‘I could tell you my adventures — beginning from this morning,’ said Alice a little timidly: ‘but it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.’
Step right up, who wants a shot? C’mon kid, you’ll do just fine. Come one, come all! It’s the circus, kid. You’re in the big top now and the crowd’s cheering for you! You, kid!
Hit or miss, you’re gonna knock em’ dead. Don’t be nervous, kid. Everybody gets their shot. Showtime, champ. It’s time for the show to begin. Every eye to the center of the ring. You’re up, kid.
I’m the ringmaster, son. Stick with me and you’ll be just fine. Don’t worry about the chairs. They’ll fill. They always fill. You’re in with me and we’re gonna have one Hell of a night.
“Curtains!” he yells. The stage opens and the crowd roars. The lights buzz and pop with anticipation of the show. The musty curtains trail a dusty line across the floor.
“This is your show, kid.” he shouts to me. The white-tipped cane points right to my chest and I stagger onto the stage. Somewhere in the building, a piano belts out a song in drastic need of tuning.
Eyes wide open. My hands tremble. And I forget the lines that I never knew I had. Stage fright.
“Kid, there’s no script. Just be you….” the ringmaster assures me.
Even the black-clad cigarette vendors begin to stare and question whether or not this kid from out of town will put on a good show.
“Remember, it’s you they want to see. Give them a show.” he hisses from behind the scarlet curtain.
The applause hushes to a calm. The audience seems to hold its breath. Cigarette smoke dances over the many dark faces who remain nameless audience members under the cover of dimmed lighting.
I look at the audience, crammed into cheap seats that have had one too many uses. The boxes are full of pretentious bottom feeders who feel important sitting high above the dark crowd. Thin glows of cigars wave back and forth at me. Smoke curling high in the air.
I summon a deep breath and walk up to the chrome microphone. It’s cold to the touch. A dash of feedback reminds me to stay in place as I open my mouth to address the silence of the audience.
Ten thousand cups of water couldn’t quench this dry throat.
“Kid, it’s you they want to see. This is the theatre…they’ll spot a phony like flies on rotting meat. Begin.” the conductor urges me.
The theatre. The roar of the greasepaint. The smell of the crowd. The anticipation begins to well deep in my stomach.
“I….” I stammer, trying to conjure up an introduction.
The crowd shifts and stirs in the seats. Hard wooden chairs are unforgiving on the back, and also unfriendly to a quiet room. The creaks roar louder than the applause that once filled the room.
I realize there is no script. No theme music to cue me. No director. No rehearsals. No auditions. An audience and an empty stage. Me and the microphone.
Inhaling the musty air, it hits me that this performance is mine to direct. The audience is mine to please. The orchestra awaits my cue.
“Excuse me, just one moment” I speak through the microphone. Stepping into the orchestra pit, I grab the baton from the conductor. “And-a-one, and-a-two, and-a-one-two-three” I motion to the orchestra. Life begins to flow through the instruments as I direct their steps.
I ditch the baton and step onto the stage. Raising my hands to the engineer, I raise the lights on the stage. Immediately, the heat is overwhelming.
“The show must go on, son!” the ringmaster yells to me.
No script. No rehearsals. No practice. This is the show of a lifetime and I’m going to give the audience the show of their life. The cute cigarette girl flashes me a wink and a smile. Deep breath, son.
The orchestra now drowns out the hollow footsteps that once populated the stage. I stand center stage, look down at my feet, and slowly take a deep breath.
The show must go on.