Previously on “Just Thinking”…
I arose from my psychosomatical sickbed and dragged myself to the Rec Hall for the announcement of the “Senior Show’s” casting for “Peter Pan”, certain I’d being awarded a really big part and not wanting to miss the adulation that would accompany the public acknowledgment of my thespiatorial greatness.
Are you sensing a big “turn” coming?
The Rec Hall was alive with excited “Seniors” as I slipped in through the back door, trying to remain unobtrusive, or at least as unobtrusive as you can be when you’re wearing pajamas and a bathrobe and everyone else is normally clothed.
“How are you feeling?” I was asked.
“I’ll be fine,” I wanly replied, with a suggestion that the unauthorized leaving of my sickbed came with an ominous hint of personal endangerment.
I was acting already. And we hadn’t even started.
They were down to the “Pirates” and the “Indians”, generic roles bearing no specific character names, and including no lines other than the lines they delivered as a group. (I often wondered about the people receiving those parts. Were they just happy to be in the show? And if so, why? I ponder this in brackets, because I know it’s disgusting, and I am reluctant to pollute the rest of the writing with my hateful superciliosity.)
And finally, it was over, the ceremonial announcement ending in an explosion of applause. There was an electricity in the air, the kind that accompanies the beginning of a new project, in this case, an elaborate production of Peter Pan that had six days to be mounted, and nobody was sure if we could do it. (I would later feel a similar buzz at the table readings of the first episode of a new series. But it’s different with amateurs. It’s better. Maybe because there was no money or careers on the line. It was pure “Let’s make a show.”)
People rushed over to congratulate me, telling me I was perfect for the part, and that they knew I’d be great in it. I thanked them for their kind words, even though I had no idea what they were talking about. My role assignment had been announced before I’d arrived.
I did know one thing, however.
Nobody says “You’ll be great in the part” if that part isn’t big.
The passing decades have robbed me of the specifics of how I finally learned who’d I’d be playing, and I am loath to insinuate a fabricated element into what to this point has been a chronicle of (pretty much) “lie-detector”-passing accuracy. (By the way, not being able to make stuff up that sounds as real as the real stuff? Not good if you’re a scriptwriter.)
Anyway, somebody told me I was “Smee.”
“Smee”, to those unfamiliar with Peter Pan, is Captain Hook’s “right hand man”, which means he stands behind Captain Hook and slightly to the side while Captain Cook enjoys “Center Stage.” Because Captain Hook is a big part. And “Smee is not. “Smee” is one step above “chorus” – a “Pirate” with a name.
I was not at all happy.
Especially when my friend Shelly came over, clapped me hard on both shoulders, and, with more exuberance than seemed necessary, crowed, “Hello, ‘right hand man!’”
My friend Shelly was Captain Hook.
And I’m not sure he even wanted to be.
(Historical Note: Shelly and I had become friends because nobody in our cabin could stand either of us, me because…I’m me, and him, because of his of his patented posture of withering disdain. We were two “outsiders.” Though only one of us by choice.)
So there you have it. I had risen from my sickbed and been handed a small part.
Yes, I know what they say:
“There are no small parts, only small actors.”
But did you ever notice who says that?
It’s usually somebody with a big part.
Tomorrow: Rising from obscurity.