Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A Waiter with Attitude

I was admonished by my wife to be a team player from the very start. As a card-carrying introvert and self-professed’ uncomfortable in crowds’-kind of person, it was a challenge to rise to the task. But I did so and soon found myself as an obnoxious waiter at the L’Ambrosia Luncheria. It seemed a small price to pay for the generous opportunity that RAAC (Rosemount Area ArtsCouncil) had given me in agreeing to produce my play ‘Riot at Sage Corner’ in the near future. So I accepted their offer of the role and agreed to became a waiter…albeit one with attitude. I wanted to have a little fun with the role.

My first taste of the theater was a little community theater in my old neighborhood of Highland Park. It was called the Edith Bush Little Theater. I have vague memories of some date nights there and the thrill of the story-telling experience.

Years later, in the 70’s, I earned my acting chops at the Chattanooga Little Theater in Tennessee. That seemed like small potatoes compared to what I had to agree to now. I would be working with a bunch of seniors who hadn’t been on stage since their high school or college years if ever at all. Fortunately for all of us what they lacked in experience was more than made up for with their unbridled enthusiasm.

Back in high school, my real world experience in the restaurant business lasted all of three weeks. I thought it would be easy work after school to waiter at a small restaurant in Saint Paul. It was hard work and quickly began to cut into my paper route schedule and homework. It also meant being nice to smart-ass kids who piled into the restaurant just lounge around and harass the wait staff.

Now I found myself back in black pants and a white shirt and dealing with some old matrons and ditzy women who couldn’t distinguish a salad fork from a soup spoon. We had a condensed three weeks of rehearsals and then the performance. Unfortunately, our venue hadn’t had its air-conditioning installed yet. So it was the heat not nerves that soiled our clothes and ran beads of sweat down our cheeks. But it was all good. Everyone had a great time performing and the audience was very supportive and appreciative.

The other seniors like myself took their roles very seriously. We all felt a collective love of the theater and the whole theatrical experience; abet a small one, but one nonetheless. It took a lot of courage for some of these women to get up in front of an audience of strangers to perform a role so unlike their real life one. It was a lot of fun and a real privilege to work alongside of them in the storytelling process.

Maya, my eldest granddaughter was visiting us for a week and she was in the audience.

At the end of our play I was asked to talk about my own upcoming production of ‘Riot at Sage Corner’ which is set for performance on August 25th and 26th. I won’t be acting in that play but I’ll certainly be cheering the actors on and wondering what I’ve gotten into on the other side of the spoken word. 

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