Archive for November, 2009

RE(nt)–Cap (ʻOhana = Family)

Posted: November 25, 2009 in Road to RENT

November 22-23, 2009

I think I made the choreographer cry…

My eyes sheepishly wandered to a table at my distant left. Behind the table the choreographer sat with her elbows resting on its top supporting her leaning torso. She endearing gazed on me almost as if she wanted to move closer to me. In her eyes sprang up gentle mists as her head was turned, smoothly to the left, slightly tilted at the neck, reaching in my direction.

I gently shrugged my shoulders and displayed my teeth as I waited for her to explain her sudden change of condition.

Tossing herself out of her chair, she walked towards me, arms wide opened and a twisted smile in juxtaposition with her tears. She spoke:

“You get mad kudos for that. That was awesome.”

She wrapped her appreciative arms around me and I returned the favor. And, although the embrace lasted mere seconds, in those seconds the choreographer showed me something that would last for as long as time would allow.

As we did our round through a song pleading for understanding, the main director instructing us to make it our own, I collected an image that pulled at my emotions whisking it to the foreground of my life – a mother’s broken heart.

I envisioned the pain in her eyes, the faltering in her voice and the stake in her heart as she writhed in pain wanting, no, needing to remedy the cause of her emotionally dead son – suicide breathing through his pores.

I could see, feel, touch and taste everything she went through. I was a part of her. And when the choreographer braided herself within a vision of mine that she could not see, only reading the words pricking my face, I knew she was a part of me, us, all of it.

And when she embraced me, I knew that she too was like my mother.

We were family.

I looked around at my other cast mates. We are all different shapes, sizes, nationalities and styles. No two carried the same last name, to my knowledge, and all huddled in different parts of the room taking in their surroundings, smiles decorating every face. And that is when I took a hold of the reason I enjoyed being at rehearsal.

We are family.

Finally, at the end of the day when the main director gave his speech, highlighting:

“This had to be the most difficult casting process I have been through.”

I detected his blunder.

You can’t pick, cast or match family. They just are. They come together with all their quirks and loose screws and somehow create a beautiful foundation. I secretly whispered to myself:

“You couldn’t cast us, we picked each other.”

And although I knew it to be a figment of my imagination, I felt that, in some way, we silently requested to be amongst one another. Each subconsciously summoning the other into the roles they were to play. I know I did, the fist pounder wearing the title I envisioned for her.

And with that a playground of chaos was erected.

I ran over to my Season’s of Love partner and threw myself, full weight, into her lap as she rested on the floor. I wiggled on her and kicked my feet as if I had landed in a pile a freshly fallen leaves. She shook with me, her laughter matching and then surpassing mine. Eventually tossing myself to the floor I turned in the direction of the colorful hoodie:

“There is a part in the chaotic Christmas song we sing that I fall to the floor. It looks superficial for me to just trip over air, so I want you to man handle me like the prostitute I am.”

I sucked my head back and thought.

Hmmm, wait, I am not a prostitute. Where did that come from?

Before I could recant my statement, beanie torn pants jumped in:

“Yeah, she sure knows how to do that.”

The colorful hoodie gave him a playful swipe and vibrated his body as her hand gripped him. She tossed him in fast side to side movements. He tucked his head under his arm and gave a teasing smile.

They seemed to be in perfect unison with one another, almost as if watching a mother and her cub. You could feel the love exuding from their bodies.

I ran over to sit between the heavily voice and the Shy L, her soft voice always a few steps lower than her wonderful contained energetic presence. We spoke of the origins of nicknames as the tall photographer explained how his American name soon took on a French meaning. I story he told with a bashful redness lightly splashing his face.

I looked up to see the glowing ring staring off into the distance, foot lightly tapping and his hip ever so slightly falling in and out of place. I interrupted his solitude:

“Okay, I see you over there getting it.”

He tore his eyes to me, wide, and his eyebrows arched for an explanation:

”Oh, that is all I got. That is all I can do.”

I laughed. I knew there was more. I challenged his complacency.

Matching the beat of the song being played in the background, I tore into the lyrics by Haddaway:

“What is love, baby don’t hurt me/don’t hurt me/no more…”

Instantaneously, as if we shared one mind, one vision, one thought, our heads were heavily banging to the side as we sang the tune, each looking like Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan from the movie A Night at the Roxbury. With the same goofy grin plastered on our faces, we tore in:

“What is love, baby don’t hurt me/don’t hurt me/no more…”

I knew he had more; he simply had to find it.

I jumped onto the table and found myself supporting and being supported, back-to-back, with my dance partner. We gently serenaded each other with the song basement voice and the dark-haired dude were performing just feet away.

As I looked on to them, my attention falling on the dark-haired dude, I couldn’t help be see a little school girl in her Sunday best skipping and prancing through a daffodil field, the excitement in her body bringing nature to life. The dark-haired dude skipped, twisted, pranced and cascaded over the hard tile floor as if he were walking on clouds and dancing with the sun itself. The happiness in his eyes and spring in his step exuded the character he was to play.

I couldn’t help but laugh.

I could feel his pleasure, see his vision.

I next crawled on the floor singing the background to support the fist pounder. I swayed this way and that like a child in a playpen, waiting for the final notes to the number. As it neared I struck myself courageous, ready to hear the words soar into the air:

“Nooo daaayyy butttttt toooooo…”

My voice trailed off; getting low, recovering from the screeching brakes I had sent it into. I fell to the ground, overtaken by humor as I proclaimed:

“Yeah, that was noootttt the note…”

I laughed so hard my stomach hurt and the dark-haired dude joined in, praising my knowledge:

“Hahahaha, at least you knew that, some people be wrong and don’t know it.”

I looked at him for a brief second and I was amazed at what his words brought me. It clothed me in a revelation.

I traced my thoughts back to my Sunday’s in church. Being the ham I am I am known to break into song in whatever way I see fit, leaving all hints of familiarity behind. My mother can be seen in the distance clutching the microphone close to her chest, holding her jolted heart in place. With her head twisted to the side, her eyes punched back into the sockets and her mouth contorted in a sideways oval, she takes on an expression of pure horror. It is as if I had morphed into a two-headed python right before her.

The rest of the congregation stare on at me, unbearable pain etched across their faces as I continue to screech, moan and groan through the song. My brother positions himself, trying to get my attention and contemplating sending me a drumstick with the receiving address being my throat. I don’t see his frustration, my eyes are closed.

My uncle fingers keys trying to find what ungodly note I have made up. His face wrinkles as he stares at the keyboard as if the sounds coming back at him were speaking foreign languages.

Ding ding ding, dong dong, ding ding, dong, ding, ding, ding, ding…

He finds what he thinks is the key and adds the conjoining harmony. Seconds later, with the change of a phrase, my octave is replaced, my pitch varies and the whole charade is replayed with myself being none the wiser to the congregation objecting my choice in pitch.

And soon, not being able to take one more glass breaking note, my mother brings the song to a halt.

My eyes tear open in confusion only to be greeted by smirks, laughter and the shaking of my two sister’s heads, both grinning. I join in on their amusement. My mother summons my uncle:

“Can you please put this in the key of a recognizable human tone?”

I laugh.

I have my own unique voice.

My mother calls it the key of Jeremy. My sister calls it one of my three raggity notes. My uncle calls it stretching his mental muscles, bringing him out of his comfort zone, helping him to play in unfamiliar ways. I call it my joyful noise.

And when the dark-haired dude pointed out my knowledge of my folly, I couldn’t help but see somewhere, along the way, I have learned to hear – to hear beyond my three, stretchy, raggity, joyful, in the key of Jeremy notes.

I was so overjoyed with my folly that I dismissed all instances of embarrassment. Even if my feelings were wavering the fist pounder readily swooped in to free me of any internal tension:

“Oh, don’t worry, I sing the same part as you.”

I looked at her, nonverbally calling for clarification. She repeated:

“Yeah, that is what I sing.”

I shook my head in appreciation for her life-line.

Next, I found myself sitting in front of over the moon as she tried to make it through her performance. The only problem was that she was so hilariously amusing that her words were drowned out by a drone of laughter – the main proprietor, the main director.

His laughter filled the room. His faced turned red and his hands fell over his mouth. As over the moon moved forward, a puppet wedge on her hand being the only object struck silent, the director continued to invade the room with merriment.

I tried to contain myself, but as he fell to the floor his voice imitating that of a hyena’s, I was swept away in his sea of joy. And when loud beep, the exuberant petite blonde of the family, went into her rendition of a descending sound effect:


The main director began to roll and kick as if the world was tickling him from all angles. It was beyond the little dog laughing. Every surface in the area reverberated with the rising intoxication of enjoyment.

The only calmness came within two instances.

The first was when I stood next to over the moon discussing the future:

“So are you going to continue to do theatre? You are a natural.”

I looked her deep in her approving eyes. I tried to relay my true feelings. My thoughts tried to reach out and take a hold of her eardrums.

How can I not continue? I have been bitten by a soul quenching bacteria and it is taking over my body. I welcome the sickness summoning it into my every vein. I feel alive, as if life had re-invented itself and placed me in this new world.

Instead, I quietly responded:

“Yeah, I love this. All of it.”

Some have questioned me on starting late, wondering if I regretted not partaking in this courageous new world earlier. I could do nothing but swipe their regret for me away.

I wasn’t late. I was merely being molded for such a moment as this. I was right on time and not a second too early.

The second moment of reflection came in a quaint discussion with the fist pounder. She spoke of one song glory and his desire to fulfill a dream role. The play that had stolen him away from our rehearsals was a fantasy brought into reality for him. However, his new reality came with his absence amongst our family and a price. The fist pounder explained his anxiety:

“He wants to be here. He wants to do RENT…”

I stared at the first pounder in awe. She continued:

“He is a little upset that we are all bonding without him…”

Her expression trailed off as if trying to bring him into existence and place him within the room. I followed her gaze with the same intentions in mind. But all I could see was our family. Around the room I stared at my new family and couldn’t help but feel the pain of a missing member and the attempts made to substitute his presence.

Whenever one song glory’s parts came about voices, in whispers, together making a quiet roar filled in his missing spaces. You could see the heads bobbing and the lips moving trying to imitate what one song glory would have, or could be doing.

Like any close-knit family it was inevitable that we had each other’s mannerisms memorized. At any given moment one could break into movement impersonating another member of the family flawlessly. Often times one that imitation is so skillfully that the voice, tone and even expressions upon their face could momentarily bring that member to life.

Yet a synthetic display, could never replace the real thing no matter how great the effort.

I found myself, again, replacing one song glory in my song Light My Candle. Still, even with my addition of more personality and thoroughly enjoying the opportunity of momentarily bringing the character to life, I felt a bit artificial in my mockery.

Yes, I love the song; however, no part of me was, nor wanted to be in the place of one song glory. And although I would and will gladly bear the burden of my missing brother, the real thing is what I long for, what we all as a family long for.

As I looked around, staring at each member of the cast, I could only see them in the roles they were given, their namesake. No matter how many times one is imitated, at the end of the day, when one is called to attention, they only respond to their name, their role, their true character.

I couldn’t see myself as beanie torn pants, the dark-haired dude, the fist pounder, Mojo or over the moon. They were who they were, who they are supposed to be. Furthermore, I could not see them taking on the parts that I play – parts that I thoroughly enjoy for they are me, they are where I was placed within the milieu of this diverse family.

For my first chance, as I was birth into this new world, getting to know myself through various characters is the foundation I need to establish where I will be, who I will be.

To be someone else would be self treason. And with my entering this family, I could see myself as none other than the characters I have readily embraced.

I am okay with just being me and they love me for it.

Now I know why, upon entering our humble home, I had an overwhelming need to embrace the life preserver. She is a part of my family.

I can see why upon departing back into the real world, leaving the security of my home behind, I warmly exchanged farewells with the music director and choreographer. They are a part of the family.

As I made my way to my car, heart torn with not being able to join my family in a celebration feast, my mind wandered back to one song glory.

I am glad he is living his dream. I am proud. He is family.

And no matter how many days that go by that we don’t see our harmonious brother, nothing has changed. We are family. We sit by waiting for the day he is to return to fill the void that only his presence was made to fill.

We will still carry the mantle and try our best to fill out his parts; our sister the fit pounder needs the reassurance. However, we will not be able to fully p(l)ay RENT without our entire family intact.

So we wait, in proud anticipation.

I take a seat in my car thinking of all the moments we have thus created. double RENT, a member of two rent productions, is heavily supported by our unit as well as forces are gathering. We they were absent, we missed them too. The bond created before the absences have never broken they are only growing stronger with the anticipation of a return.

I think, trying to put one song glory at ease, asking for him not to fear nor be uneasy at his absence. There is always room for him in the family and we will be family as long as time will allow.

As I stick my key into the ignition and begin to pull away from our humble home, I whisper under my breath, enlisting the ingenious words of Lilo from Disney’s Lilo & Stitch (2002):

“One song glory, ‘Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind… or forgotten…”