arms so I could sneak a peek if I went blank.
With the rave reviews for Pilate, I was finally given the lead role in Hark, the Herald Angel a few years ago. I played Hark. You’d think by this time, being a master thespian, I would have learned how to memorize lines. Nope. Once again, two months of study still left me unsteady and, once again, lines were tattooed all over my body in case I froze.
So, there you have it. If you see me before my next play, those things on my arms and hands aren’t tattoos. They are my lines.
Standard reporter Duane Sherrill can be reached at 473-2191.