I like going to plays and theatre shows. It makes me feel cultured, the same way that going to movies makes me feel social and going to wild parties makes me feel sullied and vulnerable. I’ve always had an appreciation for the theatre, if only because it’s one of the most genuine forms of narrative entertainment out there. No CGI, no take two, no lip-syncing. There’s a great deal of appeal in the knowledge that each performance is unique, that the performers are walking and/or doing their high-kicks on a tightrope without the safety net of an editing room or stunt double.
Saturday Night Live comes close to the same notion, but as a purist of the entertainment experience, I’m of the school of thought that a real stage with real physical proximity (nosebleed seats or not) always wins out over a television set. Considering how much people shell out for live seats to television tapings, I’m clearly not the only person who thinks so. And now, in an intriguing twist, I’m soon to be among those walking the tightrope.
I haven’t done anything remotely theatre-like in front of an audience since the fifth grade, and as much as I enjoyed playing Aesop the Sportscaster (don’t ask), I hadn’t really envisioned acting to be something I would do in my quasi-adult life. Yet, as the powers that be would have it, be they luck, fate, or several weeks of not-entirely-unwanted peer pressure, I’m going to be in a show this week. And not just a show, a musical. (Dun dun dunnn.) Next Act, Next House’s annual musical theater show, is putting on a production of Sweet Charity. It opens thus Thursday at Next House, and I get to be a part of it.
Let’s be perfectly clear: I have no pretensions to being what one might consider a theatre person (that’s more within my girlfriend’s purview). I consider myself an above-average dancer in that I’ve never hospitalized a dance partner with a foot injury, but I wouldn’t peg my acting abilities anywhere above Titanic-era Leonardo DiCaprio unless told so by someone with a proper frame of reference. I also lack Leo’s teen girl heartthrob factor that doubles ticket sales on sight (also known as the “Orlando Bloom Effect”). And on top of all that, my one attempt in public karaoke ended in disaster and a snarky DJ telling me that my boxers weren’t tight enough for Orleans’ “Still The One.” Not my proudest moment, especially considering that it was early enough in the evening that most of the onlookers were sober.
So why am I in Next Act? Well, for one thing, rehearsal is only three flights of stairs away, and for another, the time-sink factor isn’t quite as severe as with other on-campus theatre productions. Mind you, it’s still been pretty severe, but at least so far, it’s been something to de-stress with. The cast and crew are good folk, and it’s always fun to pretend to be somebody else without violating federal law.
And more than that, the thought of being in the spotlight as more than the Third Billy Goat has me twitching with anticipation. Granted, First Young Man isn’t all that much more ambitious. But, given how talented the rest of the cast is, it’s only fair, and I’m more than happy to watch them work. So, yeah — Next Act opens Thursday, 8 p.m., three nights only, free admission, bring your friends and prefrosh. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I really should be going. Dress rehearsal starts tonight, and I need to patch up my jeans if my pothead-meets-lounge-lizard costume is to be ready in time. (You know you’re intrigued.)