For me, memorizing lines is more difficult than pushing a suppository into a cat.
The older I get, the more challenging it is to make those specific strings of words stick into my head. In high school, I played Adam in The Diary of Adam and Eve. With only three characters and pages upon pages of monologues, I had no problem reciting each paragraph of dialog while maintaining character. Today, though, I’m in a production of Carrie: The Musical with the responsibility of maybe a dozen or so lines, and I sometimes stammer through them with the fluidity of a drunk pageant toddler (composed but all over the fucking place).
In this production, I have one big scene. I close this scene with a line consisting of only 16 words. Within those 16 words is a pronoun that, if changed, reconstructs my character from an eager, patient, and easy-going educator to an eager, patient, and easy-going frotteur. Since I am a living example of what not to do as an actor, I unwittingly made that change.
“If I were you, I’d brush up on your Moby Dick.”
How hard is that?
However, as I said this last night, I experienced an unfortunate brain malfunction that manipulated my tongue and lips into involuntarily forming the phrase, “If I were you, I’d brush up on my Moby Dick.” These words floated into my countryman mic, transmitted through the theatre’s audio system, and expelled itself from the auditorium speakers. Within the brief hush that followed, I swear I heard the audience lean towards their dates and whisper, “Did he just say what I think he said?”
If you’ve ever been an unChrist-like 11-year-old, I’m confident you’ve construed the title of Herman Melville’s unbearably stodgy novel into a metonym for “colossal penis.” This vulgarity is as common as “foot-long hot dog” or “yogurt dispenser.” As a matter of fact, if you have never giggled at “thar she blows,” then you have lived a very sheltered and joyless life.
Upon adding this new depth to my character and thereby creating a subplot to the story that remains unresolved, I maintained the illusion of being a high school English teather, but I was fully aware of my offense. Instead of wincing or castigating myself while muttering “God damnit,” I walked off stage as if nothing unusual happened, as if it wasn’t uncommon for Mr. Stephens to abuse his authority by strongly suggesting students glaze his crotch to pass.
Backstage, one of the actors pointed out my error.
“Do you realize you said ‘brush up on my Moby Dick?”
I pulled a Pee-Wee Herman (which, while we’re on the subject of metonyms, can be used in place of “masturbating”) and said, “I meant to do that.” Well, not exactly that, but that was the gist.
To prevent this “Moby” mistake from surfacing again, I plan to recite “brush up on your Moby dick” 500 times before tonight’s performance. Let’s hope I don’t fuck it up again. Of course, none of this would even be an issue if Herman hadn’t published that stupid book.