“What Musical Theatre Taught Me About Life,” by Amy Nichols
This is part of a series of blog posts cranked out by my adoring proselytes — erm, I mean, faithful readers. I’m in Utah (er, presumably — maybe the plane crashed, or maybe I was forced into white sexual slavery somewhere in Dubai), so the task of entertaining you froth-mouthed moppets falls to others.
Today’s post is by Amy K. Nichols.
I hope you’re eating something while you read this. In fact, why don’t you go get something to nosh. Something like yogurt, or a raw egg. Go on. I’ll wait
Okay. You chow down while I tell you a little story.
A long time ago, at a university far, far away, I dabbled in theatre. Nothing serious. No holding of skulls aloft and Alas Poor Yoricks. I left that up to the drama majors. But every spring my uni put on a musical; and being a musician, every spring I auditioned. I never tried out for the lead roles where I’d have to sing by myself in front of hundreds of strangers. No, I was happy with a chorus part. One of many. Singing and dancing to support the leads. I loved the costumes, the music, the camaraderie with my fellow chorus members.
Well, except for that one time.
We were in the final rehearsals for H.M.S. Pinafore. If you’re familiar with the show, I was one of Sir Joseph Porter’s Sisters, Cousins and Aunts. If you’re not familiar with the show, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is you understand that the rehearsals were intense. We ran through the show beginning to end, dressed in practice costumes, performing our hearts out while the director sat in the empty auditorium taking notes. Nothing stopped the show. If the set fell down around us, we’d keep going.
I stood in the wings, stage left, wearing a bustled skirt and drinking a Sprite. The other Sisters, Cousins and Aunts and I whispered to each other while we waited for Josephine to finish her solo. I heard the piano cue our entrance, took a quick sip, and put my can on a shelf before sashaying onto stage.
There was this one guy in the cast, playing the part of a sailor. I didn’t know him well. Only that he was a musician and he seemed nice enough. He was tall and lanky with mussy hair. Sometimes he made this weird noise back behind his nose, like he had something stuck there. A marble, maybe, or a magic bean.
Anyway, I smiled and sang and twirled about that stage until the time came to exit again. A brief hiatus this time, stage left, where I grabbed my can of Sprite and took a swig.
Only when my tongue had pressed the contents of my mouth back beyond my soft palette did I understand that the substance coating my tongue was not Sprite.
Fascinating thing, swallowing. Did you know swallowing happens in three phases? The first phase, called the oral phase, is voluntary. Meaning we control the chewing and the movement of food toward the throat, wherein the second phase kicks in. That one’s called the pharyngeal phase. This phase is involuntary. According to Wikipedia, “for the pharyngeal phase to work properly all other egress from the pharynx must be occluded—this includes the nasopharynx and the larynx. When the pharyngeal phase begins, other activities such as chewing, breathing, coughing and vomiting are concomitantly inhibited.”
Translation: Once stuff gets past your soft palette, it doesn’t matter what the involuntary third phase is called, because whatever you’ve swallowed is going down.
And at that moment, with the piano pounding out the cue for my next entrance, I realized that the substance slinking past my tonsils was snot.
Not just ordinary snot, either. I’m talking loogie here. Make that loogies, plural. Thick, gloppy ones, cold and slick. Slick like yogurt. Slick like egg whites. While I was on stage, an entire loogie fraternity had somehow slid into my Sprite can and had loogie throw-down. And even though I couldn’t see them now that they were passing through my esophagus to my stomach, I knew — just knew — they were green.
I stumbled a little, one hand covering my mouth, the other swirling the Sprite can, feeling a remnant loogie slosh in the base. I set the can back on the shelf just as the Cousins, Sisters and Aunts shuffled me back onto stage.
I danced and I sang (sans smile) as I weighed my options. Which was better: keep things down (things being loogies!) or throw things up, thereby having not only a second taste of snot, but this time having it mixed with puke? Oh and also, whose snot did I just swallow?!
The weighing of options didn’t last long. The music stopped and the confused cast watched as the director walked from the auditorium to the front of the stage.
“Are you okay?” he asked me.
I whispered in his ear what had happened.
He recoiled. I nodded.
“Go do whatever you need to,” he said.
I assured him I was okay and rehearsal continued. But as soon as the song ended, I raced my bustled butt out the theatre back door and yacked all that loogieness into the grass.
Later, when my gag reflex had settled and I’d rejoined my fellow cast members, I asked if anyone knew who may have used my Sprite can as a spittoon. One friend commented she’d seen the sailor-guy (the one with the magic marble bean stuck in his sinuses) in the wings, stage left.
So what did this teach me about life? Two things.
First of all, it taught me there are people out there, even seemingly nice people, who will spit loogies into your Sprite can when you’re not looking.
And second, it taught me that sometimes you just gotta keep dancing, even if you’ve just swallowed someone else’s snot.
How’s that yogurt tasting now?