Performing

I have always been impressed with stage actors. How a lead actor in a play can somehow learn all of the dialogue and not screw up the lines over the course of an hour and a half. And not just recite the lines, but act too. Impressive.

The other night my wife and I attended a performance of the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra which was spotlighting Brahms’s Symphony No. 1. The performance featured a guest pianist. She played for forty minutes or so, without sheet music in front of her. Just like the actor, how in the world does a musician learn all of those thousands of notes and not make an obvious mistake? Especially at the speed at which she was playing. Awe-inspiring. 

I had my shot at this kind of greatness once. A chance to step up and demonstrate my performance prowess. It was for a video I wanted to make to promote my novels. No, it wasn’t stage acting, I know that, but it did require some minor degree of acting and, more importantly, the flawless recitation of lines. Since I had little money, I spent what I had on the talented videographer, Keith Boyd, to direct and film the story. That left me to write the script and star in the production. Each video, depicting a different location in the fictional town of Wormwood, West Virginia, was about a minute and a half. There were eight. The dialogue for each segment consisted of a few sentences for me to wax eloquent.

With the shoot, that’s insider Hollywood lingo, only days away, I practiced my lines like crazy. I stood in front of a mirror at home and went over them time and time again, emoting all over the place. My goal was to sound like a representative of the Chamber of Commerce extolling the virtues of Wormwood, a town with the motto, “Down, But Not Completely Out, Yet.” However, sometimes I had the feeling I sounded more like a telemarketer pitching the latest dietary supplement. To be honest, I was slightly conflicted about my approach. In any event, I kept at it until I had a good handle on all those words now stacked up in my head.

The big day arrived. We were out at the first location, a pile of concrete rubble alongside a highway, a fitting site to depict a mountain ski resort in Wormwood. Time to speak and act. Take One – couldn’t remember the first sentence, just stared at the camera. Take Two – pronounced “resort” as “resnort.” Take Three – forgot the last sentence. Take Four – said “upending” instead of “unending possibilities.” Take Five – forgot to wait for the hand signal from Keith to begin. Take Six – Nailed it! A blazing display of bravura. Keith said, as I was ready to high five him, “How about one more time, this time with a tad more emotion?” Several more takes and I stumbled over the finish line. We moved to the second location. And so it went. All day. No break for lunch. Just dogged perseverance and immense patience on Keith’s part.

Fortunately, Keith is a master at video editing and salvaged the project. You can see what he finally came up with by clicking on one of the Wormwood books in the Books tab on this website and then scrolling down.

Am I going to pursue an acting career? Are you nuts? No way. I’ll leave that to those with talent. Those who can remember more than a sentence of dialogue or a line of music. I think I’ll stick with the behind-the-scenes job of crafting sentences and paragraphs and chapters in my office where no one can see the sausage being made.