There’s always a lesson.


My first shot at directing, (last year’s “The Odd Couple”), was the perfect way to lose one’s virginity. The cast had experience, obvious talent, and was often quite patient with its first-time director. Indeed, while having fun, each wanted it to be good for me too.

It was. Still, this was Neil Simon, for God’s sake! As I’d said at the time, “Even I couldn’t screw up”.

There was, I would learn, a down-side. Thrilled as I was each night of the run, I wasn’t, as the last curtain fell, at all convinced I’d contributed. Let’s face it: the author was classic and the cast was great. If I was right that “I couldn’t screw it up”, what then did I do? At least if I’m on stage as the crowd guffaws, I know I’m  “part of”. I’ve said the line, made the face, slipped and fell—gotten the laugh….


Fast forward to Summer ’13—

Insecurity was my foundation, but increasingly aware of the paucity of stage roles for fat slobs past sixty, eagerly I signed on to direct once more. Another stellar playwright —  they’d be doing Woody Allen’s “Don’t Drink The Water”—this show had a cast twice the size and, frankly, I figured my directing once meant nothing…but TWICE? That might mean “street cred”. And again, unless I could lose thirty pounds AND twenty years, I’d need to direct.

It’s a well-run theater, replete with backup support and staff to address all off-the-stage issues. They provided, moreover, a Technical Director to work with ErectorSet matters— you know: sound boards, lighting: things clearly “landsmen” can’t fathom.

I loved it.  What a pleasure just not to be bothered. Let the Dickie Lomaz’s of the world play with wires, study sight lines, and hop and clop  with their hammers. Happy I was just to focus on actors, and script, and laughter.

—Until my phone rang…and emails came…and my elbow got tugged at rehearsals—

“Have you considered this?” asked their lead technician? “Or this?”  “Are you sure you want to do that?”

He tugged at me, first night of tryouts:
“So and so told me he would love this role.”
“The guy’s a jerk, irresponsible”, I noted. “Two shows he was AWOL Tech Sunday”.
“He’s grown up, I swear,” urged my Aid “And he’s a good kid.”
“But he’s not funny,” said I (like it mattered).                                                                                                                      “I’ll vouch for him”, he re-raised. Not meanly, not rudely, yet with words unspoken he was telling me to make it happen. In a nice way yet firmly his was a message certain: “Look, Dickhead,” he was saying, “ I got you this gig, and don’t forget it.  It needs to happen.”


Five days after last Sunday’s six hours of tech, four nights after the putz I cast against impulse, our show opened to boffo crowds, full houses both nights, and smiles all around.

There’s a line in the first act where the Chef shouts “Oysters”. I had him shriek it so the guy he says it to can wince as if spat on. “They will laugh,” was my promise. (I was right, well I knew, ‘though a cheap laugh it was).

There’s a scene where the priest can do slap-stick.
“Is this too much? ” he’d asked me one night in rehearsal.
I said “No, go for it. Let her roll right on you.”
“Do you think you’ll offend them?”
“If it’s funny, it’s funny,” I pronounced, holding firm.

And the frosting —excuse my ego— on the cake:

“You were right,” said my Aid Friday night. The show had just ended and he held out his hand.
“Yesterday’s news,” I demurred, so politely….oh so politely.

(He was after all, the one that “got me the gig”).

       “…It’s all right now, I learned my lesson well.
       You see, ya can’t please everyone,
       So ya got to please yourself….”   

Ricky Nelson


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