I was cast to be a minor role in a local community theater version of something very similar to “Pippin” though not “Pippin”, exactly. I had decided to not study the role, having seen the Broadway production recently, and felt secure enough in my ability to improvise to be able to provide at least a capable stand in for someone who cared. On opening night, the curtain rose, I mouthed a few bits of chorus work, other cast members looking at me with crossed eyes. I went backstage to have a drink and read, and while doing so I apparently lost track of time, being literally pulled on-stage to handle a scene with was presumed to be my father (played by a man who had the stature of Tim Curry and the face of Tommy Lee Jones with a beard). He spoke a line to me, which I was supposed to answer, but had no easy answer to respond. The crowd went silent and the hybrid father looked at me, with eyes that screamed “don’t fuck this up, man”. I continued to fuck it up for at least five minutes, spitting something out that sounded like “but, dad…I thought you wanted the duck”.
Eventually, another extra came out in a burlesque dress and started up what was supposed to happen, by way of a narration or “explanation” of what had just occurred.
I had, apparently, been overcome with the notion of my becoming a king that I was speechless and not thinking straight.
I was hurried offstage and given a good talking to by a really withered Andrea Martin, who I recognized from seeing her on a trapeze when I say “Pippin” earlier this year. She smacked me and pointed a boney finger in my face, telling me that I was doing everyone who had worked so hard a complete disservice and should be ashamed of myself.
Having always loved Andrea Martin in my youth, and being subsequently amazed by her performance earlier on a trapeze, I was shocked enough to try to read the script and learn a few upcoming lines.
Those lines came and went, with other side players taking my place, while backstage I could hear the audience growing restless and uncomfortable.
Finally, I thought I had caught up to the point in the play where I could carry my own, knowing at least the end words to the song at the end, and with Andrea Martin dragging me onto the stage I stood there, presented next to my hybrid father, with the orchestra swelling under us, and I started to sing but nothing came out.
My hybrid father turned to me and said: “Really? Even now?”
I croaked out a few lines about something I don’t remember and the whole cast rose up behind me, singing the right lines to the right song and all I could remember was I was shaking and the lights grew blasting and I looked out at the audience and all I could see was my mom, after the curtain call, with her not clapping at all.
I woke up with the sound of three knocks on the door, feeling embarrassed and really alone. When I went to see if anything was knocking, no one was there, no trace of a knock at all.