The Charlie Chronicles, Part One: How I Got Here

Oct 31, 2015 | 2015 Articles, Terrance V. Mc Arthur, Theatre

by Terrance Mc Arthur

I’m going to start wearing makeup again.

I’m not changing my lifestyle, I’m just going back onstage for a full-scale musical comedy, which I haven’t done for almost 20 years. I’ve done shows, but they were mostly one-man programs at libraries, or they were in smaller venues where I had no need to alter or enhance my face with bases or liners.

How did I find myself in this position?

A month or so ago, Jonathan, a friend of mine at work, said that they were having auditions in Selma for the Raisin Cain Players’ production of The Music Man. I told him I really liked the show, and that I played “Charlie Cowell,” the anvil salesman, when I was in high school. I may have even quoted a few lines to him.

Jonathan was cast in the part of Charlie, and I was happy for him. It’s a great comedy part, and I thought it would be a good challenge for him to do a character that is showy and broad. Then he said he had a favor to ask.

Favors are funny things. They can be as simple as dropping off a letter at the post office when you were going that way anyway. On the other hand, they can involve assassinations, possible damage to body parts, and/or babysitting.

It seems that Jonathan had a prior commitment he couldn’t get out of (a wedding, but not his own) on the night of one of the performances. He needed an understudy to do the show on Saturday, November 21.

I didn’t say, “Yes.” I said, “I might.” Before I committed myself, I needed to talk to somebody—She Who Must Be Obeyed—my wife, Marilyn. One of the major reasons we have stayed married for 27 years is that we do not make unilateral decisions. We talk things over, look at the options, examine the factors involved, compromise…and then we do it her way.

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Portrait of the actor as a bit confused. Terrance in rehearsal for his one-night (November 21) understudy performance in The Music Man in Selma

I laid out the situation for her: friend…one performance…I’d done the show before. She laid out the situation for me: travel to Selma…rehearsals…that was 46 years ago. I told her, “At least I don’t have to audition for the part.”

Auditions. When we were dating, I took Marilyn with me to an audition for the Good Company Players. People swarmed the theatre, reciting lines, limbering up for dances, vocalizing to prepare for songs. Marilyn took in this mass of humanity vying for a small number of onstage roles and said, “All these people are here to be rejected?”

Marilyn knows I’m a performer. No matter how sick or rotten I feel, put me onstage and the training kicks in—I smile, I fill with energy, I…act! She said, “Yes, you can do this.”

Off I went to rehearsal.

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It’s rehearsal time!

The Selma Arts Center is a modern-style building with angles and forms and planes of light. Inside, it has a lot of flexible areas for performances, classrooms, and storage. It also had a fair amount of cheerful chaos. There was a make-believe beauty parlor in the lobby, where the cast of Steel Magnolias was preparing for their weekend of shows.

In the theatre area, there were teens and kids being teens and kids, lots of conversations, and growing numbers of amateur actors. Jonathan introduced me to some people. I met Joy, the director, and Tamara, the costume/makeup designer, and some actors. During announcements, I was introduced to the cast as Jonathan’s understudy. I was in.

Coming—Part Two: Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse.

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Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Community Librarian for the WoW! (WithOut Walls) Division of the Fresno County Public Library, roaming the Valley to meet the public’s information needs.

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