Chapter Seven / The Old Man
What type of program could Faith and I put together using the few magic tricks and props in our possession? With a theater background, my conclusion was to create a scripted and well rehearsed presentation. I would need a character.
One of the tasks in attaining a theater minor in college involved writing, directing, and performing a play or monologue. I pondered over that assignment and visualized the monologue I wrote with an old man center stage describing an opportunity to relive and modify several past regrets. After the stage performance for class credit, "The Old Man Who Was Given A Moment" toured a variety of churches and events. It was well received.
Finding comfort in something tried and tested, I decided the character would entertainingly present an elderly gentleman. He would try his best to perform a magic show with a few mishaps. There would be a dropped prop and non-working tricks all carefully written into the dialogue. The program was then recorded on a cassette tape with a music background which I would perform to. In this way, I wouldn't have to say anything and there would be no problem forgetting lines.
Faith and I practiced until we felt ready for our first "gig," at a nursing home; a booking "shoe-in" for beginning performers. During the set-up a variety of wheelchairs and folks with walkers strolled in.
"We still have 45 minutes before we start, right?" I asked Faith.
Faith seemed to have a vast knowledge of nursing homes with her reply, "It takes a long time to get everyone in and settled. Just watching us get ready for the program might be among the most exciting things they have done today. We have plenty of time."
"Do you have the 'Moon River' background music tape?" I asked. It had been decided to toss in a familiar song for our older audience to enjoy.
"It's right there," Faith pointed. "You seem nervous. This will be just fine."
I was nervous, but managed to find a secluded spot away from watching eyes for the character transformation. A wrinkle line was made for both sides starting with the nose and curling down past the lips. The process of a few forehead lines and a little gray hair color spray took my mind away from the inevitable program about to commence. A thought arriving too late to change the future brought a picture of a very young singer giving a rendition of "Moon River" in old man makeup. How did we miss that detail?
"Welcome," came a voice through a distorted ceiling speaker. "We have some special guests with us today. Steve and Faith Tragoo are here with a little magic show."
I learned years later that the world "little" would begin any description of our efforts. "Little puppet show . . . Little magic show . . . little radio show . . . They have a little tv show . . . " Maybe it's a midwest thing. I wonder how our programs would have been described if we had lived in Texas?
"Thank you," Faith began. "Steve and I are very happy to be here."
"Do we get lunch?" shouted a voice from a wheelchair in the back.
Faith, being a kindergarten teacher, knew it was often best to ignore the behavior. "Please welcome 'The Old Man Who Was Given A Magic Show.'"
Did we really call it that? Too late now. The show had begun. Faith pushed the play button on the tape machine which began all the music and dialogue for the show. I wasn't going to say a thing.
Holding up a vase of water the tape played with my attempt at a very serious and deep voice, "And now we have a vase full of water. But as you can see . . . " I poured the water out into a bowl " . . . the water is now gone. However, God's love never ends."
I held the vase up as high in the air as an old man could do with strain and winces of pain. My overacting possibly aged the character at around 130. Then I poured more water from a previously emptied vase. There was one "Look at that," from an audience member followed by a, "What did he do? I can't see."
The tape continued to play regardless of the response, and I went through the carefully rehearsed presentation from one trick to another. Faith's role was to bring out the props and remove them after they had been used.
And then . . . Moon River. With no introduction providing a transition, the background music began and I was to sing in four measures; now three. Evidently we forgot the cassette player had a stop button. "Where's the mic?" I wondered and then saw it on a table. Grabbing the mic in the middle of measure four I began just in time.
I felt silly; singing this old ballad in my normal young sounding voice with age lines painted on my face topped with fake gray hair. But, the tape continued to play regardless of my objection. I got through the song, but was not happy with the sound from the distorted speaker. Three people clapped. And then the next trick began as the tape played in the low serious voice with a message about a deep theological concept. I was, after all, still in the seminary.
Two more comments were tossed out. "Is he making fun of us?" Maybe I was pouring on the age too much. "I wish he'd stop doing that . . . " referring to the magic show, " . . . and just sing a song again."
The final trick was performed, a few more claps were heard, and we were done. Done as in baked in the oven to a crisp never to make that recipe again. The lines were wiped away and props were packed up. The host was very grateful for our attempt and invited us to come back any time. Really? They would want to see that again? The old man who was given "that" moment was never seen again. A new character was born; Riddles the Clown.