Wednesday, December 23, 2015

I'd Like to Thank the Academy

I consider myself a dancer more than anything else. It's what I've spent far more time on training and practicing. But it turns out I'm a pretty good actress.

Cold and flu season jumped out from behind a corner and hit me square in the face this year. One day, I was fit as a fiddle and ready for whatever life brought. The next day, I was coughing up a lung and plugging my nose up with a cork. I never saw it sneaking up on me. It was an ambush.

I don't know anyone who has a job that gets excited when they take sick days off, but my job practically requires it when we're sick. We're always supposed to project an image of happy sunshine and rainbows. Coughing and sneezing all over the place is not part of that image. But this is the worst time of the year to take any days off. This is easily our busiest season. Taking a vacation in December/January is rare, but it can be done with enough advance planning. Calling in sick with no notice is not good for anybody around here. It puts an unnecessary strain on the people you have to work with when you come back.

So I went to work feeling like a dog on the wrong end of a car wash. This is where my great acting skills came into play. We were doing a show that everyone had already rehearsed a million times. That was the easy part. But I put on my happy face and acted like I was not sick. I had no idea how successful I would be, but about halfway through one of my least favorite songs, I had a sudden urge to relieve myself. This is not uncommon in my profession. There are all kinds of tricks of the trade, but all of my energy was focused on acting like I was not the least energetic person in the room.

So I did something that Katharine Hepburn taught me. She did not personally teach me anything. She and I were probably never even in the same city at the same time. In an interview, she described shooting a scene in one of her Spencer Tracy movies. He was agitated and needed a drink and she needed to use the bathroom. They had already shot a million takes and everyone was ready to go home. She said that she used the intensity of a full bladder to deliver her lines twice as fast as before, which prompted Tracy's surprised reaction. Everyone liked it, and they could move on.

My situation was a little different, but by focusing on my bladder, my sneezing and waterfall nose subsided until they knew they could have my full attention. The second I could get off stage safely, I went to the nearest restroom. You know that scene in The Green Mile after Michael Clarke Duncan gives Tom Hanks a prostate exam and Hanks can finally urinate? The look on Tom's face is exactly how I felt.

Then I went back to coughing and sneezing.

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