Perspective

What had we been worried about before?  What had we been angry about before?  What had been the things that stuck in our craw, that raised our hackles?  What were the promises made or not made and who were the people who had better things to offer us?  What could we say and not say?  What did we know and what did we officially  know?

Yesterday we had to ask a new question: how does someone thirty years old and exploding with life not wake up one morning?

I met Mike Grogan working on Baby with the Bathwater with Mill City Productions.  He and I were a two person team in a short but hysterical scene set on a playground.  We would sit back stage in our track suits playing intense games of SORRY! until it was time for our scene, and like divas, we would assure everyone that we would raise the level of the show with our performances.  It was really his performance, though.  All I had to do was not laugh.   His character seemed, at first, a normal parent.  But as the scene progressed, he became a hysterical, pill-popping, conspiracy theorist that I was trapped on a tiny park bench with.  He went big and bought into the character 100%.  I never saw him do otherwise.

Rehearsals would be one third working, one third laughing, and one third recovering from laughing.  If it wasn’t the scene, it was something else.  He had a new cell phone that was all the rage at the time, a bright red Razor, that he was proud of, but it kept breaking.  Every rehearsal he had a new story about how he had to fix the phone in some absurd way.

At one point, ribs sore and eyes watering, the director told us we needed to focus and run the scene.  I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and tried to clear my mind.  Mike took a big breath and turned into a cartoon of a satire of an acting exercise.  He puffed his cheeks and shook his face so that his lips flapped with a duck noise.  He splayed his fingers and shook them around his head like a conjure man.  He might even have said “Focus, focus!”  Someone once said that he could do gymnastics with his face.  It’s true, and I saw it at close range.

At first I thought he must be kidding, but after a few seconds it became clear to me that he was focusing.  His aerobic, farcical dance was drawing all his energy in and channeling it.  What could one do but laugh?  I said, “Mike, your focusing unfocuses me!”

Mike was also part of my original Redroom crew.  I wrote skits for him.  He was part of a group that trusted each other completely.  We had very little rehearsal, brand new material, and a new show every week.  He was always funny, always present, and always had your back on stage.

Tonight we had board meeting.  We talked about exciting opportunities, bold initiatives, and cold, hard realities, but my mind wandered back to the first item on the agenda, added yesterday afternoon.  Mike Grogan.

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