Once upon a time, in my first year of college, I wanted to be a Theatre Arts major. As part of the major, I took two classes in acting, both of which were taught by a very sweet man named Burt. He was one of the first openly gay men I'd ever known. However, Burt had this Pinter fixation. He concluded that my little acting study group of three people would interpret Pinter's the Matchseller.
The Matchseller is, beneath the surface, all about the cares that infest the day ... the solemn banality of everyday life and how it causes us to seek options outside our comfort zone. Burt arbitrarily decided (much as Paul Benedict's character in "The Goodbye Girl" regarding Richard III), that the two leads in this play were more properly gay men. As such, I became the world's first female matchseller. With ten tons of makeup slathered onto my face, I was pushed out on stage.
First, I must explain that in this cast was a truly insufferable jackass (IJ) with an ego the size of Donald Trump's money clip. He zealously took me aside and warned me that he'd have "important people in the audience" on opening night and that I damned well better not "forget my cue." That was the true agony of this role -- not one line. All I could do was stand there and react and listen. Meanwhile, Jackass had two hours of lines -- a problem with which I could sympathize, had he not been an insufferable jackass.
Now, the thing about the Matchseller is, despite all its pretentions, it's really just the story of two people arguing about a fly stuck in jam. Yeah, okay, I get the metaphor, but not only do they argue about it ... they argue about it dully and continuously for two friggin' hours.
The third actor in the play was a really dear man named Tom who went onto a career in film, last I heard. Tom and I shared a deep antipathy for the IJ. We'd been listening to him tirade at us for weeks -- warning us about lines and cues and all his important people.
Well, we now cut to the night of the play. We're in the black box theatre at our college. There are about seventy-five hale and hearty souls who bravely showed up for the play. Then right there in the middle of the first act, with only IJ and little ol' me on-stage, Insufferable Jackass fluffed big-time -- he went from a line on page three all the way to a line near the end of the last act. He instantly cut an hour and a half out of this play.
Tom, meanwhile, was manning the lights. He was up in the booth facing the morgue when he heard IJ go up. Just as soon as IJ was supposed to finish the line, his partner was meant to enter carrying tea on a tray. Well, I was standing there on stage, with absolutely nothing to do but sweat under stage lights (and some of the heaviest makeup used outside of a mortuary), listening to poor Tom sprint from the very top of the flyspace rigging, over the black box balcony, crawling on his belly through the sidestage like a military trainee where he could sneak unseen around the side risers to the prop shop, search to find the tray set on the prop table, and vault all the way down to the stage floor entry - jumping the last five feet -- to brandish his tray and enter effortlessly on cue. Tom wasn't even winded. To this day, I stand in awe.
In short, IJ was saved from looking like the idiot he was by the one person he'd been primarily raging at for two weeks of rehearsals. Had Tom been a less honorable soul, he'd have let IJ rot out there. He told me later that the only reason he ran was because I was stuck out there, too, though I suspect Tom would have done this regardless. He was (and is still, most probably) just a good guy. But as a bit of retribution, Tom picked up a rose from the vase on set and handed it to me, whereupon I put the stem between my teeth and we tango'd off stage. If you've not seen the Matchseller, trust me when I tell you this was not Harold's ending.
I give this as a general warning to the GOP now defiling our White House. Mr. Bush doesn't seem to be bright enough (we need no ghost to tell us this, Prince Hamlet) to figure out he'll be handing over all those tidy dictatorial powers he's spackling together to the NEXT President ... who will be a decidedly Democratic President. See George, two rules, as evinced by this tale of two Matchsellers -- always remember you may need to eat crow, so gauge the size of your bird accordingly and two, remember your time on stage may be much shorter than it appears. And it can be happier or sadder experience depending upon the way you treat the individuals around you.
So, Poppy's Boy, enjoy your little victory in pardoning Scooter (and let's not be ridiculous and claim he didn't) -- it's the last one you're going to have in a long, long time, and from here it goes to the next President to wipe the slate clean. Thank God.