A local theater was planning a short musical revue featuring songs from its past productions. The director asked, weeks ago, if I’d like to participate.
“Would you sing ‘Sunrise, Sunset?’” he asked.
I was surprised, to be sure—and not necessarily happy. The tune was, after all, just not in my wheelhouse.
“I don’t have the voice for that,” I submitted. “What about ‘Kids’ from ‘Birdie’? I can do shtick.”
“This would be better,” he assured, cutting debate.
(I agreed to do it, of course, but as a duet. We go up in June. Softly).

I loved acting—just loved it.

The sun rose on my theater fun in the late 80’s when, sitting in Beachwood’s theater, I saw Kraut have a ball singing “Oh Wee Oh” in “The Wizard Of Oz”. Soon after, a stage was shared with Stacy (who dazzled as a Von Trapp).

The marriage went south, though, and so did my comfort level in Beachwood. Next thing I knew I was sitting at a tryout in Chagrin Falls—they called my name—I hesitated—and another actor, (a friend), whispered “Just get up there and sell it”.

And they cast me: a blustery Senator Phogbound in “L’il Abner”. Nice role, short solo in a song—but what I recall most vividly is how they re-choreographed a production number just to get me off stage. What did they think: that inadvertently I might kick someone in the n%ts?

Ah, but it was the 90’s! I was in my forties and for some reason every time I wanted the manic, male flat slob role in a show, I seemed to be getting it–
from Mr. McAfee in “Birdie” to Teddy in “Arsenic & Old Lace” to Officer Krupke to The Cowardly Lion! Heck I was even the manager in “Damn Yankees” and a young Mel Brooks in “Laughter”. (Did it take any talent to crawl ‘cross a stage feigning heart attack?)

A good run it was.

When I got sober, though, they suggested I slow down. “Work your program,” said my sponsor.
“Yeah, but—“
“Give time time,” he counseled.
I did.

It was one from the rooms, ironically, that got me back on stage. Purim, 2009, and the bug bit hard. The kids were grown ups now and so (perhaps), was I.

Mania better directed, if nothing else, within three years there was  Murray The Cop (“Odd Couple”), Mr. Pinky (“Hairspray”), another coronary as Mel, the eccentric uncle (“Philadelphia Story”) in Painesville, a Nazi in Fairport and…timpani: YES, even a stage kiss!

A good run it was. Again, and I relish the friends found, lessons learned, and the laughs and the memories…

Still, a few years back I landed my best part ever. A recurring role, it requires not only travel, but prioritizing time. Like early sobriety, it’s first things first.

My new role, you see, is as grandpa. It’s a part where dividends grow east and west and birthdates are added year by year. Will I squeeze in another show when the calendar’s right? Of course I will. After all, I’m not ready to get off stage—quite.

But it matters not, any more. Not really. The sun’s setting on my theater career. The role of grandpa is the greatest gig—the perfect part for me. Surrounded by family, encompassed in love, I’ve no scripts to read and no lines to learn.

I just play it by heart.

Leave a Reply