My Spell Off-Broadway

Curtain up! Light the lights! Cue the music! And hey, lady, wanna be in the show?

Then it's back to serious business. Never too serious, though. The script for Spelling Bee is a howl. "Can you use it in a sentence?" asks a speller given "phylactery" (a Jewish religious object). "Billy, put down that phylactery--we're Episcopalians," offers Vice Principal Planch.

Eventually it's time for all civilians to be ousted. Wall Street lady gets "balmacaan" (an overcoat). My last word sounds like "batkin," defined as "Yiddish for juggler." I stand alone at the mike in the spotlight, audience staring and giggling at my panicked expression. "Am I pronouncing it correctly?" I nervously ask Planch. "It doesn't matter," he deadpans, getting a huge laugh.

I look down at the front row and see a familiar face in the audience. It's Dallas actor Donald Fowler, star of many shows at WaterTower Theatre and Uptown Players. I've written some brutal things about him in past reviews. Now it's payback. He gets to watch me in Spelling Bee swell up with hives and fluff it under flop-sweat. It's the actor's nightmare and the critic's nightmare.

When I fail to juggle the letters of "badchen" correctly, I feel the hug of the comfort counselor as the cast sings me offstage with the goodbye song. Adrenaline still pumping, I return to my seat and look at my watch. It's nearly 9. I've been in an off-Broadway show for close to an hour. After curtain calls, my fellow theatergoers congratulate me on my performance. Lapine later tells me the cast thought I did great. Even Fowler is complimentary. It's an unforgettable experience any way you spell it.

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