Backstage Writers – Think Hope Do


Postmodern Challenges – Defining Impact

Julian’s High Moments

Julian forces us to go to cocktail parties. OK, to be precise, he gets us invited, and we never balk at an evening of “character research.”

To assume a role, he says, you have to understand your character’s high moments.  Most actors roll their eyes and remind Julian that he is not a youth center drama coach. We stick up for him and assure him it’s not just for the cocktail parties. “You need to ask a few probing questions,” Julian says, “learn where a person stands, discover his driving force. Is he passionate about his job, his hobby, his unique take on life? ” Thanks to him, we’re good at getting strangers to unleash their enthusiasm. Some of us could moonlight as head hunters.

People discuss the oddest things at cocktail parties. The other night the subject was amputation. The anesthesiologist was all excited because they’d managed to save the knee. “Don’t you see?” she said, “Below the knee makes all the difference to a more or less normal life.”

A few nights ago, I wandered among geophysicists. Some of them were discussing the continental drift. “Fifteen centimeters a year!” one said.

Another countered with “Ten, but there is evidence of twelve or thirteen.”

“Not in the Indian Ocean, Pierre.”

Where else could I find such a slow process evoking such incredible tension?

Philippe is a PhD physicist we invite along. We usually drop him in a dull corner of the room. He introduces himself then says, “I spend most of my time searching for life on other planets.”  We come back once he’s wound everyone up. No one can resist the idea long.

Some people don’t get invited to these cocktail parties. Take for instance the man who was asking for donations to “complete his reinsertion training.” Most of these ex-cons frighten me. This one, however, piqued my interest. I was dying to hear what he’d done to warrant “reinsertion,” but, to be polite, I asked him about his training. Bull’s eye. Light broke through his hardened expression. “I’m getting my permis poids lourd,” he said. He would be driving the biggest trucks on the European autoroutes,  driving for days at a time, power in motion, and far from the ennui of squeezing money out of people like me.

We also didn’t invite the man who took a peek at my car’s air-conditioning for free. He was a heavy equipment mechanic who was pleased to put a real car up on his lift. Of course, he had to adjust the thing so my car’s tires would hit the right place. You’d think I’d brought him a kitten to play with. Still, as please as he was to help me, this man eagerly took me to see his latest service order, a gnarly mass of machinery lying exposed in a pit.

We stood before the block with all its gears and rods, glaring at me, immodest and mocking. He looked like he could sink his teeth into it. “What’s, uh, wrong with it?” I ask.

“We don’t know,” he said, as if the answers to life’s deepest questions lay just a torque or two away.   ”It’s my responsibility,” he said, taking a deep breath, “to take the whole thing apart and clean it.”

I was sorry I couldn’t stay to watch.  I admit it. I’ve got the high moment bug.

I suppose this would be Julian’s high moment.

Category: Backstage

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2 Responses

  1. NomyL says:

    Formidable !!! This could be from a new novel perharps ?

  2. Marie says:

    I hope I’m one of those successful head-hunters.
    We’ll know more next week, maybe. You do mingle with interesting people.

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If you want to mess up someone’s life, steal his post-its

Nothing is set in stone – Changes as they happen on Center Stage

-I’m not sitting here, Fran!

-Oh Tod.

-Don’t start that, Fran.

-He did say, “Center Stage.”

-Why us?

-We’re props, Tod.

-Why’d he choose us, Fran? We’re not the only Americans. We weren’t first in line. Is it my weight? Is it your-

-He looked so pleased to put us here.

-And so we’re just going to sit here ‘cause “Monsieur” looked pleased? Are you nuts, Fran?

-Oh, Tod. You wanted something contemporary… You like being on stage.

-I can’t even talk to you.

-Don’t touch them!

-There’s got to be a back door. Don’t want to step over your “Monsieur”. Why’s he standing guard like that?

-Tod, you never touch the curtains in a theatre.

-Why the hell not? Let me guess, because theatre is like life? Is that it, Fran? You don’t turn your back on anybody, and you don’t touch his curtains? You’re pathetic, Fran!

-Sit down, Tod.

-I don’t like that tone, Fran.

-What tone?

-That sweet little voice of yours! I hate it when you get all nice. I know what you’re thinking.

-If you don’t want to-

-Stop whispering, Fran!

-If you don’t want to be part of the spectacle, sit down and try to act-

-Act how?

-Now is not the time.

-Come on, Fran, how should I act?

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