November 10, 2016

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. If I am being perfectly earnest with you, dear reader, it was always both. I am not a tragic person. No, I do not want to put on any pretenses and I want no pity. Nor do I want favors. I am the sort of person who refuses a car ride just to walk. Not just because I prefer being bipedal, but because I just don’t want people to be unduly nice to me.

“Nothing matters so much as family,” is a lesson that my grandfather taught me a long time ago. Ever since, I have taken those words to heart as gospel and a truth which I seek to make my motivator. My sisters and I fight, my mother and I disagree, and my father will make some sort of a mistake where I tell myself that he shall never feel forgiveness, but at the end of the day we are family.

I always yearned to have uncles. My mother chooses not to talk to her brother, always suspecting the worse in him, and ignores my evidence of otherwise. My father’s older brothers live too far away to have any sort of a relationship with them. So, I was left with just my parents, and my grandparents. That is, until the day that I met Bill and Joe.

It was two years ago. It was November, and it was cold. I used to be an angry child, although some could argue that I still am. I was brimming with ideas and talents, that I had not yet realized at the time, and I had no outlet for them. It was enough to drive one crazy. The most accelerated form of cabin fever, you could say. The ideas just kept festering inside of me. One day, my mother received a call. It was from some friends of hers, Sara and Kevin. They wanted to know if my sisters and I would like to be in that year’s production of “A Coal County Christmas Carol.” I was familiar with the production and had attended the shows in previous years. I figured that they wanted us to be the breaker boys, a side role which involved the most ridiculous dancing. I respectfully declined.

“But, Christian, they don’t want to you to be a breaker boy.”  my mother told me afterwards. I felt a little insulted. “They don’t even want me involved in the production?!?”
“Oh, so it’s just for the girls?” I calmly replied, hiding my inner fury.
“No, they say they want you to play the younger version of Scrooge.” my mother said with a proud smile inching its way across her face. I took a moment to think on it. “So, they want me to play a younger version of the main character, Ebenezer Scrooge? I mean, it’s a bit-part, and I don’t think I fully understand it, but I’ll take it. What’s the worst that could happen?” I thought to myself.
“Tell them I’m interested.” I told my mother, allowing my skepticism to come through in my acceptance of the role.
November turned into December, in the usual, bitter way it does. I sat shivering amidst the rooms of my house, waiting impatiently for any further information regarding the play. If they changed their minds, I wouldn’t have complained. Crestfallen, surely, but I wouldn’t make a stink about it. Amidst the palpable anticipation and the insulation, we received a call. It was from Sara. She apparently was the one who was coordinating the whole show. Sara gave us the date of the first practice. “About time.” I thought.
At the first practice, I am embarrassed to say, I was nervous. To me, being nervous is a pointless feeling. I’ve always thought this. What good does it do for you? Regardless, I walked in and didn’t let my jitters stop me. Sara greeted my sisters and I, flashing a wide and patronizing smile. She told the girls where to go and where the dance instructor would meet them. I thought I would have to work out my situation myself, but Sara called for my attention.
“Oh, and Joe wants you up on the stage.” she said before walking off to attend to something else that needed her immediate attention.

  As I slowly walked down the aisle with my hands in my pockets, I saw him. There were about twelve people running back-and-forth on the stage, but he stood out. Perhaps it was because his shirt was a bright yellow, or perhaps it was an attraction all too simple to be explained. He looked out at me and flashed the most charming, toothy smile I have ever seen.
“Hey! You must be Christian!” he said as he reached down and shook my hand.
“Yep,” I replied.
“I’m Bill. Joe wants all of us backstage for a rehearsal. You can get up on stage right over there.” he said while gesturing at a short set of stairs to the right of the stage.
I walked up the stairs and Bill showed me up another set of stairs to a loft backstage. Couches and loveseats were arranged in a circle. Not a chair was left vacant. I took a seat at the end of a couch, trying my hardest to ignore the strange glances the other cast-members were giving me.
Joe, who I automatically realized was the tall one in the horn-rimmed glasses, didn’t say much. As soon as I came in, he told me a little about the show and my part in it. He seemed professional, but not entirely friendly. He gave me a few words of encouragement, and we were ready to begin.

“Don’t f*** it up!!” one of the cast-members yelled out across the room. That one remark set the tone for the entire practice.

That was it, I suppose. We practiced, had some laughs, and the show went on. I didn’t really get along with any of the cast-members that much, except for Bill. Bill and I would joke and talk about trying to really hit home the idea that I was playing a younger version of himself. I was sad for the show to end, and to see Bill no more, but we had fun for the short amount of time it lasted.

It was some months later and I received a card in the mail. The return address let me know that it was from Joe. Encased in the envelope was a beautiful card. The cover was some interesting photography trick and the envelope itself contained $70. Joe had written a note on the card, saying how he had enjoyed working with me. I don’t know why, but I sensed an opportunity. It was probably stupid of me to think so, but I wanted to do more work, more acting, with them. So, being the expeditious little brat that I was (am?),  I wrote back. I always kept a stash of cards with some paintings by my favorite folk-artist. I wrote a brief letter inside of one of these, detailing how thankful I was for the money, and how I wished I could do more work with them. I didn’t really expect a reply.

Yet, self-degrade as I might, I received a reply. Joe told me that he wanted me to sit in on a rehearsal for that month’s show. The month was April, and he would later write me into the May show. Well, this is the funny part. I showed up for the April rehearsal in the beautiful Mauch Chunk Opera House and thought that I would sit in and get a feel for the show. At least, that was the plan. In one of their sketches, they needed another voice. Joe asked if I could do it for him, and so I did. I walked up on stage, sat in the chair they gave me, and I acted. I have been acting with that group of idiots ever since.

It has been almost two years since I joined the cast of “40 Story Radio Tower”. We have performed in more than a dozen shows together, with so many amazing musical guests. I have played characters ranging from a Scotsman, to an alien, to a dolphin. We have performed shows in all kinds of weather and have even gone on the road and done a show in Brooklyn, New York. I have since grown fond of every member of the cast, even if the feelings are not reciprocated. Even Keith, the man who yelled those ever-so-kind words of wisdom at the first practice, has become a close friend of mine. And Bill and Joe, the two men together who have made this dream of mine come true, I love them most of all. As our relationship has evolved, I have begun to see them as my uncles. I say that without hesitation, dear reader. They have filled a hole in my heart, not with this career, this act, but with themselves and their love. I am forever thankful to all that they have done for me.

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