04:52:48 pm on
Friday 12 Jul 2024

No Small Parts
AJ Robinson

Is there a difference between art and architexcture. Yes, there is a difference. The latter is merely a building. The former is a living art form.

As a kid, my Dad introduced me to that art and it hooked me. Now, back then, I only wanted to do the behind-the-scenes stuff: build sets, run lights, handle props and so forth. Eventually, I did get onstage, in a few minor roles and then some bigger ones. I always lived by the axiom: there are no small roles, just small actors.

I had one role that was quite the, challenge. It was college, and I was playing the character, Mr. Spenalzo, in “Arsenic and Old Lace.” In case you didn’t know, he’s a dead body. Talk about a “stiff” role, don’t you think. Jonathan Brewster and Dr Einstein have killed me prior to my appearance. They intend to bury me in the cellar of the home of Jonathan’s aunts. Jonathan carries me down the main aisle to the thrust stage and passes me through the window to Einstein. Jonathan plops me in the window seat, as a temporary hiding spot.

Now, I’m a good-sized man, 6’2.” Back then, I was 175 pounds. Portraying Jonathan was a fellow capable of carrying me.

Not so Einstein; he was a short, slight young man and he dropped me into the window seat every night. It wasn’t a long fall. I could handle it.

As a dead body, I definitely had no lines, but I wanted to beef up my role, just a bit. I became quite stiff. I “played” the role as if I had rigor mortis.

One night, when Einstein put me in the seat, I was on my back with my legs straight up. He pushed them down, and I sat up. Some girls in the front row screamed; nice touch. He pushed me down, again, and one leg went up. He pushed that down and the other went up. The actor in question was good; he noticed what I was doing and milked it for all it was worth. Finally, my body flat, he closed the cover and the audience roared with laughter.

After that, it became a regular part of the performance. Then, one night, lying in the box, which I had to do for quite a while, I felt something wet on my hand. During intermission, when I got backstage, everyone gasped. Blood covered my right hand. Turned out, I’d scratched my little finger on a nail, and, over the course of the scene, blood had slowly dribbled out over my hand. A small Band-Aid took care of it.

It gave me an idea. The next night, I got some theatrical blood. I smeared some on my hand. When I flopped around in the window seat, I let my hand swing toward the audience. The theater was very snug, the front row was no more than four feet from the tip of the thrust stage and the stage was at the same level as the seat. My hand was almost literally “in their face.” Again, some girls screamed. The audience laughed.

That was all the incentive I needed. Soon I had a blood bullet hole in my forehead, blood trickling down my face, a slit throat, and so on. As the other actors told me, they never knew what to expect, when they opened the window seat to see me, but it was always fun.

Yeah, it was a fun role; one of the best I ever played, yet, I never said a word.

Combining the gimlet-eye of Philip Roth with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Working, again, as an engineeer, after years out of the field due to 2009 recession and slow recovery, Robinson finds time to write. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true. His teen vampire adventure novel, "Vampire Vendetta," will publish in 2020. Robinson continues to write books, screenplays and teleplays and keeps hoping for that big break.

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