April, 2012 Yikes, have I been remiss in my flogging. Actually my agent, Thor, now tells me it’s Blogging, not flogging, but then again, Thor doesn’t have to write them. I wanted to finish my account (Blog #1) about the first performance of a McManus show, in Sandpoint, Idaho, October 2, 1992! The theatre was packed, about 95 degrees, and Pat had his shotgun out in his van if I embarrassed him.
So I begin the show in less than ideal conditions, and a strange thing happened: people laughed, laughed from the first lines, and then they laughed harder!! They laughed so hard that it discombobulated me completely. Remember, I’m on stage alone, playing 15 different parts, and trying to recall the lines to a play that Pat had completed only a couple of weeks earlier.
So, the laughter comes over me like waves pounding on the shore. And I was the shore! Pound Pound! I was actually thinking to myself: “Please stop laughing. I’ve got to concentrate up here and I can’t think when you’re laughing so much. Stop It!”
And in the middle of a story, 20 minutes into the show, that’s what I did. I stopped. Completely lost. I was sweating because of the heat, I couldn’t think because of the laughter so I stopped. I kind of bent over, held my hands up to my chest in a gesture of giving up and I said something like “This has never happened to me before,” and I then left the stage. One audience member yelled out: “Go take a break, look at your script, and we’ll still be here when you get back.” That comment was both reassuring and terrifying.
Later people would tell me they thought I was having a heart attack, but they decided to stick around and see how it came out anyway.
Meanwhile I had moved to the parking lot behind the theatre where there was shade and I collapsed on the ground. A nurse had run out of the theatre after me, apparently thinking I needed medical attention and she found me, sitting on the asphalt, propping up a brick wall with my back. She blurted out: “I’m a nurse and I don’t think you’re having a heart attack!” Good news.
Then my director, Jack, and my wife, Leslie found me and ever the diplomats, questioned me: “What do you think you’re doing out here?! You’ve got a show to finish.”
I replied: “Give the money back. I’m not going out there. Are you crazy?”
Jack: “Tim, what’s the problem? They’re laughing real hard!”
Tim: “That’s the problem! I can’t think of the words, because their laughter keeps interrupting me.”
Jack: “That’s pretty much the point of comedy, isn’t it?”
Tim: “I hadn’t thought of that.”
During the discussion, Jack and Leslie led me back to the wings of the stage, one on each side, pulling and pushing. I begged them to refund the ticket money, and then a strange thing happened.
I felt a “presence” grab me by the elbows, almost as if it was directly behind me, and I was “moved” forcibly but gently onto the stage. Then I felt a shove on my back. I was facing the audience. I turned to look behind me to see who was there, and the space was empty. Nobody. Eerie.
I looked at the audience, they settled down, and I said: “That’s the last time I eat lunch in Bonner’s Ferry.” (Bonner’s is a neighboring and rival town.)
That got a laugh, and I went on with the show. I have forgotten entirely what happened from that moment until I was bowing to wild applause some 90 minutes later.
In the weeks that followed I tried to reconstruct the rest of that evening. No luck. Just a blur. I talked to some friends about this strange “presence” because it was powerful, calming and frightening at the same time. One friend asked me what name came to mind when I thought of the presence. I blurted out immediately “Emmanuel.” Now, I’m not what you’d call a seriously well educated Christian, but after a little research I discovered that the name itself means “God with us.” I took that as a good sign.
I guess it was then, with that touch, by that presence, that I really felt I was doing the right thing, at the right time in the right place.
Le me know if you have felt that? Thanks for listening.