Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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February 25, 2014

John Cannon: Dream gig: on state at Actors Theatre: 2/26/14

ASHLAND — A few weeks ago, I realized something that had been a dream of mine since the days when I was a theater major at Morehead State Univeristy in the late 1960s: I was on stage for a performance at Actors Theatre of Louisville, one of the best regional theaters in the country.

So was my wife, my oldest son and two of our dearest friends.

It was for a performance of “The Pirates of Penzance,” the 1879 operetta by Arthur Sullivan and W.S. Gilbert, which is still as funny as it was 135 years ago. The music is great and I had fun joining a large cast of professional actors in singing a few notes.

We didn’t even have to go to a single rehearsal to prepare for our appearance on a professional stage. All we had to do was purchase tickets that placed us on stage.

Knowing how much No. 1 son loves Gilbert and Sullivan, my wife rushed to purchase tickets for this show as soon as they went on sale. Our friends from Lexington (formerly of Ashland) who had previously gone to an Actors Theatre show with us, joined us.

When my wife called for tickets, she was told there was a limited number of tickets for seats on the stage.

Thinking she had misunderstood, she asked, “Do you mean next to the stage?”

“No, on the stage,” replied the Actors Theatre employee.

Knowing how much her husband and oldest son love live theater, my wife could not resist: She purchased five seats on the stage.

Actually, they were not seats at all. Instead they were part of the set. As we selected our “seats,” we were told when an actor pointed at us, we were to move to another part of the stage because the space where we were seated was needed by the real performers. During the course of the show, I moved five or six times. So did my son and our friends. By the end of the show, we were spread out all over the stage.

This was not your typical production of “Pirates.” Instead of being dressed as pirates, the actors were dressed in beachwear from the 1930s and we were to pretend the stage was a beach beside the ocean.

It was a weird experience and a real blast. At one point, an actress was seated not more than a foot from me as she sang. I think I had the best seat in the house.

My hearing has gotten so poor I admit I do not always hear everything that is being said when I go to a play, or even when I am with friends at a dinner table. But I had no problem hearing this play.

At the encouragement of the actor who was not more than a few inches from me, I joined in singing for a song sung buy the entire chorus. At the end, the actor tried to give me a high five, but I missed his hand.

“What can I say?” I said to the actor when his hand was met with nothing but air. “I missed all the rehearsals.”

 For traditionalists, the plot of the play was not changed and neither were any of the songs. As an added treat, the cast members also doubled as the orchestra. I particularly thought a flute solo by one actress was really good, but maybe because she was so close to me I thought she was playing only for me.

As I have written previously, many think my wife and I are crazy to drive 360 miles roundtrip to Louisville three or four times a year just to see a play, but we have never seen a bad show there, although there were some I did not particularly like because of the story line.

So I now can say this old actor wannabe has been on stage at Actors Theater — and I didn’t even have to have an Equity card.

There is another reason why this day was so special for me. My son, who recently moved to Louisville after 12 years in Lexington, is still grieving the death of his wife. This fun production was the perfect tonic for him.

JOHN CANNON can be reached at (606) 326-3649.

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