Exit Quickly, Stage Right
By Dee Yoder
Each time the stage director says that, I think of Linus from A Charlie Brown Christmas¹. No one else seems to get the connection though. But then again, no one else in our congregation so much as smiles when our pastor pronounces "hairs" for "heirs," either.
The annual Christmas play at New Life Church is moving along splendidly, and I'm as surprised by that as anyone, considering how awful we were in practice--me especially. I have the starring role, and I'm not starring role material, let me tell you. I nearly fell off my chair when the director, who also happens to be the Children's Church pastor, handed me the part. She thought it would "stretch" me a little.
I was "stretched" with the first line. The practices have been six long weeks of pure…well, maybe not that bad, but it's not been good.
I tried to convince the director to take the part back and give it to someone else, but she laughed when I told her I'm going to ruin her play. "Now, John, don't be so hard on yourself. Jesus will help you!" She actually put her hand out to pat my head but caught herself in time.
I thought, 'Okay. Don't blame me, though, when the whole thing blows up. I warned you.'
But, guess what? It's actually going well, and I haven't missed a single line; knock on wood.
I'm pretty happy with my performance so far. I'm even happier that I can do it sans glasses. I think modern day glasses on Bible characters ruins the authenticity. I'm pretty pleased I was able to think up that costume change, and I've gotten through the first act just fine without my glasses.
Well, there's my cue; time to mosey on out....
Hmmm. The scene doesn't quite look the same, but I think I can see my way clear to find the inn door. Ah, there it is. Now, what is my line…oh yeah.
"Good innkeeper, have you a room for my wife and me? We've been traveling…huh?"
I can't tell for sure, but I think the innkeeper's waving at me. If I squint…yes. Yes, he is waving, but I have no idea why. Oh well, best to push on and get this scene over with.
"Uh, as I said," (how's that for improv?) "we've been traveling fo--"
For heaven's sake…what is going on? The audience is laughing! This isn't a funny part. In fact, there IS no funny part in this play. What in the world…?
"Good Sir, please come on over to my inn. I think you will find that my inn, OVER HERE, is a fine establishment."
Huh? Why's he saying that? That's not in the play…oh! There's the inn! What have I been talking to?
I squint and focus my bleary vision…is it…the donkey? Oh no!
Sweat is breaking out on my forehead. The laughter is loud and growing. Humph. This congregation will laugh at a man talking to a donkey, but not at a pastor that says hairs instead of heirs?
I stumble downstage and stand mutely before the innkeeper. His cheeks are red and he looks flustered. We face each other in silence since I've now forgotten my lines. From the wings, the disembodied prompter's voice whispers emphatically, "My wife is going to have a child."
"Uh…MY WIFE IS GOING TO HAVE A CHILD!" I mimic, but adrenaline and panic have me by the throat, and I yell the line, almost scream it, at the astonished innkeeper.
Oh no. What a disaster! I hear the pastor, along with the rest of the congregation, howling now with laughter. Yeah, as if he's never said anything funny from up here.
I steamroll my way through the rest of the play, wrecking scene after scene, and at the end, when it's time for the cast call, the congregation gives me a standing ovation. I'm humiliated; nothing's worse than pity clapping.
As soon as possible, I retrieve my glasses and head for the back entrance. Pastor catches my eye and laughs, giving me a thumbs up. Traitor.
Just before I hit the door, the director makes a beeline for me.
"Don't feel bad, John," she chirps. "You did a good job, except your eyes looked a little wild.² And now that you've gotten one play under your belt, next year will be even better!"
* * *
¹A Charlie Brown Christmas, Written by Charles M. Schultz, Directed by Bill Melendez, 1965
²After I "performed" in a Christmas play without my glasses one year as a teen, this was said to me…by my mother. Thanks, Mom. You inspired my story.
DEE YODER and her husband have been married 11 years. They have a teen-aged son, and Dee has homeschooled him for more than 6 years. Dee has a degree in Biological Science, and worked in the research field for 5 years prior to becoming a mom (her most rewarding career). Because she wanted to achieve her lifelong goal of being a writer, Dee joined FaithWriters in March of 2007. Dee and her family are a part of New Life Community Church of the Nazarene and live in Ohio.