Earlier this week, I wrote the following:
"I can imagine myself playing [Homer Zuckerman] in the children's classic, Charlotte's Web, this Thursday at around 9:30 AM in the metropolis of Pheasant Run, Illinois."
When I wrote that, I was clearly under the impression that on the Thursday in question, I'd be performing in Charlotte's Web at a school in Pheasant Run, Illinois. Those of you familiar with Illinois are snickering. Those of you who aren't have no idea why those other people are snickering. I will enlighten you as I was recently enlightened:
Pheasant Run is not a city in Illinois. Pheasant Run is the name of a theater in the city of St Charles, Illinois. What a fool I've been! How close I came to ruining my career! How little I knew of the snakepit I was stepping into! Do you understand? Let me explain for you non-soon-to-be-Famous people.
Performing a show at a school for school children is simple. The students, just happy to be out of class, are hardly a discerning audience. Their attention is split between the stage and their teacher crush, and most of them, should you fall on your face, would thank you silently for momentarily refocusing the elitism of the local bully. There is very little risk involved in performing for kids at a school, and I'm happy to step into such a situation having only rehearsed in my living room with a script and a DVD.
A theater, however--now, that's an altogether different beast. Had I known I'd be performing at a theater, for a cultured audience of youths, I'd have insisted on a full two weeks of rehearsal. I'd have demanded previews and an understudy. I'd have negotiated for a program, complete with a full page "bio."
I didn't get those opportunities. The truth about Pheasant Run was sprung on me only as our tour van passed into its parking lot. An hour later, I found myself in front of an army of educated theater goers--young, sure, maybe 8 years of age on average, but they may as well have been wearing tuxedos and taking critical notes on their ipads.
The heat was, as Glenn Fry best put it, "on."
Lucky for me, I continued my lifelong trend of living up to high expectations. I danced almost flawlessy, barely bumping into anyone at all. I remembered most of my lines and lyrics, only paraphrasing or lip-humming when I couldn't remember what came next. I performed unprecedented physical comedy that elicited genuine laughter from the Ivy-League-caliber audience, and I even took an unplanned turn along the theater aisles in the process.
If all of this weren't enough, I put the proverbial cherry on my performance when I was personally plucked to shoulder-lift the show's star, Wilbur, in the closing number, "Some Pig." Then, when it was all over, I knew I'd made a impression, because in the post-show Q&A, one student, playing innocent, raised his hand and asked:
"Are any of you famous?"
I smiled and didn't say a word.
In the aforementioned entry from earlier this week, I also wrote this:
"If at least one kid doesn't cry when Charlotte dies, I'm going to have
words with a Pheasant Run principal about raising a generation of
insensitive, boorish children who don't appreciate 'the theater.'"
It looks like that won't be necessary.