The title of the play was Golliwhoppers. I couldn’t remember who the playwright was even if the Nazis held a gun to my head, but I do remember that it wasn’t published by the big boys (i.e., Samuel French or Dramatists Play Service). It was a collection of American folk tales, with a cast of 6 playing multiple roles. The playwright’s intention was for the show to be produced very cheaply and boy, did we live up to that end of the bargain!
Our production toured all over Michigan, mostly to grade schools and civic centers. I want to focus on one particular scene. I don’t remember the plot of this particular segment, but I was playing the role of a cow. I had two lines in that segment, which were easy to remember, or should have been – all I had to do was say the line that rhymed with my setup line. At one point, DD would come up to me and ask, “Have you seen my hired maid?” I would reply, “She went right by in a promenade!” At another point in the scene, DD would ask, “Have you seen my hired girl?” to which I would reply, “She ran right by with a swish and a swirl!” We can debate the artistic merits of those lines another time. The point is, it should have been foolproof for me. Should have been.
One frigid night, we were doing a show way north in the Upper Peninsula. We got to that scene. DD entered and somehow, I was expecting her to say one setup and she said the other one. And instead of responding with the appropriate rhyming line, I blanked. So the way it went that night was like this:
DD: Have you seen my hired maid?
Me: She ran right by . . . . . . goin’ real fast!
The moment may not have resonated much with the audience, but the other actors were momentarily unable to continue. We broke. Oh yes, we all broke. Most of us laughed convulsively for a few moments before we could continue. One of them struggled so much fighting the urge to break that she actually wet herself. I figure enough years have passed that I can say that much, plus the fact that I don’t think anyone who was in the show with me reads this journal.
As for me . . . well, there are certain lines in certain plays that you can only get wrong once. After that one time, the moment is seared into your brain and you can never miss that line again. This was such a line. Even now, those two couplets are the only lines I can remember from that show. I’ll probably be reciting them perfectly decades from now when every other mental faculty has deserted me.