Thursday, February 18, 2010

If You Wanna Catch A Fish...

(This one's for you, Tawna. I don't know why I'm telling this story. Michelle warned me you would be trouble...)

Back in the day (okay, waaay back in the day, but who really needs extraneous modifiers? I'm trying to cut down) I was an actress. As I've mentioned maybe *ahem* a few times. I've compared acting with writing, and explained how one kind of naturally led to the other for me.

The theater I worked at "professionally" (hey, I was paid--not a lot, but it sure supplemented my teacher's salary--so it qualifies) was a venue for old-fashioned melodramas. Handsome heroes, beautiful in-peril ingenues, and mustache-twirling villains. We served beer and popcorn between acts (yes, the actors were the wait staff), and the audience was encouraged to cheer the hero and boo-hiss the villain. Oh, and throw popcorn at all the bad guys with reckless abandon, too. This, in fact, was highly encouraged--we sold more popcorn that way.

It all started when, right after I first began teaching, I saw an old high school drama buddy of mine was directing a new show, and there would be open auditions. My roommate (another high school drama buddy, also a new teacher) and I figured what the hell, might be fun. Teaching at a Catholic high school, especially when you're not Catholic, doesn't provide a ton of laughs; we needed a diversion. Sure, "Shoot-Out at Hole-in-the-Wall" probably wasn't high art of the sort we'd been accustomed to in our college days, but it beat spending all our spare time grading papers.

We tried out. We got the parts. (Really, blackmail had hardly anything to do with it. I mean, sure, we knew a few things about the director, but it's not like we would've gone to the papers with it. Maybe his mother, but we wouldn't have sunk to calling the tabloids.) Anyway, we were officially Flora (that was me!) and Fauna, Showgirls of the Old West.

Now, what we didn't know at the time we were cast was that we'd have a big musical number. And neither one of us could sing. Not a note. Could not carry a tune in the proverbial bucket. When we expressed our concern to our director/buddy, he said not to worry. It wouldn't be a problem. And he winked. (Smart people would take that as a red flag.)

Worry we did. A lot. We started to suspect he'd only cast us to humiliate us (some people get so testy about a little not-really-blackmail). But it turned out the reason he wasn't worried was because he knew the audience would be a teensy bit distracted during our number after we ripped off our long skirts and started singing "If You Wanna Catch a Fish You Gotta Wiggle Your Bait"--suitably choreographed--while prancing around the stage in fishnet stockings and high-heel boots. The catcalls tended to drown out our less-than-stellar vocal performance. Since we were young--and non-jiggly--enough not to be embarrassed about showing our legs, it all worked out.

(Aside: yes, as a matter of fact, this is how I caught the theater god's attention. He was the technical director at the theater, and seemed to *cough* appreciate my bait. Reeled him in hook, line and sinker, and we've been together ever since.)

So, what, you may be asking yourself, does this have to do with writing?

Well, I'll tell you. Back then I tried my best to catch the attention of the audience via a physical performance. With writing, the feedback may not be as immediate, but it is still all about catching your audience. Same idea, different method. Words are my bait now, not long legs in fishnets (believe me, this is a good thing), but my basic bawdy temperament remains the same. As does my desire to connect with my audience.

8 comments:

Tawna Fenske said...

Love it! Are you going to post pictures?! :)

Wouldn't it be great if writers could operate this way? We "rip off our long skirts," so to speak, and everyone cheers and applauds. What I wouldn't give for that sort of immediate feedback!

Tawna

Susan Adrian said...

HAHAHAHAHA.

(in a good way)

Linda G. said...

I'm sure there are pictures somewhere, but none I can put my hands on. Probably back in TX at my mom's place, stuffed in a drawer with a lot of my old crap.

And, yeah, more immediate feedback would be great for writers. I guess blogging is the closest we can get to that.

Linda G. said...

Suze, you'd be laughing in another way if I'd found the pictures. ;)

Elizabeth Ryann said...

That is awesome. And now I understand why so many covers at the book store feature torn skirts!

Linda G. said...

Elizabeth -- Yes. Because torn skirts are _tres_ sexy! ;)

Tiffany Schmidt said...

I missed this when it was new! (what was I doing this day - teaching or something?)

What a fantabulous story.

Little did TG know what he was in for...

Linda G. said...

Tiffany -- I think he's still shell-shocked, even after all these years. ;)

Thanks for visiting the archives! :)