My First Time

I am proud: this is the new McManusPlays website that looks oh so much better than the old one, and I hope you agree. It exists because Thor, my booking agent, said I needed to modernize and get “with it.” He insisted I participate in titter and casebook and how I’ve got to start do a flog, and show parts of myself on UTube. So this is my first one. Strange feeling the first one.
Brings back the memory of my first McManus show ever, A Fine and Pleasant Misery: October 2nd, 1992, Panida Theatre, Sandpoint, Idaho. An incredibly hot evening for October, 90 degrees outside, 92 inside and 100 degrees on the stage. They had already shut down the air conditioning for the year. Since this was Pat’s home town, the theatre was overflowing with people, adding to the heat. And these people were Pat’s friends….and family….and groupies. Older groupies, but devoted!
But Pat wasn’t there! And everybody expected him! He was coming back from a book signing in Atlanta and the flight was late. If he was at least present in the audience, I felt they wouldn’t turn on me. Maybe they’d turn on him.
My God, would people like me? Being Pat or Eddie or Rancid? Would they question why I had the gall to suppose I could do this? Could my gall stand being questioned? Would they feel ripped off because I wasn’t Pat or his characters, even though the characters that lurked inside me kept assuring me I was?
Finally Pat showed up. The Panida seats 560. There were now 610 people in the theatre and more outside, milling. (And everyone knows millers can be trouble.)
Pat ran into the dressing room 10 minutes before show time, took me by the shoulders and looked into my eyes. I hoped he would just say: “You don’t have to go on. I’ll do it.” Fat chance. Then he uttered words I will forever remember for their keen sensitivity and depth of concern for his actor’s well being: “If you don’t get a laugh in the first minute….a big laugh….I’m taking my entire family (about 60 strong by this point) and leaving the theatre. After that, I will walk to the nearest gun shop (which I knew to be two blocks away and open well into the night), buy a shotgun, come back and shoot you dead.”
A wave of relief swept over me. He was so relaxed and confident that he could joke at a time like this. He seemed to sense my shoulders slacken and my demeanor calm, because he continued, sounding somewhat strained: “I am not joking.”
This brief exchange established the nature of our relationship for the next 20 years: the caring and sensitive author and his indentured and obedient actor. This flog will attempt to chart some of the ups and downs of that relationship!
But wait, back to the first time: How did we ever come up with the idea that a McManus stage show would actually work?! Oops! Thor has just commanded me to stop, saying these columns shouldn’t exceed 530 words and that I have to………………..
(continued next week in Blog 2)

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