But storytelling is different. It has a beginning, middle, and end. It requires description, it allows you to share genuine emotion. And it can be very funny or poignant. I tell personal stories all the time in this blog, why not give it a shot in front of actual people? And like the blog, storytelling offers no real financial gain, so that has me written all over it.
Anyway, I submitted a piece to Sit ‘n Spin. This is a once-a-month storytelling night at the Hudson Theater in Hollywood that’s associated somehow with Comedy Central. (Trust me, I have no illusions of being “discovered”) The readers tend to be working writers and their stories usually range from hilarious to deeply moving. Not having enough depth for the latter I strove for the former.
Many of the stories I’ve heard are autobiographical so I adapted a section from my book on growing up in the ‘60s (THE ME GENERATION… BY ME – available here). I submitted the chapter about my sort of first girlfriend, Eleanor.
|Jill, Ron, Taylor|
We did a walk-through on stage. I was second up. I was assigned a music stand stage right. To get to it I would wait backstage in the corner until Jill Morely finished. There would be applause, the lights would dim, and I would go through the split in the side curtain and maneuver my way past some risers to my spot. When I was done, there would (hopefully) be applause, the lights would go down again, and I would exit the stage through the same curtain opening. Piece ‘o cake.
The show started. I took my position backstage. Jill read a very funny piece about receiving lesbian love letters from prison. She was getting good laughs. I felt relieved. This audience was responding to smart jokes about statutory rape.
Finally, she finished, there was enthusiastic applause, the lights dimmed, and I groped my way out to my waiting music stand. I was hit by a spotlight. AAAAGH! It occurred to me: I had never been hit by a spotlight before that wasn’t emanating from a police helicopter. I looked out at the audience and just saw blackness. I had no idea how many of them were on their phones or leaving.
I launched into my piece and thankfully started getting good laughs. Nothing relaxes you like laughter. In a few places they were laughing at straight lines. That’s when you know you’re scoring. I discovered where everyone’s confidence came from. When reading a personal story, who better than you delivering it?
I finished to warm applause, acknowledged with a nod, and the lights went out. This time they really went out. Not like the rehearsal. It was black. I staggered back to the curtain, somehow avoiding clocking myself on one of the risers.
I reached the back curtain but couldn’t find the opening. So I’m groping along, now terrified that the lights were going to come back up and there I will be on full display, spread-eagled, feeling my way along the curtain. What an exit that would be!
Fortunately, I found the slit and slipped through just as the lights went back up. Whewwwww!
We all ran out to take a curtain call. I hadn’t taken a curtain call since I was in the 8th Grade production of OKLAHOMA playing Curly in the dream sequence. Jill had to reach over and grab my hand. Oh, that’s right. Everybody holds hands. And bows. And acts humble. I have to say, the curtain call was the weirdest part of the night. I just don’t think of myself as a “performer.” When I had co-written that musical performed at the Goodspeed Theater I asked one of our stars, Andrew Rannells, what it feel like to be out there on stage feeding off the energy of the audience? He said, “Why don’t you just write yourself a part?” and I said, “Because I can’t sing, dance, or act.” But read my own words; that I can do. So the answer to my question to Andrew: it was very cool to feed off the audience’s energy. Cool enough that I plan to do it again in the future.
I have an idea for another story, but first I’ll have to see if Ron will loan me his rags and fake blood.
Thanks to Maggie Rowe, Jill, Jeff, Ron, Claudia, Taylor, and everyone at Sit ‘n Spin. You all made sure my story had a happy ending.