Seven Years.

I have not (intentionally) been onstage in seven years. I say intentionally, because I pinch-hit for one of my actors when he hurt his back tech night of Just-So Stories in 2001. I’ve also played the clown that introduces the show for the children’s theatre, but I don’t really count that either. It’s just warming up the audience, and requires no real preparation aside from the makeup and training a little kid sidekick.

My last show was Grace and Glorie, for Renaissance Theatre, in September of 2000 (Jeff, if you’re reading this, I still need some pictures from that show. I have a blank page in my 2000 scrapbook waiting for pictures… Please please pretty please?). It was a two-woman show, and I had over 500 lines (I have an obsessive habit of counting them. It’s a sickness). I LOVED that show, except for the fact that every time my castmate stopped talking, that meant it was my turn again. Maintaining concentration for that long a period was very, very intense. LOVED it, though. Karen (who place Grace) was phenomenal, and we really bonded over that show. I’d love to play Gloria again, actually, because now that I’m the right age to play her and I’ve had children, I think I could bring a lot more to the stage. Beautiful show.

Well, I received a phone call this weekend from my friend PJ, who is co-directing A Year with Frog and Toad for Independent Musical Productions in early October. Auditions were in April, at the same time as the auditions for The Secret Garden, rather than holding separate auditions. There are only 5 actors in the show — 2 women, 3 men — and they have asked me to be in it (!). It’s a musically challenging show, with jazz harmonies reminiscent of the 1930s. I downloaded the soundtrack over the weekend and Helen is already addicted to it, shaking her little butt every time certain songs start, and requesting other songs. It was an instant hit at our house.

I’m very excited. Jerry is… supportive but not totally thrilled with the idea, for good reason… It’s a lot to ask. But it’ll be intense for a short time and then it will be over.

And something happens when I sing harmony like that… I was in an a capella group in college and I *LOVED* it. It’s amazingly satisfying to have a good blend with other people — I actually prefer it to singing alone… I try to harmonize with Jerry when we sing to the girls and usually mess him up, and I always sing the harmonies in church. It’s just a lot of fun for me…

I had TMJ surgery in 1993 (they cut through my ear canals to get to the joint) and my hearing was damaged for a while, so I pretty much stopped singing and had to quit the a capella group. I told them it was because my jaw hurt as I was recovering, but the truth was that I couldn’t hear well enough to find my notes anymore. It was heartbreaking for a while. I no longer have perfect pitch (but that’s okay — it was a pain, really, because someone singing off-key was physically painful for me before my surgery, and isn’t anymore. Now it’s just annoying, but I don’t flinch), and I have to be rock solid on my notes or the person singing next to me can throw me. But I’m going to work hard so I don’t slow things down. I’m the oldest in this cast by quite a few years… Bizarre how totally the world can shift in seven years.

The best part? 7 performances, and 4 of them are for buses of schoolkids that will be brought in. My favorite sound in the world is a roomful of children giggling. No doubt with this silly show I’ll get to experience that multiple times. And my kids will love it.

(And hopefully, Jerry won’t regret this…)