Saturday, January 5, 2008

Spells cast on Broadway

If this is your first time on my blog, check this out first.

No, I didn't go to see Wicked. I hear good things, though. I'm hoping to see that one, along with several others (Young Frankenstein, Spamalot, The Drowsy Chaperone (starring Bob Saget!), etc.) before I leave. It would've been more appropriate to add a comma to make it "Spells, cast on Broadway", because that describes two things that I did a couple of weeks ago. And it turns out I can't spell crap (I'm not being crass; just keep reading).

When I first came out here, the two managers of my department came with me to help me get the equipment set up and make sure I knew what I was doing (if I ever decide to blog about the work I'm doing out here, you'll see they failed--I still don't know what I'm doing), and told me they planned to have one of them come out every month or so for a few days to check up on me and help me out.

My manager Julianne made the last visit in mid-December. It was the same week as our company's Christmas party back in Utah, and I came up with a plan: since I would be missing the party (which entailed seeing A Christmas Carol at Hale Theater), and also wouldn't be around to collect my Christmas present (every year they give us money and we buy ourselves something, wrap it, and stick it under the tree in the breakroom, then there's another smaller party right before Christmas where we open our presents so everyone can see what we got--it's usually pretty fun, although it would be even more fun if we added some Office-style Yankee swap), I proposed that we get tickets to a Broadway show and apply the money that would've been spent on me to make them more affordable. Dazzled by my logic, Julianne agreed to my plan.

We made our way to TKTS, the discount theater ticket booth that sells leftover day-of-performance tickets for half-price. There were none for shows we really wanted to see (the ones I mentioned above are too popular and sell out at full-price), but several we were mildly interested in, and we ultimately settled on The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, which we didn't really know anything about but assumed was a quirky comedy mocking spelling bee culture (we were right).

We made our way to the Circle in the Square theater (not the squared circle theater, sorry Aaron and Jerrett), which had a big picture of Al Pacino right inside the door but otherwise was decorated to look like the inside of an elementary school. They had handmade posters advertising sporting events and after-school clubs, lockers near the bathrooms where you could keep your coats, and pictures of the cast members as children all over the place. It was pretty cool.

In the main lobby, there was a table that said "Spellers Check In Here". Intrigued, I visited the table and learned that 4 audience members are selected to appear onstage as "finalists" in the spelling bee. I eagerly signed up, keeping mum about my improv background since I figured they wouldn't choose anyone who they suspected would try to upstage the actors (I wouldn't have, but I can understand why they might think I would). Signing up at the same time was a young girl, probably 7 or 8, who was also from Utah. Her name was Kevin or Kyle or something, some typically male name that begins with a K.

Kevin/Kyle and I joined the 15 or so other hopefuls in the lobby a few minutes before showtime, and both of us were chosen to spell on stage. The four of us (there were two other guys who appeared to be about my age, one maybe a few years younger) were taken into a control room and given some instructions: we were to be ourselves, and not try to play a character or make jokes; we were told how to adjust the microphone and to be ready for the bleachers we'd be sitting on to spin from time to time; and they told us to ask for a definition and for the word to be used in a sentence, no matter what the word was, then to do our best to spell the word correctly without thinking about it for too long. They also told us what would happen when we missed a word, but I'll get to that later.

I was slightly hurt that, what with my 5th grade win in the Viewmont Elementary spelling bee and back-to-back 2nd place finishes in 7th and 8th grade at Riverview Jr. High (go Rebels!), plus my participation in dozens of fake spelling bees in Laugh Out Loud shows, they assumed that I would miss a word at some point. As I made my way to my seat, I wondered if I would be given a permanent spot in the cast if I won (not really, but as I saw Julianne sitting there I realized how comparably boring my job is--Julianne's not boring, but the work I do out here every day is tedious at best. Anyway...). Our seats were really good, on the front row on the side of the stage. There didn't seem to be any bad seats, though; it was an intimate theater, much smaller than any of the five I went to back in '03.

The lights went down, the opening number began, and I prepared to make my Broadway debut...

Boy, these posts can get lengthy quickly! I'll leave off here for now. Multi-part posts makes it easy to figure out what to write about next, but they make it hard to catch up when you started your blog 7 weeks late. I don't think any other single experience I've had out here so far (besides the two I've written about so far, of course) will warrant the to-be-continued treatment, but with my writing style you never know. Anyway, my next post will cover what I actually did on stage in Spelling Bee, so come back soon to read all about it!


Brian said... won the 5th grade spelling B?! I bask in your glory!

lori said...

it's very fun to visit your blog, jeff--i wish i had more time to do it on a regular basis! i always seem to be reading five entries in a row, which is nice for getting through a story from beginning to end in a single sitting but defeats your multi-post blog setup. sorry 'bout that.

p.s. grammar, spelling, and style patrol commander reporting for duty with today's tips! first, to insert a parenthetical within a parenthetical, use square brackets (it makes your statements [about statements] about statements) easy to follow and eliminates duplicate punctuation. second, unless you're employing UK style--which seems unlikely given your vocabulary choices and spelling configurations--punctuation *always* goes inside quotation marks. (okay, there are some exceptions for colons and semicolons, and i can explain them if you'd like me to. but it's really easier to just stick with the "always inside" rule.)

p.p.s. i am a nerd. and that's okay.

jeff said...

I'm supposed to take advice from someone who can't even hold down the shift key? Come on, Lori!

Glad you're reading and commenting though.