Chapter 11 - The Show
I take a deep breathe in, slowly allowing the air to push through the nerves, letting the air slowly come to rest at the bottom of my stomach. The butterflies that dance such a chaotic dance begin to slow down, my eyes close as I count to ten, or try to count to ten. All I could think about was the next five minutes, the anticipation is often worse then the actual moment and this anticipation was causing all sorts of drama within me. My eyes open and I look around the old school's locker room, the generic bench in the middle of the room, designed more for people to put their bag on it then to actual sit down and change. My eyes breach the distant haze of darkness and land in the middle of the shower room, I don't know if I can actually do this. My stomach revolts at the fear, stirring the butterflies and causing them to go into over drive. My business partner, standing currently on the stage, singing and dancing, the more natural traditional performer out of the two of us, with laughter brewing up from the crowd as they clapped, I could tell that things were going well.
But what about me? How were things going to go for me? I had only "discovered" Andy Kaufman about a month before we started to plan for our latest stage show. And I knew, as I watched Andy Kaufman sing the animal song that this is the comedy that not only do I like, but that I would love to perform. My business partner and I started our business about a year before, best friends since we were just kids, we both wanted something more then just working in restaurants in our life. I was beginning to think about taking training to become a Chef and he, he was thinking about taking over his father's restaurant. Just kids, but thinking that we knew so much about everything, we opened a theater company, more like a variety show then actual theater but we were committed to entertainment. I hadn't cared so much about what type of entertainment, I didn't care if people laughed or cried, got angry with me or loved me, all I wanted them to do is go on a journey with me, follow me down the rabbit hole.
I found the line between truth and fiction to be one that I enjoyed dancing on, as one would on a high wire that bridges two skyscrapers. He was the natural, good looking and well known one, I was the quieter and unusual one, I wore a black bowler hat and a feather boa while using a black wooden cane, already in the belief that I was going to be something truly different in the entertainment industry. Of course, while I loved performing my first passion was writing. I loved to imagine myself and my business partner as characters in a play or a movie, he was the hero and I was the weird friend that soon grows jealous and resentful of the hero and becomes the devious villain. All I want is for people to follow me down the rabbit hole.
We were doing one final show, the course of our business being finished and the other parts of our lives growing far to strong for us to ignore any longer. We were destined to go into different directions, but this show was it, the show that we had dreamed of and talked about since the first time we thought about performing. The musical guest, was an amazing singer, surely destined to become a mainstream wonder or at least we thought and our skits were perfect, an accumulation of all that we had done over the past two years. The story perfectly told, a slow burn. I hadn't thought of it when we did our first show but now looking back at it, some part of me knew that this was going to be the direction that we were going to go. And this next five minutes, when I walk out in the audience and begin what was surely going to be the climax of our story. Normally we had a pre-taped some funny television bits, something to distract the audience while the sets and costumes were being changed but this show, we had live cameras in the back. Showing the audience what was going on, influencing their experience through a story they weren't even aware of. The story of us, Faded Films.
We had five previous shows, all of them well received and fairly well attended and we had a blast doing them. My business partner and I would write, produce and act in all the plays, always together and always writing and talking about the plays, the one were doing and the ones that we would be doing in the future, we did radio interviews, in promotion and even had local TV, film a night. We were having the time of our lives but soon slowly we started to spend time apart, at once was a joke at being joined at the hip, soon people were asking if everything was alright. As the show came and went, we would have miniature arguments, of course planned but since we were the only ones that knew that, it seemed real enough. And now the final show, the final night. One last turn of the page. I had slowly become the outsider, even before people knew that, it was my intention, people starting wondering why my business partner would spend time with me at all, why I would invited to this party or that. Even in public with no cameras or many people around, I never broke my character. It was a permanent state, the only time this changed was when we were in his basement, writing and talking about the next show.
I knew that I was going to be a Chef, most likely since I was ten and I had to eat terrible hospitable food and thought that this can't be it or maybe even longer. Maybe it was genetic thing, there are a lot of people in my family in the food industry, what ever the cause, I knew this moment as my business partner was wrapping up and taking a bow, that this moment was the moment that would make everything worth it.
As, I left the change room, the dimness of the hall before the stage doors, allowing me to focus, allowing me to see the truth that I needed to see, that I needed this moment more then I had ever thought before. The door opens and the camera's light, lights up the hall, from dark into light. And soon everything but that moment is gone. I walk through the door, my business partner is there, we look at each other in the eye, it was only a moment but it was long enough to acknowledge the moment, the point of no return. We had a signal if either one of us wanted to stop, a phrase, "How about them Kelloggs" but on this moment it was not said. And we both took a moment to smile inwardly.
The characters that were playing had been built already, my business partner the smart, funny, talented one and me, while I was the angry one, frustrated about the attention that he was getting from others and specifically how the woman seemed to follow him around, like he was the last cup of water. But through the show, the live cameras began to see a different side, they showed an arrogant man always demeaning and talking down to his, so called friend, a friend that wasn't as good looking or as popular. And so as we approached, the camera catching both of us in the shot now, he leans towards me, and quietly almost to quiet, pretending that it was supposed to be a comment only he and I would hear says, "try and beat that loser".
The confusion on my face, blasted through the building, shuffling of chairs and the odd cough was all that could be heard. There was an uncomfortable vibe that had filled the school gym and that is when I knew I had them, they had followed me down the rabbit hole. The curtains opened and I stood in front of the mic, prepared to follow my dreams and do my first stand up. I had worked on the timing for a couple of weeks, the trick was to be always a second off, so by the time the punch line hit, the audience had already got the joke. I worked hard at not being funny. And so was the case, joke after joke died just a foot from my mouth, and soon my hands started to shake, sweat rolled down my face and the tremble while not planned became the clincher, as I held the mic stand.
I sound had them, the crowd had turned from not liking me to hoping for me to be successful and while they tried to find something funny in my delivery, I continued to bomb. And then I started to cry. Not real cry, I wasn't that good of an actor, but a little sob. I stood on the stage frozen, the audience completely wrapped up in my every move, to uncomfortable to really look but to fascinated not to. And with the third sob, the curtains close and soon all that is left in the stunned silence is the glowing of the screens and the camera backstage captures the conclusion. My business partner and I meet, in the locker room, we give each other a big hug and bagged each other for forgiveness. We came back out to the audience, we bowed as the stage hung a large white cloth, next they lined up pies with whip cream and we sat in silence until someone ( a plant) came up and throw at the first pie at us, then the next and soon we were covered in whip cream and cheap pie shells.