Thursday, June 6, 2013

My Improv Act at the Theater

I’m pretty certain that in a previous life, I was a world-famous Shakespearean actress.

More likely, a court jester…but it’s preferable to my ego to think that I was more dignified than a jester.

I know this, because if you get me within 100 feet of a stage, I pretty much begin morphing into a combination of Robin Williams and Bette Midler. Granted, not a pretty picture, by any means – and yet, an almost overwhelming compulsion to “be funny” overtakes me and I am pretty much helpless to control it.

Take last night, for instance.

I was volunteering as an usher at a local outdoor theater in town, which was putting on a production of “Spamalot.” Starlight Theater is pretty large – it seats approximately 8,000 people – so sometimes, while escorting patrons to their seats, you can find yourself pretty much traversing what seems like half the distance around the equator.

While walking people to their seats, I found myself wanting to make small talk to fill in those awkward silences – and I began improvising a comedic routine, desperate to get a laugh out of the guests. I liked to think that I was the pre-show warm-up talent, who are probably paid big bucks to warm up an audience in Hollywood, and here I was, doing it for free.

At one point, I found I had three young men – perhaps in their late 20’s – who needed help finding their seats. Glancing at one of their tickets, I saw that they would be sitting waaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy over on the other side of the theater from where we were standing, so I began my comedy schtick to fill in the time as we began our marathon trek.

“Good news, bad news,” I began.

The young men looked at me a little questioningly…not really sure where this was going.

So, I explained.

“The bad news is, we have a very long trek ahead of us…but the GOOD news is, I’m going to give you a FREE personal tour along the way…and not just ANY tour…but the special, VIP tour – just for YOU!”

Well. A FREE VIP tour??!! They were onboard with this.

So we began our trek. And I began their “tour.”

Pointing to some seats that we passed along the way, I explained, “These are theater seats.”

The men snickered.

I continued, pointing to some seats further along the way.

“See those over there???”

They looked over there, expectantly.

Deadpan, I said, “Those are more theater seats.”

They were really getting into this tour now, because they could obviously see how special of a tour it was. And I was sure to point this out to them as we walked.

“Yes, you don’t get this special, free VIP tour with just ANY usher. Just with me.”

We walked further, and I pointed to the stage and said, “That’s the stage.”

They made appropriate appreciative sounds here, as well they should. I mean, it was the STAGE. Where all the action would be taking place later. The whole reason why I had morphed into an ugly Robin Williams/Bette Midler clown.

A light mist was falling from the heavens at this point, and so I told them, “Feel this? This is our misting system that we provide our patrons tonight – free of charge.”

That impressed them.

We passed a clump of guests who had decided to stand RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WALKWAY to have what appeared to be an impromptu family reunion – GAH (and why do people do that?? It drives me NUTS when people block the aisles!!!) – and maneuvering our way around them, I pointed to them and explained, “See this? This is traffic congestion. And here you thought you only saw this on the roads.”

We were getting closer to their seats (thank goodness, as my legs were about to give out…we should really have first-aid & water stations set up midway throughout the theater to provide relief for the long marathon hikes we have to make, but I digress), but before we got there, we had to climb up a very steep asphalt incline. I’m sure my calves will appreciate this incline in the days and weeks to come, as they’ll be all sleek and svelte, but last night, my legs screamed and protested every time I had to climb that darn thing.

However…it was another spot of the tour.

“You probably thought that Kansas City is completely flat. This incline proves you wrong…you can now tell your friends that you went mountain climbing in Kansas City.”

We’ve now arrived at their seats…of which there are…two.


I have three guys. I counted again, just to double check.

Yes. Three bodies.

Two seats.


“Uh, Houston…we have a problem.”

THIS is every usher’s nightmare…what keeps us up at night. The dreaded “Musical Chairs Disaster” syndrome – where you have more guests than available seats – which means that someone – somewhere – is not where they are supposed to be. And you get to straighten it all out.

Oh, joy.

Seeing the look of panic that was plastered all over my face, as I’m not really good at masking my feelings, one of the guys quickly said, “OH! Don’t worry! I’m not sitting with them.”

Okay – now a look of confusion quickly plastered my face.

He explained, “No, I’m in the cast. These two are my friends. I just wanted to make sure they got seated correctly.”

“Oh....checking up on me??!! I see how it is,” I joked.

One of the guys now stuck out his right hand, and said, “I HAVE to know your name.”

Shaking hands with him, we introduced ourselves to each other, as I told them I hoped they had enjoyed their special, free VIP tour. They assured me they had LOVED it, which is why they had to know who I was. I’m sure they wanted my autograph, as well, but seeing how modest I am, they knew not to ask.

But wow. I met one of the CAST!!! How cool was THAT??!! I was giddy. I was breathless. I quickly turned from famous Shakespearean actress into a groupie. Just like that. I quickly skipped down the steep incline and the 3,299 miles back to the gate to pick up my next victims tour participants.

It was a joy last night, meeting Daniel, Buddy, and the third-guy-who’s-name-I-can't-remember-no-offense, as well as having fun with all of my other guests.

On a drizzly, chilly evening – I hope I warmed them up – just a bit.

I'm tellin' ya''s all about the stage.



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