It’s well past 1am, and I’ve finally removed the hundred bobby pins molding my hair into its party up-do, and scrubbed off the three layers of makeup. Earlier, as we watched the Oscars, we marveled at what an incredible group of Leading Actresses were nominated. Now the Oscars are over, and it’s time to settle down and share a story with you. In honor of this year’s amazing performances by a group of brilliant leading ladies, I’d like to share a story with you of a performance of mine that I’m confident deserves some kind award.
Those of you who read of my humiliation yesterday remember that I have have a deeply ingrained sense that, come what may, the show must go on. It is the mantra of every live theatre performer. Your costume catches fire, your uncle dies, a giant speeding comet is headed your way . . . it makes no difference, the show must go on. And so, at the ripe age of fifteen, I was prepared to carry that mantle. I was performing in “Rumors,” a comedy by the fantastic Neil Simon. I played Cassie, which consisted primarily of arguing and flirting. Our stage was an ancient beast which included a fly space that seemed to go on forever. There were ladders and platforms, ropes and rigging everywhere. No matter how high I climbed, the space always seemed to reach higher and higher. And up there, in the dark recesses of the fly space, lived a bat whom none of us knew existed. Who knows how long the bat had lived up there, where it came from, or what it fed on? But one night he decided to make his presence known.
We were well into the show, and I was in the middle of a monologue. I was caught up in the role, so I didn’t notice it at first. But then people started screaming. I continued my monologue, as I began to slyly scan the auditorium. And there it was–my nocturnal nemesis. The bat had declared his independence and was flying freely throughout the room. I continued on as I saw the bat swoop lower and lower over the crowd. In slow motion, I watched a spontaneous wave take place as people ducked deep into their seats to avoid the creature. The screaming came in swells as the bat swooped closer and closer to them. All the while, I steadily continued my monologue. And then the unthinkable happened.
The bat had toyed around with the audience to his satisfaction. He wanted fresh prey. He wanted me. And so he careened closer and closer to the stage, before landing. On. My. Head.
This vile creature of the night was resting calmly on my teased blonde bouffant. And I did what any dedicated artist would do . . . I kept on going. Continuing that monologue as if it were tethering me to a reality where I might open my eyes and discover there was not, in fact, a horrid, winged thing on my head. Bat or not, this show was “going on.”
I’m not sure how long the whole thing lasted–it felt like hours as I bravely recited lines all while being attacked by this evil monster. It probably was only a few minutes. Finally my director stood up from the back of the room and shouted “Enough!” And with that, the show came to a screeching halt. A few stage hands quickly grabbed brooms and began to chase the bat away. Of course, there was nowhere for the bat to go but up. And so up he went–they continued at him with their threatening brooms as they drove him higher and higher into the fly space. Then they climbed the ladders and stood on high, brooms in hand, waiting to catch him if he dared to venture down again.
Once the theatre calmed down, we resumed our show, but I’m not sure we ever recovered. It’s hard to come back from a bat attack, after all. If they gave out awards for acting under distressing circumstances, I’m sure I would be in the running. As it is, the Academy hasn’t yet chosen to honor those of us who act in the most dire and bizarre of situations. In the meantime we are left merely with Best Performance awards. I am confident my performance that day would never measure up to Meryl Streep’s. Then again she wasn’t competing with a bat on her head.