Beth's night at the Emerald City dance club

June 29, 2016 • Posted in blindness, Seeing Eye dogs, Uncategorized, Whitney, writing by

In my playwriting post last week I promised a second post with more details on my failed attempt to memorize and perform a monologue without being able to see the script – or the audience.

I wrote my two-minute dog monolog on my talking computer, then listened to it line by line and repeated the lines one at a time onto a voice recorder. Throughout the week I’d listen to the recording, and I made a special point to do so before swimming laps for exercise. That way I could rehearse underwater, too.

And still, I arrived at class the next week feeling uneasy, and, of course, I flubbed my lines. So. Is it more difficult to memorize a script when you can’t read print? Would reading my monolog over and over throughout the week (rather than listening to it) have made my memorization efforts more of a success?

I don’t know.

The next classs went much better. We didn’t have to hand in that assignment, we just had to perform it. The teachers wouldn’t have my script in front of them. They couldn’t know if I was memorizing or ad libbing. Performing my piece in class this past Saturday was far less nerve-racking.

Our homework last week was to choose a famous book or play or movie, write a two-minute interpretation of that work, and perform it as a play in class. The play could be a one-person show or we could ask fellow students to take parts, too.

Our class is studying the Too Much Light (TML) style. We’re creating very short minimalist plays. No costumes (actors just wear their street clothes) and no elaborate set design. Each short play starts by announcing the title and saying, “Go!” Plays end by simply calling out “Curtain!”

A teacher sat next to me to describe the action when my classmates performed their pieces Saturday. I was one of three classmates helping one writer perform his interpretation of Batman, another enlisted other students to perform her piece on Harry Potter.

I was born to play the part. Here I am with friends at a high school costume party in 1976 -- we're dressed as the characters from Wizard of Oz. (photo courtesy of Laura Gale).

I was born to play the part. Here I am with friends at a high school costume party in 1976 — we’re dressed as the characters from Wizard of Oz. (photo courtesy of Laura Gale).

My favorite was the two-minute interpretation of the movie Titanic: It opened with a woman sitting in a chair with her back to us, hugging herself, moaning and making kissy sounds throughout the entire two-minute play. This was a minimalist portrayal of a character making out with someone non-stop. A second actor would periodically approach the make-out artist, nudge her chair and say, “Hey!” You know, like, “Hey – I’m out here!” The make-out artist wouldn’t even look, just simply shake her off.

The actor doing the nudging happens to use a wheelchair, which, to me, made the scene even more effective. She’d roll away, come back, nudge the make-out artist’s chair, say “Hey!” and be shaken off, then roll away and come back and say “Hey!” Over and over again.

Finally the nudger showed up with a water pitcher in her lap. This time, after saying “Hey!” she poured the pitcher of water over the make-out artist’s head. “Curtain!” There you have it: The make-out artist portrayed Kate Winslett’s character in Titanic, the nudger played the iceberg, and the entire movie that one an Oscar for best picture in 1997 was over in two minutes.

I chose The Wizard of Oz, figuring I could be Dorothy, and my Seeing Eye dog could play Toto. Our TML teachers had urged us to consider the theme of the work we’d be interpreting, so my free time the week before was spent pondering no place like home, the ruby slippers, clicking three times, and Dorothy’s dance segments with the scarecrow and the Tin Man.

Which led me to wonder: Why didn’t Dorothy dance with the cowardly lion? And that’s when it came to me. The Wizard of Oz as a night at a dance club. My class mates and teachers liked the idea and had plenty of recommendations afterwards of ways to enhance the script and my performance. I’ll end this post now with my original script. Enjoy!

Scene opens with me talking to Seeing Eye dog Whitney as we walk on stage, my feet obviously hurting.

Me: Man, she really was a witch, wasn’t she?

We stop in front of the stage, facing the audience.

Me: These shoes are killing me.

I lean down to adjust them, get a kiss from my dog and stay down there to talk with her face to face.

Me: We leave the farm, head to the city, try to meet Mr. Right, and jeez. The first guy was nice and all, but boy was he dumb. The second one was so stiff, and that third guy, what a chicken. God these shoes hurt.

I fumble with the shoes and finally stand up again to face the audience.

Me: These damn shoes! They’re so tight they won’t come off…

I run the heel of one shoe off the other, obviously struggling to get that one shoe off, to no avail.

me, grunting: One!

I run the heel of the second shoe off the first shoe, obviously struggling to shove that second shoe off, to no avail.

me, grunting again: Two!

I repeat with the first shoe, trying one last time, obviously struggling, to no avail.

me, grunting again: Three!

Curtain!

Janet On June 29, 2016 at 9:23 am

I definitely think you are ready for your closeup! Bravo!!!!

bethfinke On June 29, 2016 at 9:28 am

You must be looking at that photo of me at age 17…

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Regan Burke On June 29, 2016 at 9:44 am

oh! what fun! I’m right there in the class, on that stage with you. Love this.

bethfinke On June 29, 2016 at 10:08 am

Oh, Regan, I wish you were. Right there on stage with me, I mean. I’d be a lot calmer!

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Cheryl On June 29, 2016 at 10:00 am

Bravo, Dorothy?!!

bethfinke On June 29, 2016 at 10:42 am

Aw, shucks. Thanks!

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Leone Anderson On June 29, 2016 at 11:36 am

I chuckled all the way through the Wizard of Oz scene. Great!

bethfinke On June 29, 2016 at 2:24 pm

Chuckle. What a great word. It’s fun to have one, isn’t it?!

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Mel Theobald On June 29, 2016 at 11:44 am

Beth, I had the same problem in our high school play “George Washington Slept Here.” Only 4 lines and I was terrified in front of the audience. The main character had about 20 pages and was flawless. He later told me his father who owned the local radio station gave him a tape recorder. He read his lines into it and then played it over and over and over until mastering every word. Funny thing is, after all that trouble memorizing my lines, I still remember them 55 years later and he has forgotten his. Go figure!!!

Mel Theobald On June 29, 2016 at 11:46 am

By the way, I loved your 3 count version of the Wizard of Oz. Great timing.

bethfinke On June 29, 2016 at 2:34 pm

You know, Mel, one of the suggestions I got after my performance was to get a hold of some cheap outrageous red shoes with stiletto heels and hold them in my hand as a prop, Apparently it’s normal to see women carrying their shoes at dance clubs? I understood the notion, but if I were doing that, there wouldn’t be shoes on my feet to click!

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bethfinke On June 29, 2016 at 2:26 pm

Guess that means I can’t blame my poor memorization skills on blindness? Rats.

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Mel Theobald On June 30, 2016 at 12:00 am

Yeah, I think you’re right. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news on that memorization thing. But you are right, that stiletto shoe suggestion just isn’t the same as ruby red slippers. If I were you, I’d stick to the original script. LOL

bethfinke On June 30, 2016 at 9:28 am

Thanks, Mel. Will stand my ground.

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bev miller On June 29, 2016 at 5:48 pm

OMG! That pic! Jenny, Beth, John, but who is the tin man?

bethfinke On June 29, 2016 at 6:02 pm

The tin Man is Scott Magnuson, a drummer who was in Matt Klir’s class. The pic was taken at one of Matt’s Elton John parties — matt came as Elton, of course.

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Bev On June 29, 2016 at 6:41 pm

I remember Scott Magnuson but would have never recognized him in this photo. Loved your themed parties. We (old folks) did sing alongs around the piano, aka, Curt Merrill (and his barbershop quartet dad), Carl Meyer (blood from mom/dad celebs at the annual Visitation big show), Ed Kreitmann. Great memories. Band rocks!

bethfinke On June 30, 2016 at 9:24 am

Yes, and I love hearing from old friends (and family members=Grant)whose kids are in band now, too — young kids having just as much fun as we did with friends from our high school band. The beat goes on….

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Annelore On June 29, 2016 at 11:27 pm

Brilliant Beth! And I had the perfect little red shoes to lend you.

bethfinke On June 30, 2016 at 9:27 am

I may ask to borrow them if our class decides to include my Dance Night play in the August 13 live performance…stay tuned!

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Benita Black On June 30, 2016 at 11:21 am

Your script says “Me.” Were you actually Beth or were you Dorothy? Also: how did the other class members do on this assignment? Any stars in the making?

bethfinke On June 30, 2016 at 12:13 pm

Good catch. I need to exchange “Dorothy” for “me” in the script. Will do. And yes, there are stars in the making in that class. Some of them are already minor stars –they are Chicago actors who have been in plays in town (but still have day jobs, of course). The woman who played the Kate Winslett part in Titanic is young and clever and unafraid, and the guy who did the Batman skit is very flexible — he has adapted easily to the “neo-futuristic” way of writing and thinking even though he’s never done anything like that before.

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Marilee On June 30, 2016 at 11:53 am

This class really gets your creative juices flowing! What a funny interpretation!! And you still had that great picture!

bethfinke On June 30, 2016 at 12:15 pm

Yes. The class pushes me in directions that often leave me uncomfortable, but maybe that’s exactly the push I needed to get more creative. And it’s really fun to discover what my classmates come up with for each assignment.

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