Yesterday's News

By Scott Snyder

I never have professed to be a dancer. I sing okay, but my legs spend most of their waking hours bent at right angles. For most of my performance experience, their instructions have been, "Don't give out" -- mostly a supporting role.

But now we've progressed to musical theater, my legs and I, and there's more than enough performing to go around. I'm in an off-Broadway production of Sondheim's Follies. Actually it's about two hours off Broadway, by Bieber bus. My sister volunteered me. They needed male cast members. My sister said, "Scott can do it." Out loud she said this.

I went to sing for the musical director. She said, "Can you dance?" I said, "No." She said, "OK, that's fine," a statement I should've had notarized, because a month later, I find I'm in two Big Dance Numbers.

I admire people who can dance well -- I really do. They watch something once, do it once, and they've got it. They can learn a dance like most people read a sentence. In fact, I felt sort of illiterate, trying to learn the first of my two Big Dance Numbers. Everyone else shuffled; I stumbled. Everyone twirled; I peered about, blinking. Everyone kicked; I did, too, most often in the wrong direction.

I muttered a lot of apologies. There were canes involved in the number, and about half way through, I switched from a rattan cane to one of the foam ones. That was better for everyone. I tried really hard, and after three hours, I was exhausted and confuddled. Everyone was still being nice to me, but they were glad rehearsal was over so that they wouldn't have to be nice anymore.

The director called me over, after rehearsal. He said, "Can I talk to you for a second?" He said, "I don't think you can do this." I would be more of an asset offstage, he said, singing from the wings. I agreed -- he was right, and I was relieved.

But having one's limitations so clearly delineated like that .... It's a little demoralizing, even when it's only a matter of having your suspicions confirmed. When it's stated so definitively, so categorically -- "You can't do this." -- it seems to pertain to other areas of competence as well. What else can't I do? you think. What other ineptitudes have I yet to uncover?

At any rate, I got fired from the two Big Dance Numbers, and now I'm just in the one Little Dance Number. The rest of the time, I walk around the stage serving drinks to other actors. Sometimes I sing. It's a pretty nice part, actually. It makes me feel helpful, and I love feeling helpful.

Shakespeare said, "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em." I don't suppose that applies in my case. Perhaps some have nondescriptness thrust upon 'em. I wonder whether Shakespeare knew that.

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