Yesterday was a day of checking out Mackenzie Hall. Thanks to Emily and Merry Ellen for being so nice and accommodating. I hadn’t been there in quite some time, but the second we walked into the hall it brought back memories of acting in the play The Empty Chair back in 2000. I think I was second or third-billed on the program, and I played against type as a good guy for a change (most of the time I enjoyed being the lead villain too much to take on a heroic role).
You don’t want me to pour out my reminiscences about that debacle. Trust me. I’m saying just enough by telling you the lead actress showed up the night of the show still not having learned any of her lines, and even working with the director for a solid hour or two in an effort to do some last minute memorizing didn’t help much. It wouldn’t have been so bad if there weren’t pivotal scenes of dialogue in which only the two of us were onstage. She ended up omitting several lines, mixing up the order of the ones she did remember, and essentially rewriting entire portions of the script onstage because she had no idea what she was doing. I had no choice but to improvise and rewrite most of my own lines on the fly in order to save the sinking ship and try to make things sound somewhat coherent. No one in the audience had any idea, so maybe that’s a testament to my skills of improvisation.
When she came up to me after the show and said, “You were really good, John!” I had to bite my tongue so hard I just about amputated it.
The whole thing was such a crummy experience I never acted in another play again — and acting in plays was just something I did, like making music, ever since I was a kid. The best thing to come out of the whole ordeal was a sound barrier-shattering scream of “MOTHERFUCKERS!” I let out in the parking lot after one rehearsal, fed up with being the only actor who seemed to care about learning their lines and taking their part seriously. One of my greatest regrets in life will always be not recording that scream for posterity. It was one of my best.
See? You don’t want me to go there.
Back to Mackenzie Hall in the present day. The piano is nice, and I’d have no trouble playing it for a show. My guess is it’s a Yamaha C3 or something, but don’t hold me to that. Sadly I didn’t think to bring the little video camera with me until it was too late, so for now you’ll just have to take my word for it when I say the acoustics in that room are pretty nice. I imagine the natural reverb would be cut down quite a bit if there was a decent-sized audience there, but I still think things would sound good.
The piano is pretty loud, which means you really have to project when you’re singing. It would be tempting to amplify the voice to give it a little extra presence, but I’m not sure how good that would sound without mic’ing the piano. I like the idea of no amplification at all. It’s a large enough space where if a lot of people showed up they could be comfortably accommodated, while at the same time if not much of anyone came I wouldn’t feel like I was playing in an empty cavernous space. Best of both worlds.
I think a better idea than “intermission with food” might be “intermission with refreshments”. If the show were to take place at 7:00 or 8:00 pm, you’d think everyone would have eaten dinner already anyway. I also played at a dinner banquet once…and after what happened at that show, I will never play a dinner banquet again. Unless the audience is entirely made up of hamsters and rice balls. Then I might consider it. But otherwise, music and any kind of conventional food together will always feel like a bad omen to me.
If I’m going to do this, I think I’d want to book it for February at the earliest. There’s still quite a bit of work that needs to be done on the next album before it’s finished, and I’d rather have a lot of time to concentrate on putting a show together without feeling rushed. I’d also like to have copies of the new album to share at the show.
I need to stew on it a little more before I come to a decision. Playing a half-hour set is one thing, but playing for about two hours without anyone else to carry any of the musical weight is a lot of work. It could be fun, though, even if only ten people show up. Like I said before, that’s one of the great things about playing a free show. It doesn’t matter how many people show up. You get paid the same amount of money no matter what happens.
I’ll let y’all know either way, as soon as I know what I’m going to do.