Christmas performance can’t be topped

By Bob Huber, Local Columnist

Now comes the post-holiday clamydamps, which always reminds me of high school Christmas productions and my rookie Thespian career. They were epic moments in theatrical history ranked up there with performances by Larry, Moe, and Curly.

The one I remember most was the result of a unique blend of blonde hair and my snarling teenage genes. In other words, this certain blonde asked, “Are you trying out for the Christmas play?”

“You bet,” I replied. I’d have said the same thing if she’d asked me to confront Godzilla in downtown Detroit with nothing but a zither and a plate of spaghetti.

But I got a part in the play — the villainous butler in a drama titled, “Murder on Christmas Eve.” Rehearsals commenced, including anxious groping behind the sets, until finally the production opened in the Little Theater off Coors Pottery, complete with the school band and compulsory attendance of the entire student body.

The first act ended when the blonde, in the role of a voluptuous widow, was poisoned as she sipped a little eggnog on Christmas eve. She gagged, grabbed her throat, staggered around for several dramatic moments, and finally fell to the stage floor.

That’s when the curtain came down to end the act. The problem was, it closed behind her!

So there she was, a voluptuous blonde widow lying on the stage floor outside the curtain, her eyes darting hither and yon, seeking a way to rise and walk from the stage with a modicum of dignity. It took a little edge off the suspense.
But I came to the rescue. Running behind the curtain, I dropped to my knees and groped for her feet. I found a slender ankle and yanked.

“Yeeeup!” the blonde widow wailed as I snatcher her under the curtain.

Then in a smooth athletic motion, she vaulted to her feet (Did I mention she was also a cheerleader?) rubbed her behind, and slapped me. “Splinters, you dope!” she yelled, bounding into the wings like Bambi’s mother.

But it was in the second act that I made my most stellar appearance. The producer, a drama teacher named Maude Monk, said later it baffled her how I could flub my only lines in the entire production.

In the scenario I offered the hero a cup of eggnog. That called for him to look suspiciously at the drink, and my line was, “Sir, are you worried I put something besides nutmeg in the eggnog?”

It wasn’t my intent to change that line, although I still smarted from the blonde widow’s slap and was not in the best of moods. I scowled at the hero and said, “You scared I put some eggnog in your nutmeg?”

Oddly enough, the audience, half asleep by this time, might have missed the word transposition except that I stopped and gaped, a puzzled expression on my face.

I tried again: “Is there something besides eggmeg in your nutnog?”

I rolled my eyes and tried a third time: “Uh, something in your megnut, sir?”

But the hallmark of my stage career took place while I was hiding in a laundry basket on stage, waiting to leap out, knife in hand, when the hero cued me with, “Where is that butler?”
Of course, the audience knew where I was, but no one realized the latch on the basket had locked when I climbed inside. When the cue was given, I tried to leap out, but the lid didn’t budge. I tried to leap again, but the basket did the leaping.

I heard the audience cheering (laughter and cheering sound strangely alike, even to the keen ear of the true Thespian) so I tried harder — more than once, many times!

The upshot was, the laundry basket and I bounded across the stage, over the footlights, and into the orchestra pit, where we landed melodiously on a Sousaphone left behind by the terrorized bass section of the high school band.
Not to be foiled, the hero walked to the edge of the stage, peaked over, and fired his revolver five times into the orchestra pit. Then he looked up at the audience, smiled, and said, “Got him.”

You can see why I sidestepped a career on the stage and followed other pursuits. A calling to New York would have been superfluous after “Murder on Christmas Eve.” Some performances in life can never be topped.

Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales. He can be contacted at 356-3674.