Hi all – My friend of many years, Herb Haig joined me recently for the performances of “PlayBall!” in Boca Raton. After a pre-performance dinner and with out prior knowledge I slipped him on stage as one of the extra’s who sit on stage in the bleachers during the ballet. Herb has been a fan of the ballet for many years and had a great time and ask if he could write about it on my blog. Please enjoy his thoughts below.
The Traveling Ballet Master
Guest Blogger- Herbert Haig- Who needs rehearsals?
With all of it’s drama the curtain rises and I find myself on stage with a dozen dancers all of whom are professionals or very advanced students of the art. I am feeling very old as they are all much younger than my grown children and needless to say, far more svelte and athletically defined than myself. Through the glare of the lights I can see its a full house, the audience is exited and everyone has that wide eyed expectant look is reflected in their faces. It’s that moment of intimacy that seduces the audience and brings the performers to full adrenaline mode. It’s “Showtime!” as they say.
To play my part I have suffered through no rehearsals, never seen the set before, I am not sure what the whole thing is about: and by the way I am barely able to move after adding to my ample girth by consuming a sinfully deliciously meal no more than twenty minutes before taking my place at the back of the stage. But have no fear! I am one of the fans, not the fans in the audience but the fans on stage.
This is a ballet featuring baseball and I am on stage and in the bleachers. This is particularly interesting role for me because under normal circumstances I am not a fan of baseball, worse than that, I am not even sure why anyone is a fan of baseball, all that sitting with very little happening and then just a few seconds of action before going back to total boredom, but that’s a story for another day. I am interested because this is not really baseball this is a ballet featuring baseball. In true 1940’s style It’s the Dolls from the women’s league Versus the Bulls, played by the boys who didn’t go off to the war. Don’t ask.
But first, in true baseball tradition, lets all rise for the national anthem, I look around at the other “fans,” for my cue, and apparently yes, that means me too: who needs rehearsal, I have this thing in the bag. Out comes the fat lady, (she’s really not fat, it is just an expression)
She knows all the words and does a great job. Note to budding choreographers, starting a performance with the national anthem never fails to get a round of applause whether deserved or not.
I have played the part of extra before, I have been a Towns Person, a Sheppard, a Juror, and my greatest role was that of a King. I have never been sure of what. Even the three wise men didn’t seem to know. If awards were given to extras I would be a nominee at the very least. I have always known that I was born to be an extra, It satisfies my need for attention, you get fantastic seats, everybody claps for you when its over, and all you have to pay for is parking. Perfect.
As an extra you are part of the secondary process, you are background and everyone can see you but no one is looking at you. You could be Rush Limbaugh dressed up to look like Dolly Parton and no one would notice. Its almost impossible to screw this up. That is unless of course you let your nerves take over and start laughing hysterically for no apparent reason. I know because it happened to me. Something about the sheep struck me as very funny when I was a Sheppard I was cut from the second act in shame.
But this ballet about baseball is really different, I had never noticed, probably because I never cared, how much ballet and baseball have in common. I watch transfixed as the pitcher winds up leaning way back gaining leverage for the pitch with beautifully curved feminine leg pointed straight as an arrow high into the sky, and then with a snap she let’s go of the ball with all the fury a poor player can sweat and fret upon the stage, or is it a diamond? Unlike real baseball this pitch is poetry in motion a beautiful thing to see, and when the pitch has been delivered no one is scratching anything of a personal nature.
By the time the seventh inning stretch rolls around I am lost in it. I may be just an extra but I am drowning in the beauty of the movement and youthful energy that surrounds me. This is ballet the most elegant form of expression, and I have the indisputable privilege of appearing in it before a wildly receptive audience without all the toil of actually earning my celebrity. How sweet it is. But with a jolt I am back to the real world and in a small panic, I have to force myself to remember I have a role to play and if I screw it up I will never live it down, or get free tickets again, so It’s back to earth for me. To be honest I have been so raptured that can’t remember what I have been doing for the past half hour or so, I look around and no one is looking at me in a funny way so I must be doing ok, whew.
A note for those men who are not familiar with ballet. Ballet can be easily defined as the one and only time you can stare at beautiful young women moving in a sensuous way and your wife is proud of you for doing so, go figure. This being true, I am rooting for the Dolls of course I am so excited that they are winning I start to stand up in my seat when the “fan” sitting next to me grabs my arm and pulls me back. Apparently make believe fans are not supposed to get too carried away. But its the bottom of the ninth and my team is headed for victory! And then, without warning, the skies open up
and it starts to rain. The umpire calls the game, everybody goes home, and I am the only one who wins.