Tuesday, March 3, 2015


Joe, the early bird, waiting for the play to start 2012

“Just give me the first word, that’ll get me started.”

Every time I auditioned for a play it was the same thing, a little panic and lots of worry that I just might have bitten off more than I could chew.  Maybe this time I wouldn’t be able to memorize the umpteen lines of the character I wanted to play.

What if I got on stage and blanked?  It happens, not just to community theater actors, but to professionals on Broadway, too. 

It is the most terrifying experience to believe that you are “well-rehearsed”, that you have it down pat, only to step on stage, open your mouth, and have no words come out.  It is to be avoided at all cost.

Joe knew how much I loved theater and performing, and he was always more than willing to help me prepare for a part.  We would spend hours running lines. 

I would set a daily goal, maybe three pages.  That doesn’t seem like many, does it? 

For me to memorize three pages a day required intense concentration and a lot of backing up and doing it over.  Joe would sometimes get annoyed with me after I screwed a line for what seemed like the hundredth time, but we persevered and eventually I would get them.

By opening night of the play, I would be as ready as I possibly could be, and so would Joe.  Not only had he coached me to remember every line, but in the process he could say virtually every line himself.  I used to say that if I fainted and fell off the stage he might have been able to go on as my understudy.  (Well, that might have been a bit far-fetched.)

He sat through many performances of a play, and no one was happier than Joe when I would make it through the final act without a major blow up.   He was an excellent partner in the process.

Many times I tried to get Joe to join our theater group, to become openly involved.  He always declined.  Back then I didn’t understand why, but I now believe it was Al. 

I’m sure that Joe felt the changes that had begun.  He knew something wasn’t exactly right with his ability to socialize, hang out with a group, and mingle; the way he dealt with his discomfort was to withdraw from anything that would reveal a problem.

Joe started a slow social shut down.  Watching sports was in his comfort zone, so that’s what he did.  After all, he had always loved sports and watching it didn’t require any social interaction. 

He still played golf, but it was with people that he knew very well, that wouldn’t tax him socially, letting him focus on golf and the competition.

I wish I could go back to some of those experiences with Joe.  I think I would be more sympathetic and understanding of his withdrawal. 

I’d get upset with his refusals to come out of the cave (the den).   Back then, I’d have been happy if he had shown interest in anything that would have gotten him out into the world (poker, ballroom dancing, bodybuilding, falconry). 

There were many nights that I left Joe “home alone” to fend for himself, dinner in the fridge.  

Joe didn’t complain about any of that, but in retrospect I understand that being alone wasn’t what he needed.  Now that we’re more familiar with Al, we know the importance of social interaction, exercise and healthy eating, and that each are of equal weight in dealing with this beast.

It’s still a challenge to get Joe going and out of the house.  I have to be creative sometimes, or just plain pester him until he gives up.  There are days he really would rather sit in his chair and view a high definition world through a 50 inch screen.

Me getting theatrical
It’s probably time I thanked Joe for the support he provides to all of my endeavors.  For 35 years, he’s put up with my creative digressions, all of my nonsense, every wacky design idea.  The guy has been through a lot with me and my menagerie.

That’s why it’s not hard to put the brakes on my other interests and focus on Joe.  When he needs a little help figuring things out, I’m there to point the way.  If he needs support to keep Al at arm’s length or duct taped to a lawn chair, it is my pleasure to assist. 

I’m there when he says, “Just give me the first word, that’ll get me started.” (Déjà vu.)

In a play when there is a radical change in its expected direction, it’s called a “plot twist”.   Life is full of “plot twists”.
Bravo, Joe!