While scrounging through the bowels of my writing folders, looking for old Moe Gorman song lyrics or poems, I stumbled upon this script from Year Four of Annekenstein. That was the summer we were at The Carriage House at Beaconsfield. I really enjoyed that venue and was disappointed that we couldn’t return the following year, despite putting on a successful show. I don’t think the neighbours enjoyed the parking situation on the streets.
Anyway, I thought it’d be interesting to post this script, as I believe it illustrates a defining moment in my writing/performing career. This is, I believe, the first time I explored that bond between performer and audience, breaking the fourth wall, and expressing truths about myself that are masqueraded as “material” and leave people wondering “Is this Real Life, or a Bit?”
I’m not sure that this sketch lasted the entirety of our run at The Carriage House. I think it confused too many of the audience and left too many people thinking “Is Rob okay?” I thoroughly enjoyed performing this, and through it discovered my love of playing with the audience’s expectations and even my own.
Rob’s Matthew Monologue
Rob enters the stage, exaggeratedly walking as an old man. He makes his way to center stage, fully involved in his “old man smile” face, and is about to speak his lines. Then he stops, looks at the audience, and contemplates. He makes a decision and takes off his old man wig or hat.
Rob: Hey everyone, it’s not beloved old Matthew from Anne of Green Gables who stands before you right now. It’s me. Rob MacDonald.
I’m supposed to be out here now doing a monologue as Matthew Cuthbert, exploring the reasons why he’s as shy as he is, climaxing in him discovering that the basis of his shyness was when, as a child, he saw his father and mother making out. Ha Ha, good laugh, the show continues.
But I’ve decided to forego that bit of comedy for a rather serious announcement that I’d like to make.
He looks to the sides of the stage to make sure the coast is clear.
I’ve been in this theatre business now for almost 10 years. The past four years, it’s been my living, supplemented by odd jobs. The past two of those four years, it’s been my sole source of income, believe it or not. Needless to say, I’m not a rich man. No, I’m a freelance writer and an actor.
And I’m sick of it.
Oh, I still love the performing and rehearsing side of my theatre life – the writing, the casting, the acting. But love I less the “moving the theatre once or twice a year” side of theatre life. Less so the “scared to answer the phone because it may be our King Street landlord of four years ago still looking for the rest of his rent money”. Less so the “here’s a hundred dollar honorarium for your two months of work, Rob, I know it’s not much, but maybe someday” side of theatre life.
“Maybe someday”. The poor actor’s mantra. Maybe someday I’ll be rich and famous. That’s what all actors dream about, you know. Rich and famous. I guess I’m getting the “more famous” all the time, but not so “the rich”. And the fame is a local fame, a small fame, helped along by the few CBC TV commercials that I do, thanks to David Moses hiring me occasionally. He works at the CBC now. Yeah. But lately, I’ve been getting real tired of waiting for that “maybe someday when I’m rich and famous”. Now I’d settle for rich, or more to the point – “not so poor”. So I’m considering giving up theatre as a career. Oh, I’ll still dabble in it, I’m sure. I mean, it’s in my blood now, but I’m gonna try joining the real world – that of the actively unemployed.
Now, in thinking about my theatre career, I like to think that over the years, that maybe, in a small way, I’ve helped some of you. Maybe at times, some of you weren’t feeling your spunkiest self. Maybe you, too, were wondering “how in the world do I pay my mortgage this month?” or “my rent”. Or my Mastercard bill, which, by the way, I used last month to pay that mortgage.
So, in your blue funk, you decided to come to one of the many Off Stage productions we’ve done. Maybe you’re even here tonight, feeling blue, hoping to see one of my funny faces, or the funny faces of any of my equally talented and comical colleagues. Or hear a funny line or skit. And you momentarily feel better. For a while you even forget your problems, and you laugh.
In that way, I like to think that I, indeed, helped. I did my job. I didn’t solve anything. Oh no. Troubles don’t just disappear, no matter how hard you wish them away. I know that. But in a small way, I helped you, maybe. I made you laugh.
Well, I thought about this idea for a while. The idea that I am a healer through laughter. That I help you. That I employ all of my energies to make you feel good for an hour and a half. And I work damn hard at it. I’m sweatin’ by the end of it. That’s the kind of guy I am. Once I commit to something, I give it a hundred and ten percent. I’m a team player and all that.
But then I got to thinkin’ “Yeah, but what do I get out of all this?” A sense of accomplishment? That of a doctor who heals his cancerous patient? Hardly.
(starts to get worked up, a bit agressive)
Oh sure, you may laugh at my mugging. Yeah, I mug. I make funny faces trying to steal a scene. I admit it. Gladly. Because I know it’s only to make you laugh. It’s all to make you laugh. So YOU will feel better. Meanwhile, I got a truckload of debts to pay. A baby that Won’t Stop Eating, a house that’s slowly falling apart, a car that’s falling apart a lot faster…. And all you give me is your ten lousy bucks. Of which I’ll see, what, maybe, 20 cents.
Well, laugh it up, fuzzballs! Here’s your friggin’ 20 cents back!!
(tosses two dimes into the audience)
I think you owe me something more than that!!
He’s starting to sound a bit desperate.
I want a job. A real job. Not a great job. Just a job. At least five figures though. Maybe 15 thousand a year. Yeah, that’s all I need. 15 thousand. Surely there’s someone here tonight who’s got the power, the influence, to get me a job. Especially when I think of all I do for you!
Now, I’m serious. I got experience. Computers. I’ve had desk jobs. Inside jobs. Outside jobs. Um, I, uh, pumped gas. I’d do that again, if I got 15 thousand. I’d prefer a nice desk job though. Something like my friend Dave Stewart has. In an office. Suit and tie sort of thing.
Dave Moses comes out
Dave: Rob. Rob. Robert!!
Rob: Hi, Dave.
Dave: What are you doing?
Rob: Oh, I’m just… I’m… um… finishing up my Matthew monologue (puts on wig, backwards) “And then I saw them NEEEKED!!”
Dave: No you’re not. You’re begging for a job again.
Dave: I expressly asked you not to do that. These people didn’t pay 10 dollars to come here just so you could exploit your position.
Rob: Exploit? What exploit? I’m not exploiting.
Dave: Yes. You are. You’re taking advantage of the fact that they have to sit there, in the dark, facing you, while you talk. And you’re doing it for personal gain.
Rob: Oh, Heaven forbid I ever do anything for myself on this bloody stage!!
Dave: Well, it’s wrong.
Rob: No, I’ll tell you what’s wrong! What’s wrong is me being broke all the time!!
Dave: Come on, let’s go. Sorry about this, folks.
Dave tries to grab Rob’s arm. Rob pulls away.
Rob: Oh, you’ve changed, Dave. Ever since you got that big CBC job. You used to be like me. Remember? No, all that CBC money is clouding your memory. And Dave Stewart, he’s the same. Big GST Man now. Money bags, the both of you. Remember the three of us? None with a job. Not really caring. Just helping each other out. Well I remember! I remember the cheap breakfasts at Kelly’s you’d eat, then you’d say “Say Rob, can you loan me five dollars till my pogey comes in?” And of course I would! But all that’s past now! Now it’s stocks and bonds and paint for your house!!
Dave: Are you finished?
Rob: I haven’t even begun!!
Ed runs out,they take Rob off as he resists.
Rob: Hey you people! I’m serious! Anybody need a dedicated worker? PIck me! I’m serious!! Think of the prestige of having an actual actor working for you! Leave your name at the door when you leave if you have a position for me! I’m serious! I need a job!!
Fade to black