Four Centuries of Bill

Celebrations of William Shakespeare’s 400th prompt and inspire the present entry.

A playwright both prolific and profound, his work has challenged actors, engaged audiences and perpetuated professions on-stage in theater, motion pictures and literature beyond wildest imagination.

Today, of course, the texts – his own as well as those who write about him and his work – take on new life by virtue of digital media.

Would that my own brief career in the-aye-tah had done the same.

I confess no inspiration from Wild Bill. Short-lived and extraordinarily un-noteworthy, my theatrical life is perfect grist for the digital mill where insignificance is abundant and cheap.

First appearing as one of the gingerbread men populating the backstage of Tchaikovsky’s  “The Nutcracker,” my costume was handmade by my mother. That was an accomplishment. And hers alone.

Given the time, the late 1950s, I suspect most of the other gingerbread individuals had identically related seamstresses.

Today, one suspects, the sewing machine has gone the same route as the typewriter. Quaint and unused. Except, maybe, for Singer “featherweights,” the only sewing machine still collectible. The quilters love ‘em.

Next in the briefly held thespian career was an even more invisible role: curtain-puller.

Someone has to do it, for Pete’s sake!

It wasn’t a demotion. And I wasn’t fired from the “above-the-line” talent. Nor had my performance been criticized. I think it a position I sought, though memory is rarely to be trusted at the present age.

A friendly neighbor, a large bear of a man who with considerable gusto drew dramatically on his cigarettes, exhaling loudly and with a rushing sound like air leaking from a car’s tire, commented on my performance: “I appreciated every tug of the line.”

Individuals under the age of ten – as I was – appreciate such feedback.

As well, the position required no membership dues to Actors’ Equity, the labor union.

The theater world is a better place with me in a seat and the talent onstage.

There’s lots of drama in life.

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