Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Importance Of Being Late

Joey and I go way back, ever since he joined a TA production of “The Importance of Being Earnest” during college. Afterwards, we both worked in the same radio station and then in the same advertising agency. Now he’s joined our agency after being self-employed for several years.

But this episode is not really all about him. Rather, his return reminded me of an incident back in our “Earnest” days.

In “Earnest” I was the stage manager; Joey played Algernon, the handsome roguish cad who unfortunately is onstage when the play begins. Joey was perfectly cast as Algernon; he was one of the campus crushes of our batch. Tall, handsome and with a lazy Californian twang to boot, Joey always sounds like he’s talking to you with a Four Seasons drink (complete with mini-umbrella) in one hand while lying down on a hammock at the beach. So it’s no surprise that in this particular all-girl school which had booked several classes to watch our play, the girls were spreading the word: “The guy playing Algernon’s such a cutie!” with matching squeal.

It was a rare weekend morning performance. (Performances are often scheduled in the afternoons and evenings because, as any actor will tell you, morning shows are hell on the voice and energy level.) Several sections from that all-girl school were watching that morning. The other sections had watched the weekend before, so when the girls piled into the house, all of them were abuzz with excitement at seeing “that cutie” up close and in person.

Unfortunately Joey lived in Alabang; back then most Alabangers were rich, good-looking kids who carpooled going to and from school. (Why carpool instead of driving their own cars? I have no idea; using gas money for gimik instead, perhaps? Anyway, Joey was one of those kids.)

I knew we were in trouble when, at 20 minutes ‘til curtains up, Joey was nowhere to be found. Back then there were no cellphones, no pagers. As stage manager I assumed the worst.

At five minutes ‘til curtains up, I put on Algernon’s coat and walked out to address the audience. The girls were all eager eyes, waiting for the show to begin so that they can feast on eye candy. A cough, then I explained to them: in theater tradition, should a cast member fail to perform his duties, the stage manager takes over and reads his role. The moment I mentioned the name “Algernon”, a huge collective “Awwwwwwwww” of such deep disappointment swept through the audience. By the time I finished my spiel I could see most of the eyes were crestfallen; some were still in shock, while I swear a couple of them were ablaze with righteous anger: You cannot deprive us of Cutie!

I smiled and walked off-stage. The moment I was out of visual range I dropped my smile and muttered, “Tangina n’yong lahat! Mga letcheng kepz kayong lahat! Buti na lang bakla ako, kundi…! Humph!”

The performance started with me reading Algernon’s part and giving it my all. After all, I had much to compensate for the girls’ terrible disappointment. At the end of Act 1 Part 1, Algernon and Lady Bracknell were to leave the stage.

Backstage was in turmoil. Joey had arrived, running and puffing; he had changed into costume already. The Avon lady was finishing the barest of hurried make-up. I took off the jacket and put it on Joey. “Just go in as if nothing had been amiss,” I whispered to him. He tried to apologize about the carpool trouble; I just told him, “Later. Just concentrate on the performance first.” I tapped his shoulder on cue and he stepped onstage.

You should have heard the collective gasp and shrieks that accompanied his grand entrance.

Backstage I breathed a sigh of relief at not having to do the whole play as Algernon. And I gently reminded myself what the audience so cruelly told me that morning: I’m no matinee idol.

* * * * *

Epilogue: Our director applauded me for keeping everything moving smoothly and making sure the whole troupe acted professionally. And it turned out to be one of Joey’s best performances in that role. By the time the play ended I had no heart to even stay mad at him.


Anonymous said...

another funny anecdote, mcvie. puede ba, write more! andrea

Alexei said...

hahaha i know joey - didn't know he did some acting before.

joelmcvie said...

@ALEXI: I've only seen Joey act once, and that was in "Earnest". Whether he acted before or after that, I would have to ask him pa. =)

cant_u_read said...

sinong joe itoh?!?!