This time a shirt goes to Wes for this suggestion.

So last Thursday night we began our last weekend of Rabbit Hole performances. It is perhaps the most fulfilling and enriching production I have participated in as an actor. I will miss it terribly. I will miss the show because it is a beautifully written script, a gorgeous and intimate venue, and deftly directed. I will miss the people, not only because I love them, but because I feel totally safe with them.

Which brings me back to Thursday.

During the final scene of the show — a beautiful and softly tense scene between a husband and wife trying to navigate their own and each other’s sense of loss — I went up.

“To go up,” in acting parlance means “to forget one’s lines.”

Yup. My acting partner and I were rolling along in this beautiful scene and I simply went blank. She sat there waiting for my next line and all I could do was watch her picking at an open aluminum foil parcel of zucchini bread. We looked at each other and smiled.

She said, “Would you like a piece?” — not an actual line in the play, by the way.

I took it and ate it and said, “Thanks.” Another non line in the show. Then I said, “It’s so quiet,” which was, in fact a line. However, I skipped about half a page of pretty important character material that sort of puts this scene into perspective. Both of us knew it, but neither of us panicked. That cool-headedness does not always prevail in shows. In fact, it rarely prevails.

But I trusted her and she trusted me. We wove our back to the important info and, by the time this emotionally draining scene was over, I’m pretty sure we only really missed one line. We got everything in, it made sense, and it didn’t harm the emotional arc of the scene. That is what can happen when you trust your scene partner and you trust yourself. There is a certain love for your fellow actors that an experience like this can instill in you.

I am not always that level headed. Especially in my daily life. And especially when I was younger.

I remember the first time I went up, I mean really went up. It was high school and, quite strangely, it was during a choir concert.

We were singing this raucous sea shanty (yes, you read that right, “sea shanty”) called “Jack was Every Inch a Sailor.” Our choir director, who was kind of like a demi-god to us, had added a couple of verses because he wanted to have several of us sing little solos between the chorus of:

Oh, Jack was every inch a sailor,
Five and twenty years a whaler;
Jack was every inch a sailor,
He was born upon the bright blue sea.

I was embarrassingly excited, because I had had a verse bestowed upon me. I believe the verse was:

When Jack returned to port he found a mermaid on a pier.
(Bah da da!)
He took her home and she became his wife for forty years.
(Bah da da!)
To buy his wife some furniture caused Jack to scratch his head.
(Bah da da!)
That’s how he was the man who did invent the waterbed.

As you can see each line is punctuated with the virile all-male chorus singing through their manly smiles the phrase “Bah da da!” It was actually a really fun song.

But, alas, that fateful night. Alas!

We began the tune and it was a manly barrage of shantysong. One by one, the other soloists stepped forward and belted their verse and we Bah-da-dad!

It came my turn. I stepped forward, and this is what the audience heard:

When Jack …
(Bah da da!)
Ahh …
(Bah da da!)

(Bah da da!)
Um…

And even more horrific, the chorus did not come. Our choir director redirected the pianist to loop the verse. I soon realized, and this is what the audience saw and heard:

Jason’s head cocked to the right, his eyes swiveled left, trying to comprehend
(Bah da da!)
Jason took a step forward toward the choir director.
(Bah da da!)
Jason whispers desperately, “What are the words?”
(Bah da da!)
The choir director, grinning like a madman, shakes his head no.”
(Bah da da!)

Oh, that’s right. You saw an extra Bah-da-da! at the end of that four line phrase. Bah da da! He just rolled it right on over. Bah da da!

It became my own personal little Telltale Heart. Bah da da!

What’s that fat kid doing?
(Bah da da!)
I’ve never seen anyone sweat so much in my life!
(Bah da da!)
God I love watching people die on stage!
(Bah da da!)
Is this the third time they’ve rolled through this verse?
(Bah da da!)

Finally, I think it was the fourth time around I was able to get out

When Jack…
(Bah da da!)
Yea, Jack!
(Bah da da!)
I believe it is at this point that I began to dance a jig. A little blond fat-boy jig.
(Bah da da!)
Go, Jack!

It was at this point that I forced my director’s hand, because I slipped back into the hopeful anonymity of my choirmates.

Mercifully the chorus rolled into my ears.

I was, as you might imagine, devastated. Dev-a-stated!

I think when the men’s chorus was done I actually hid under the stage.

But, evidently, it was the hit of the evening. At that point I didn’t know how funny a jig dancing fat boy was. Apparently…HI-larious!

I suppose that painful moment launched my performing hobby in earnest.

Thanks, Wes, for reminding me of this moment. It was tucked into one of the old dusty pigeonholes in my mental rolltop. It took a while. But it has become a fun memory.