Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Last of the Red Hot Lovers!

By Paul Dugan, Groovy Reflections Team Member

Every community theater director, at one time or another, has gathered their cast and told them “Remember, the audience doesn't know the lines. If you make a mistake, the audience won't know; if you don't let it bother you, just keep going”. Never have truer words been spoken, as illustrated in this story.

The Last of the Red Hot Lovers! That's me! Oh! Not really of course but I did play the role on stage. Playwright Neil Simon wrote this famous tale back in the late 60's about Barney Cashman, a middle aged married man that wants to join the sexual revolution before it passes him by. Barney decides to have an affair and the three act play revolves around his three attempts at having one. In all three acts he attempts his clandestine affairs at the home of his mother who is out of town.

In act one Barney brings home Elaine Navazio, a woman who’s a bit brassy and far more worldly than he; she likes cigarettes, whiskey and other women's husbands!

Now, I am by no means an overly large man, at the time I was 5'10” and about 220 pounds, however next to the lady cast to play Elaine I was Andre the Giant!

At one point the script calls for Barney to grab Elaine in a passionate embrace and kiss just as she inhales from her cigarette and they fall onto the sofa and after he releases her she exhales! Audience laughs and we move on. We rehearsed this many times so that we would land in such a way that I didn't crush Elaine and felt we had it perfect.

This was a community theater show and someone had allowed us the use of a period style sofa with the metal tubes and orange cushions.

Come opening night we had a decent crowd. The theatre was about half full, which is good for a community theatre opening night.

All was going well until we came to the “clinch scene”. As luck would have it, when we fell onto the sofa, my shoulder hit the back cushion and the whole back fell off and us with it!

Are you familiar with the term head over heels? Why isn't it heels over heads? It certainly was that night! The poor lady playing Elaine had her dress around her waist; we were mortified! But we were also community theatre veterans and we knew we had to soldier on. However, the audience thought it was part of the show and roared with laughter! We kicked away the parts of the sofa that had fallen, arranged ourselves as best we could, and continued on with the show.

Our stage crew miraculously pieced the sofa back together and we prepared for the next nights show. The theatre was packed to capacity; many of the people that were there the first night were there again. They had to bring in extra chairs from a business next door and still it was standing room only.

While mingling prior to the show, the director was speaking to someone he recognized as having attended the first show and said something to the effect of “you must have really enjoyed yesterday's performance” The patron replied “It was great! But we came back just to watch them fall off that sofa again”!

By Paul Dugan, Groovy Reflections Team Member

Monday, July 11, 2011

Down at Auntie Annie's

The same river but just slightly upstream
By Gerry Wendel, Groovy Reflections Founder and Team Member

Did you get shuffled off to relatives during the summer? I did. Our family always spent some time down the shore in the hot weather, however, for a couple of summers I also got to go spend time with Auntie Annie and Uncle Jack, who lived about 45 minutes away.  Guess Mom needed a break!

I don’t remember Uncle Jack ever saying that much. He was well known for the red clam chowder he cooked up; a dish I had no appreciation for when I was young. I can still taste it though, and my adventurous adult taste buds would enjoy a bowl of it right now. Uncle Jack’s job had something to do with seafood deliveries and I learned in my teen years that all the shrimp my family consumed when I was growing up “fell off the truck”, according to my Dad.

Auntie Annie loved playing board games with me. I remember her copy of the game Clue. The board was only three colors, light yellow, maroon, and gray, rather drab compared to the full color version I had at home. We also played a game called Careers that had interesting professions including Uranium Expedition, Go to Sea, and Go to the Moon.  Today, I have a vintage copy of that game, the exact same edition, and I still play it.

Spoiler alert, or rather, spoiled child alert: I was allowed to stay up late and watch Dick Cavett with my Aunt and Uncle. To this day, I can instantly recognize Dick’s incredible voice, yet I can’t tell you anything about his show.

My Aunt and Uncle had a small menagerie, including a very shaggy dog, Bipper, who was fun to run around the yard with, and a pen with Guinea Hens in it. The hens held my attention for about all of 15 seconds.

I quickly made friends with a girl across this street, Lois, who had her very own Easy Bake oven, a toy I always wanted but it never showed up under the Christmas tree. We’d cook up a storm in her rec room.

But there was more to my visit than a toy baking device and late night TV viewing.

The back yard was deep and seemed to go on forever, however it eventually ended at a river. A gurgling, fresh, clean, sparkling, mostly shallow body of water with lots of smooth rocks, perfect for practicing skimming; a skill I never quite grasped. My brothers seemed to be more talented at it than me. Guess it’s a guy thing.

One day when I was by the river with one of my brothers. We started playing by skimming the rocks but that only brought on boredom. One of us elevated the action by throwing the pebbles into the water, bypassing the skimming.  This new twist soon evolved into a game of who could make the bigger splash. My competitive nature spurred the challenge on. Now, I don’t recall which one of us was more adventurous, but eventually a stone wall, where the rocks were loosely piled up, became a source of ammo. The “game” had truly escalated when the splashes were created by objects that rivaled the weight of bowling bowls.

Then Uncle Jack saw what we were doing. OOPS.

Now, if there was severe punishment involved, I would have remembered that, right? So let’s assume that we merely received a stern warning. And we weren’t told to fish the rocks out of the river either!

I’m thinking that if anything, we were secretly applauded for our creativity. At any rate, I’m glad to have such wonderful memories of those summer visits with my Aunt and Uncle.