First Act

One of the first plays I remember seeing was from a British troupe that had come to my school in Ooty. For some reason, one of the lines from that play remain stuck in my mind. It goes something like this:

When Shakespeare played

The Stage was bare

and the throne of England

was just a chair

My own foray into theatre began at the tender age of 42. A chance conversation with my nephew saw me don the hat of a 73 year old ex-Vaudeville performer in Neil Simon’s ‘The Sunshine Boys’. Frankly, I had no clue as to what it takes to act in a play, my experience being limited to being a casually interested audience. One look at the 60 page script gave me strong misgivings especially being in the lead role. For some reason, my eternally optimistic nephew felt I could pull it off and I went with the flow.

The first few rehearsals were cause for much merriment and mirth. Reading directly from the script didn’t seem to be very tough and not having a performance date set in stone contributed to my lackadaisical attitude. My nephew too, probably out of deference to his uncle, let me be. A couple of changes in the cast and a few weeks later, we pretty much had a good set of actors for all the roles.

The date of play was finally decided as April 1st and that’s when reality slowly sank in. Rehearsals became more serious and durations became longer. Practice sessions that happened in the club house of our apartment complex slowly shifted to a rented out room and then to my cousin’s house which was lying vacant. One big motivation for me not to do the rehearsals at home was the constant ‘feedback’ from the spouse. Enough said!

D-Day dawned and the plan was set. All stage settings ready at 11 a.m, stage rehearsal from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m and a break from 3 – 6. Yeah right! When the stage was ready, it was almost 7 p.m. and there was frantic scrambling to get the props. Most furniture came from our house and almost everything that could go wrong did. We had dubious help backstage and my nephew did most of the running around, in addition to being the director and one of the main performers.

Though 8 p.m was the start time, we finally got going around 8:30. The sound went wrong in the first few seconds, props could not be found and nothing was where it should be. A comical scene was when my nephew says (in the play) ‘It’s freezing in here’ and he’s dripping with sweat due to the back-stage work he was also doing. Anyway, as one of the lines from the play go…’still we got terrific applause!’. The hundred or so in the audience seemed to genuinely enjoy the humor and comedy. We had a large family contingent which was also helpful and I remember most of my lines, doing some improvisations as we went along.

An eventful first performance, got lots of encouragement from everyone near and dear. It was great to see my Lawrence buddies make it to the play in the heavy downpour that decided to grace us on show day. Looking forward to a lot more acting opportunities in the coming months. Who knows, this could be my calling!

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