Dress Rehearsal

One of the best parts of being married to an actor, Heather sometimes says, is that both of us know what it’s like to endure makeup and hose.

Now we can add heels to the list, too.

No, this isn’t a “coming out” column. It’s just fair warning that I’m in another farce with the Longmont Theatre Company and that the show, “Leading Ladies,” requires me to disguise myself as a woman for at least half my time on stage.  What could be more normal than that?

Mind you, “normal” and “farce” don’t exactly belong in the same sentence. After all, this is the comedy of decisions made with high speed and little judgment, where gags fly fast and the actors fly faster, and where everything ultimately descends into complete madness … only to somehow rebuild itself into some semblance of order and justice with five minutes to go.

Compared to that, rocketing across the stage in a wig and heels IS perfectly normal – at least, by the laws of the comic universe.

If I sound a little too familiar with all this – well, yes and no. It’s been about 25 years since I played a man playing a woman, rendering a deliberately clumsy rendition of Thisbe in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with tresses like a windblown haystack and a voice like an off-key piccolo.  (How high? Let’s just say that the applause probably included commentary from every dog within three blocks.)

Farce, on the other hand, is an old friend. From Neil Simon to Woody Allen, and from “Noises Off” to the offerings of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, something in me seems to respond to a riotous state of utter chaos and confusion.

Yes, yes, I used to be a newspaper reporter. Besides that.

Actually, the more I think about it (and thinking about farce is dangerous), the more sense it makes. In many ways, this sort of high-powered ridiculousness is the best life lesson of all.

Farce always has a layer of pretense. The motives are straightforward, but the methods never are. Need to impress a girl even though you’re bottom rung at the embassy? Make like you’re the top dog, despite a complete lack of diplomatic skill. The host of your party has keeled over five minutes before the other guests arrive? Weave together a “reasonable explanation” that changes every time someone new comes over.

Gee, this already sounds like the last election, doesn’t it?

Why pretend? Fear, mostly. Fear of getting embarrassed, fear of getting arrested, fear of getting booed off the stage. The personal stakes are high, and the fear of what might happen, could happen, surely will happen, terrifies people into becoming something they’re not.

And then something happens. Actually, a lot of somethings happen. Excuses start to be torn away. Disguises start to fall apart. And in the process of it all, the pretender usually discovers something true in himself or herself – something that will let them get what they really want, if they can just get past all the fantasies they’ve created.

Fear. Self-discovery. Overcoming past mistakes of our own making, and growing from it.  If that’s not relevant to most of us today, what is?  (The fact that it’s bundled into a package of slamming doors and hilariously awkward situations is just a bonus.)

Intrigued? Come on down to the theatre on the weekend of Jan. 13 or Jan. 20 and we’ll give you a crash course. (Details of “Leading Ladies” are online at www.longmonttheatre.org.) If nothing else, you’ll get the chance to see if Scott can really run in high heels without twisting his ankle.

It’ll be a riot. And a total drag.

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