I should probably write something about Easter today. But honestly, I didn’t even remember it was Easter until about mid-week, when you guys were all, “What, the cable guy’s going to come to your house on Easter?” because I don’t do Easter. I don’t go anywhere for Easter, I don’t celebrate Easter. Easter is happy, but only because it’s a Sunday and I love Sundays because I get to sleep in a little and have some extra cuddle-time with Dumbcat.
(ALSO, I kind of have a beef with Easter because when I worked at the shelter, the day after Easter was “people would turn in chicks and bunnies they’d bought foolishly for their kids” day. IT MADE ME SO EFFING STABBY. If anyone you know buys chicks or bunnies for their children for Easter and they DON’T live on a farm and have no means of taking care of such a pet? PUNCH THEM IN THE THROAT AREA.)
I don’t go home for Easter, because a., it’d only be for one day, and that’s a long trip for one day, and b., it’s an uber-religious holiday in my parents’ household, and it just upsets them that I refuse to attend church with them. And why would you want to upset your parents on bunny-day? You wouldn’t.
Secret story, though – I kind of miss the Catholic church over Holy Week. Don’t tell my parents, it’ll just get their hopes up I’m going back, and I’m absolutely not. But this week, more so than any other, I miss it.
The rest of the year in church is a little blah. No offense, church. But there isn’t much story to the readings. This week, it’s all about story. You get Good Friday with the entire crucifixion, you get Easter Sunday with the resurrection. Plus on Good Friday, you get to act. The congregation gets to say things like “crucify him! Crucify him!” at certain points, and I always liked that, even though you had to say it in a boring boring monotone and couldn’t put any energy behind your words and that seemed like a total waste of a good acting opportunity to me but then everyone would have stared at you. Also, sometimes you start thinking about people like Jesus’s mom and it makes you very, very sad, but the readings don’t really concentrate on that. I think they should. There should be more readings concentrating on the fact that Mary had to deal with the fact that her SON was CRUCIFIED in FRONT of her. Also more stories about Thomas, my favorite apostle, because I like the doubting. I do a lot of that. He’s the most realistic.
But there’s also a lot of up-and-down and kneeling and standing and that makes you almost pass out. No one likes that. Also, Good Friday mass is seventy million years long.
(SIDE NOTE! At the answering service yesterday, an elderly woman called one of the churches we answer for, and asked when Easter masses were on Sunday. So I told her. Then she said, “and how long do those run?” THEY ARE NOT MOVIES. I said, “I’m sorry, ma’am, there’s really no way to know that, I’d say anywhere between an hour and two hours?” and she was all “SIGH SIGH SIGH” and said, “Thank you, I GUESS” and hung up. Well, I’m sorry MASS for one of the two holiest days of the YEAR in Catholicism doesn’t come with INTERMISSION and a RUN TIME. Bring a juice box and some goldfish crackers, that’s what The Nephew does. Oh, and some Matchbox cars, in case you get bored.)
So I’m kind of unqualified to talk about Easter, since I’m not celebrating. But I do have an Easter story. And it’s also a theater story. And we all like stories, right? And I’m qualified to tell theater stories. Even better: it’s the story of THE VERY FIRST TIME I ACTED. Are you all so excited? Yeah, wait and see.
So when I was in fifth grade or thereabouts, my favorite priest had just arrived at my church. I’ve mentioned him before. I just adored this man. You think I’m excited about life? This guy brought joy wherever he went. He walked in a room, and the whole room lit up. He was magical.
He decided that we were going to put on a passion play for Easter. A passion play, for those of you not brought up in the iron fist of Catholicism, is the story of Jesus’s crucifixion. It can start at any point – the Last Supper, right at the crucifixion, wherever. He wanted to tie in some of Jesus Christ Superstar, because he was awesomesauce. (He didn’t have us sing, or anything. We just played the music over the sound system. He was adorable, but not insane. A bunch of elementary school kids singing “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” might have caused a riot.) Yes, I realize the idea of elementary and a few junior-high kids putting on a play about the torture and death of a religious figure seems insane. It probably was. I think this is a thing, though. The internet seems to think this is a thing that happens, sometimes. And I’ve seen other passion plays in other places, since then.
(SIDE NOTE: I’m obsessed with both Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell. Also Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I love religious musicals. Like, more than what’s healthy. Jesus Christ Superstar especially. It always makes me cry. Especially the relationship between Jesus and Judas, and Pilate’s eventual realization that he’s just a pawn in a master plan, and that he’s condemning an innocent man to death. “Trial before Pilate” is one of the most moving scenes in musical theater for me almost ever. I watched a production years ago where, when Pilate says, at the end of the song, he washes his hands of Jesus’s self-destruction, he washed his hands in a clear glass bowl of water. As he did, the water turned to blood, and Jesus just closed his eyes and bowed his head, and Pilate’s face as he looked at his hands was a masterpiece. Such an affecting moment, probably for the cost of a Koolaid packet.)
So he got the churchschool kids together and handed out parts. Now, this is going to SHOCK and AWE some of you, but wee Amy was QUIET. So, so quiet. Didn’t say a word. Quiet and shy and meek as a little mouse and only wanted to read and read and daydream and wonder and read some more. I don’t know what happened to that kid, either. Maybe I ate her.
This priest decided, early on, that I needed to come out of my shell. So he gave bigger parts (apostles, Jesus, Mary Magdalene, etc.) to the older kids who talked a lot. Then the younger kids got smaller parts – soldiers, etc. I was a soldier. A MAN soldier. Which was funny, because I got to wear a BEARD. Stuck on with SPIRIT GUM. It was itchy and looked like a face-toupee made of dead roadkill.
But the excited-about-life-priest, who saw something in me wanting to come out, I guess, said, “Wee baby Amy who will someday tell all her personal shit to the internet and also fall in love with theater, you are going to play the Centurion.”
“You get LINES,” he said.
I was PETRIFIED.
Now, it wasn’t LINES. It was ONE LINE. One. Just one line. “Truly this man was the son of God,” to be more clear. But it might as well have been the Mark Antony “friends, Romans, countrymen” speech, because I HAD TO SAY IT IN FRONT OF PEOPLE.
We rehearsed for what seemed like years but what probably was only a month or two. And every time I got up in front of everyone to say my line (oh, the line is said right as Jesus dies on the cross – the Centurion, one of the Roman soldiers says it, and it’s kind of a big deal, because the Roman soldiers are all mocking him, up until this point, you know? And then you have this one believer who dares say this huge thing in front of everyone) my whole stomach was in knots but the priest would be sitting there, right in the front row, with a huge grin on his face, and it seemed like it would be ok.
It got to the point where I could say it loud enough to be heard. And I was EXCITED. I was going to ACT! In FRONT of people! We had a cross that the kid playing Jesus could get up on, we had costumes, we had music, we had props – it was a total spectacle.
The night of the show arrived. I put on my scratchy robe and took up my wooden sword we had spray-painted silver and one of the moms stuck on my scratchy fake-fur beard and we tucked my ponytail down the pack of my shirt and I was totally the Centurion. This was GREAT.
Until I got out on stage (ok, fine, it wasn’t STAGE, it was the front of the church) and realized that my parents, who I’d known would be there, hadn’t told me that my ENTIRE EXTENDED FAMILY had come. Cousins. Grandmother. Aunts. Uncles. All sitting WHERE I COULD SEE THEM. Looking expectantly at me.
The church was PACKED. The church had never had PEOPLE in it before. Only the priest! And a few moms! HOLY HELL WHAT HAD I DONE.
I didn’t have to say my line until the end. I just kept my head down and soldiered on. Heh. Pun most definitely intended.
Then it was Centurion time. HOW DID THIS COME UP SO FAST.
I stood in my place in front of the crucified Jesus-kid. All of the other kids looked at me, waiting for me to say my line. The music ended. It was time.
“mumblemumblesonofmumble” I said. And ran off the stage.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! My VERY AUSPICIOUS DEBUT AS A FANCY ACTRESS PERSON!
So I stood “backstage” (the hallway outside the church) kind of shaking and crying and SO EFFING EMBARRASSED and the priest came out and said, “Amy! You did GREAT!”
“I was too quiet, I screwed it up,” I said.
He laughed. “You got out there in front of everyone and talked. I couldn’t be more proud of you. Time for curtain call, superstar.”
He led me back to all of the kids and no one said a word about me being a total weirdo and when I bowed, my people cheered, and when I saw them afterward, not a single one of them even NOTICED I’d been a total embarrassment to the THEE-AY-TAH. The only negative feedback I got was from my older male cousin, who told me, “That beard looks like a dead squirrel.”
(In retrospect, I think the whole thing was very, very bad, and something as minor as me mumbling my one line wasn’t even on their radar. And they probably thought the Centurion was SUPPOSED to run off stage. He probably was told to by the Holy Ghost or something.)
I told my dad this story the other night and he said, “I don’t even remember that. You were in a church play? Was I there?”
Apparently this didn’t even register, to my dad. WHEW.
Years later, when I told the priest I’d started acting, he laughed, his big, warm-as-a-bubble-bath laugh, and said, “I saw this coming, Centurion. Knew you had it in you. Don’t forget us when your name’s in lights, ok?”
One of the best men I’ve ever known, sincerely. I mentioned this a while ago, but he passed away a few years back. I miss him. A lot. The world is a smaller, quieter, and less-joyful place without him in it.
(Dear Father: I am no longer afraid of talking in front of people. Well, I can’t say I LOVE it, but I pretend to be a brave person, and I can do it just fine. And also, I very seldom run off the stage in fear anymore. And there hasn’t been an incident of someone not being able to hear anything I’ve said in a VERY long time. You’ll be pleased to note all of these things. I turned out just fine. Thanks for the nudge. Love, Amy.)
Happy Easter, all you marshmallow Peeps! May your chocolate be non-melty and may you find all of your hidden eggs and may your jellybeans be yummy and all that jazz and also jazz hands.
And remember, if you biff your line and run offstage in a panic? Sometimes, NO ONE EVEN NOTICES.
(Also, happy birthday to my grandmother, who tells the best stories and also gets cussy and crotchety, and also says things like, “Well, love will go wherever it’s sent, even up a pig’s ass.” I LOVE YOU NANNY.)