Wow, Another Personal Milestone

When you’re like me, pushing 50, new personal milestones don’t tend to be good in nature – in fact, they’re to be actively dreaded. Oh, there are some upsides – first grandchild (still years in my future), perhaps – but rarely do they come as such a surprise, as did last night’s.

A bit of background: for close to six years, I worked at a dinner theater that performed murder mysteries on the weekend. I quit last summer, but agreed to sub in as needed over the holiday season. Last night was such an occasion, at a private party. Now, over the holidays, when a lot of offices hold their Christmas parties, the mystery of choice is one called Let’s Kill the Boss (big surprise, right?). Like a lot of these comedy murder mysteries, it’s populated by cartoon characters and humor less sophisticated than a Looney Tune’s. I had the peach role, the hateful boss of the title, which means I exit, festooned with various plastic knives, at the end of the second act and spend the remainder of the evening listening to my Nomad Zen.

But not last night. At the end of the first act, one patron came backstage (luckily, when no one was dressing – I nearly came to blows with a drunken patron last year over that particular breach of etiquette and good sense) and asked us to “tone down the sex stuff”. Now, the Boss show is considered our most blue show, and prime time television still meets or exceeds most of the stuff on display there, but heck, we figured out what needed to be excised in the next act.

We never got to it. In the middle of a complex comedy bit which was to lead up to my murder, two people rose from their seats and physically stopped the show. After a moment of confusion and no small amount of anger and bewilderment on my part, we changed into our civvies and eventually retired to the hotel bar, waiting for the patrons to finish their meals and leave so we could go in, pack up our show, store it, and go home ourselves.

Intriguingly, some of the folks in the room made a point of seeking us out and – well, not apologizing, as “I don’t know what their problem was, I was enjoying it” isn’t exactly an apology, but it went a long way toward dispelling my resentment. Doubtless the actual problems will eventually filter down the grapevine to me, but whatever the reason, the result will always be the same:

After 27 years of working in professional theater, I have played to houses that dwindled through the night. I have done shows for a house that started with twelve people and were reduced to five by show’s end (at curtain call, I shook each and every one of their hands). I have been at shows that have been cancelled due to sudden illness or lack of audience. But last night was the first, the very first time that an audience has risen from their seats during the show and called, “Hold! Enough!”

Then again, last night was also the first time I’ve had an apple martini, and that was good. Not quite balance in the universe, but I’ll take what I can get.