Saturday, April 14, 2007

Thems Are the Breaks

One of the thrills of live performance is, of course, not knowing exactly what's going to happen next. Ideally, it's the audience that gets surprised, not you.

However, that bastard Murphy has been everywhere, including the world of theatre, where he is no more welcome than Don Imus is on the Rutgers campus.

Now, Godspell is a very active show, even athletic at times. The cast is practically always on the move, and energetically so. You can't schlep your way through it. I'm happy to say that ours was a schlepless production. In very few shows have I gotten to act, sing, dance, play guitar, do a few impressions and assorted odd voices. I had a great time. But....

Why does there always have to be a "But...."?

All that moving around was just fine in rehearsal, but when you get to dress rehearsals & performances, things change. A couple of these may be, for instance, the surface you're working on and the shoes you're wearing. This is where I ran into trouble. On a number of places, I was blocked (the theatre term for "where in the zark am I supposed to be right now?") to be off the front of the stage in the space in front of the audience. All well and good, I've had my shots. Ah, but an important difference: the stage was a wooden floor, whereas the front area was carpet.

The thing about wearing athletic shoes as part of your costume is that while they're comfortable and give you a great deal of control on the wood floor, they behave a lot differently on carpet. In the heat of the battle, when once more going into the breach, it's easy to overlook little things like that.

On the Tuesday before our Thursday opening, I was stepping off of an 18 inch cube in the front area, with the intention of going over to the place I was supposed to be next ("You're zarking well supposed to be over here!"). I meant to pivot on my right foot as I swung my left down to follow. No deal; my right foot, at the moment bearing all my weight, didn't pivot. It stuck in place on the carpet. As a result, my right knee got twisted in a way it's not designed to. Knees, in fact, in the event that you hadn't noticed nor read in the manual, aren't intended to twist at all. Thus did I pick up a nasty sprain, but one cannot let such things keep the show from going on. We have a cliche to uphold.

OK, so the stupid thing hurt, but I resolved to be more careful, and I succeeded admirably. Until opening night. Since I was playing Judas, at some point you just know that I have to run out and do some betraying. You can't rewrite stuff like that. Well, my blocking called for me to jump off the stage and run the zark out the back of the auditorium via an aisle. The jump? No problem. Starting to run? Hey, I was on the carpet by then, and as had been previously proven, the traction was almost unholy. A tad ironic when doing Godspell, but let that pass. I had to go around the same cube I'd injured myself on before, and cut about a 20-degree-angled turn to the right to zip my way up the aisle.

I used to be on the track team & ran cross-country, I know darn well how to avoid an obstacle and execute a turn while running: You come down on the foot that's to the side you're turning to, pivot on it while the other foot comes down, then push off of the first foot to move in the new direction. As a matter of unhappy circumstance, this was the same foot that had caused me to injure my knee before, on the grounds that it loved the carpet so very well, it couldn't bring itself to move and allow me to.... pivot.

At a dead run, it didn't prove to be any different.

So, when I went to make the turn, my momentum carried my body weight to the left, and severely bent my poor right knee in that direction. In that moment, I knew that I had zarking well zarked the zark out of that knee, but I managed to get out the back anyway. I hope nobody noticed the limp when I came back in to do the actual betraying. Listen, if I'm portraying Judas in the very moment of betraying Jesus and you're noticing the way I walk, I'm doing something very, very wrong.

Pain. Pain became known to me in a very personal way. The next day, I bought one of those really beastly knee braces that has metal hinges on the sides, so I wouldn't do it again. Or, if I did, the forces of nature would have to get past cold, hard steel. That worked OK, and while it didn't relieve the pain, it allowed me to get through the business of the rest of the performances on the main run. Great. We had a two week break before the last, special performance (that's very unusual). In this two weeks, did the knee get any better, like a sprain should? Nope, not one little bit. However, I got through the last performance without too much difficulty. It hurt, though.

Now, by an incredible coincidence, I had an appointment with my orthopedist the next day. Why? To follow up on the problem with my shoulder. I'd been through physical therapy, trying to stave off surgery which we'll eventually have to do, due to joint impingement. This, we accomplished, and jointly decided that although it's not 100%, it's livable for now. The next time it locks up, we operate. Fine. Cool. Then I pointed to the brace on my leg, and said "Could we talk about this knee?" I related my tragic story, and while it didn't move him to tears, he showed adequate concern. We did an X-ray. "Hmmm, that doesn't look particularly good. We'd better get an MRI done." We set it up for the very next day (amazing, ain't it?), and he promised to call me himself with the results, and we'd go from there.

This is all very swank, since this practice is well known as the best in the area. My knee's in good hands.

My orthopedist did call (No, really!), and it figures that the news isn't especially good. I have a pretty significant tear of the meniscus cartilage in my right knee, so guess who's headed to surgery? So, April 17 it is (again, unbelievably quickly). The good news is, I can put weight on it quite soon afterwards, be significantly better in a week, and supposedly completely normal in a month. That's just in time for my high school reunion, although "completely normal" isn't a phrase you normally associate with me. This is arthroscopic surgery, so relatively simple & non-traumatic. In some ways, it beats the other theory, which was a severe sprain; those can take forever to normalize. Nah, gimme the quick fix. Then it'll probably be back for my third round of physical therapy inside the last 10 months. Fortunately, they're fairly jolly people, even if they do wear so much black studded leather.

Not for the first time, I wished I'd taken the extended warranty on this stupid body.

Initially, I'd worried that perhaps I was a bit too old to be doing Godspell. As it turns out, I was not too old. At least, most of me. Apparently, my right knee was too old, and now I shall have to pay the price. All I can say now is:



Rick said...

OK, how will this affect your helping me paint the floor? As you are well aware, my artistic ability is limited to paint by numbers and I was expecting you to put the lines and numbers down. I can get by with you telling me where the lines and numbers go and then me painting it. I am concerned about your well being as you will have to live with your wife after she has to deal with an unfinished set. I don't have to worry about that, 'cause if the set is unfinished, I will be dead.

The Eye Wit said...

LOL Fear not, my good friend, I will still be there! They tell me that the recovery for this particular cartilage job is very quick nowadays. According to the doctor (a sports medicine specialist), I'll be able to put some weight on it that night, be a lot better in a week, and in a month feel like it never happened. Pretty good deal!

I was lucky that I didn't damage one of the cruciate ligaments, as that would take longer. So, as it turns out that while I did something stupid, at least I did it smart.