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2013-08-01 / General Stories

Life’s Outtakes

When Things Don’t Work Out As Planned
By Daris Howard

My wife and I are in charge of the community musical for the summer celebration. When we were asked to take on the assignment, I questioned whether it was us the celebration committee really wanted to ask. I suggested that they might, instead, have more luck talking to someone who didn’t know what they were getting in to. We have directed and produced a lot of musicals, and we knew the amount of work it takes.

We were told that they had asked other people, but after one all consuming season, the person would tell the committee they were through. The fact was, the committee was running out of options and hoped we would take the assignment for a few years. Even understanding what we were getting ourselves in to, we still decided to accept the challenge.

Casting went as expected. Lots of parents showed up, hoping to get their children into the musical, but few adults came with the idea of playing a part. We worked hard to convince the parents that we needed them to join the production to work with their children.

For three weeks we taped every audition, and then we spent hours reviewing the tapes. We still didn’t have enough adults to fill the parts, so we started calling everyone we knew that had ever seen anything resembling a theatrical production, whether or not they could carry a tune in a bucket. We were shot down most of the time, but eventually we felt we had a good, strong cast.

We were finally ready to call everyone with their parts. Most of those we called seemed excited. But a problem arose when the man we wanted to cast in the lead male role declined, telling us there was no way he would have that kind of time. That was pretty much the way it went for anyone else we felt matched the part. After two more weeks of frustration, my wife told me she felt we had no option but for me to take the part.

There were three problems with that. First, I was concerned how everyone would view me being in a lead part since we were directing. She pointed out that if they didn’t like it, they could direct next year, or they should have at least auditioned. The second problem was, I had looked forward to a summer filled with gardening and other activities of my choice, not hours practicing lines for a musical. The last, and biggest, challenge was my lack of confidence in singing. I have done a lot of acting and knew I could handle that, but in musicals I have always been a secondary character. If I sang at all, it was in a part where, if I sounded like a bullfrog with a bee stuck in his throat, everyone would just think it was part of the character I was playing, and not just my bad singing.

I continued to resist for a couple more days, suggesting anyone I could think of: colleagues, friends, ex-friends, George Bush, Bill Gates - whatever name came to mind. My wife, meanwhile, encouraged me by saying we could pay for some voice lessons. Finally, seeing no other alternative, I reluctantly agreed to take the part.

I declined performing in front of the rest of the cast for nearly a month as I took lessons and worked hard. It was not so much that I thought I was getting better, but more due to the fact I hoped to put it off as long as possible. Eventually it came to the time that we had to move forward, and I had to sing in front of everyone, like it or not. My wife suggested I try to really exert great confidence, no matter how I felt. When I was younger we always used a phrase that applied to times such as this. “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull.”

My grand entrance included me running down the aisle and jumping onto the stage. As the music and the scene were building to a crescendo, I was standing nervously in the back, waiting for the big moment. It finally came at the climax of the scene, and I took off down the aisle. I bounded up the stairs two at a time with great energy and enthusiasm.

As I reached the top step, going at full speed, I opened my mouth to sing the first word of the song. In that instant, I took my eyes of the stairs, and my foot hooked the top step. I face planted into the stage and, with my momentum, slid all the way to the back.

As the cast roared with laughter, one of my friends in the cast pointed out that, from that point forward, there was nowhere for my acting to go but up.

(Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist, playwright, and author, can be contacted at daris@darishoward.com; or visit his website at http:// www.darishoward.com)

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