Things I Learned from R. B.


Jonathots Daily Blog

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Episode 4

A rehearsal camp.

It is what we called the thirteen-day period leading up to the beginning of the tour of our musical.

The cast arrived: Mittie, Dan, Ginger, Greg, Luanne, Dollie, R. B., Matt and Blythe. Unfortunately, we had to axe Blythe and Matt because we caught them sleeping together in one of the bedrooms. We had a “no fraternization” policy for the cast, and Matt and Blythe—well, they screwed it.

Somehow or another, we’d landed an amazing facility for hosting this little shindig, with six bedrooms, six bathrooms, a complete kitchen and a small gymnasium including a PA system for rehearsing. The owner of the location was so impressed with our endeavors that he only charged $150 a week. Unfortunately, I think we bounced a check to him. (We made it right.)

The mornings were spent learning music. This went great. Music was what I did. We also worked on some acting. Since all the members of the team had seen movies and television, we kind of wiggled and squirmed our way into understanding the characterization needed for their roles.

But afternoons did not go so well. They were set aside for choreography. Only one of our cast members could dance. All the others were either timid or inept, leaving our three choreographers in a constant, bitchy dismay. Two of this trio were fellows who had performed on Broadway—gay men (this was back in the time when the words “gay” and “men” never appeared in a sentence together.)

The other choreographer was a “mimist” from Miami (say that quickly five times). She was a Lesbian, though our cast was so unfamiliar with the term that they believed she was an immigrant from Lebanon.

So terrible was the movement portion of the play that a reporter from the city newspaper, who came to interview me and happened to sit in on a rehearsal, joked, “Hey. Don’t give up. You can always have the claim to fame that you came up with ‘collisionography.’”

I didn’t laugh. I should have. It might have kept me from crying.

The absolute worst of our dancers was R. B. He had two left feet, and that was just on his right leg. R. B. couldn’t dance. It’s not that he shouldn’t or wouldn’t—it needed to be forbidden.

The terrifying part of the situation was that R. B. was our most enthusiastic hoofer and believed with all his heart that he was heads and tails, if not feet, above the other cast members.

One day, in a fit of frustration, Gay Choreographer 1 screamed at him, “You dance like an elephant imitating a cow!”

The only reason R. B. knew to get offended was that the fellow was spitting angry. That night R. B. packed his bags, preparing to leave—and I consoled him into staying.

I lied.

I told him I had fired the choreographer who yelled at him, when actually the guy had quit in despair. So R. B. stood tall, stating to me, “That guy just doesn’t know talent when he sees it.”

I should have said something. I should have spoken up. But I was so afraid of losing a cast member less than two weeks from the start of the show that I remained silent and let a very cocky guy walk out of the room—setting us all up for a “Great Collision.”

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