In ’07, I was asked to be the narrator for an evening of two George Bernard Shaw one-acters, as part of Project Shaw’s ongoing series, which organizer David Staller shrewdly studs with press people in key roles. I’d done this before, playing a brief part in Androcles and the Lion and didn’t embarrass myself that much–in fact, I was rather delightful, and not just for a press person. But this time I had tons of verbiage to recite and it all had to be gorgeously articulated, without a whole lot of shtick to distract from the dramatic intent. Even more intimidatingly, the other cast members included Tony award types like Euan Morton, Annie Golden, Brian Murray, and Jane Houdyshell, all of whom I admire and was desperate to have love me back.
At the runthrough, I somehow pulled it out of my ass, spewing all those words with a shocking ease and rhythm. The actors graciously complimented me on how well I’d done with such a challenging assignment, and I glowed like a cat holding out a dead mouse’s head. I was ready to kill ’em in the aisles come showtime, convinced that I should start preparing my Obie speech and maybe even a Tony one if it moved to a larger theater. But funny thing–with a full house of aficionados staring me down and bright lights burrowing through my sockets, I felt a little self conscious and clammed up like Casey Anthony at the police precinct.
Suddenly the lines that flowed so effortlessly were now lodged in my throat like chicken wings and I wished I was home watching Press Your Luck reruns instead. On my very first page of spewings, I stumbled on a word and felt the whole world stop like a jammed DVD. I kept going, but already felt I had destroyed Shaw’s reputation and whatever was left of mine as well. A few pages later, I stumbled again when a two-syllable word somehow became a whole sentence, and in Swahili yet. I wished for a quick death, but instead I had to keep reading, reading, reading into the night, sweating like a crack addict going through customs. I miraculously made it to the end and ran home in horror–where I now only narrate Shaw plays in the shower.