January 13th, 2006

Something I often get asked, as a monologuist, is whether it's lonely for me onstage. (In fact I believe this question came up during a recent interview I did on WHYY-FM here in Philadelphia -- you can get the streaming audio by searching for "Kornbluth" here.) And my heartfelt reply is always that being onstage is one of the least lonely places for me: As a solo performer I spend the entire show with hundreds of upturned faces beaming at me (okay -- sometimes a few of them are sleeping, but it is dark and comfy in the theater, and usually even the sleepers are smiling dreamily ...). And there's my crew, in the wings or up in a booth. And there are the characters in the piece -- many of them (since I'm an autobiographer) my loved ones -- whose faces I'm seeing in my mind's eye as I perform. ...

For some reason, I've been noticing faces a lot during this trip. Back at Oakland Airport, as I waited in line to be herded into our no-reserved-seats flight, I listened to my iPod and looked around at the other people at the gate. There was a young woman accompanying her mother, who was in a wheelchair; the daughter was animatedly telling a story, and at the punchline she and her mom broke into raucous laughter at something they clearly shared an intimate knowledge of. ... A teenaged girl, also in a wheelchair and with a cast on her leg -- my guess was: skateboarding accident -- looked frustrated and resigned to be immobilized; her parents, wearing special-looking badges (perhaps allowing them to accompany her to the plane, even though they weren't flying with her? is this allowed?), looked understandably anxious; I never saw them smile. ... In the very front of the dreaded "C" line (which goes on the plane last; I was in "B") was a thin, athletic-looking man (a dancer?) sitting cross-legged on the floor; during a break in the songs on my iPod I heard him say "I'll see you soon -- I love you" into his cellphone, after which he wearily leaned forward, resting his head in his arms. ...

At the Rite Aid downstairs from my hotel (which, I learned to my chagrin, sells boxer shorts but not briefs) the cashiers and security staff present a polite but neutral face to the customer, but can be covertly caught grinning at co-workers. Across the street at a discount clothing store called Daffy's (which does sell briefs -- yay!) a female guard directed me to the men's hosiery section; her sweet, open smile revealed interestingly off-kilter teeth; based on her whole look, I'm guessing she used to be involved with a biker gang, then drifted into security after a relationship went bad. ...

At night, thanks to some free software and an "iSight" camera/microphone that my wife gave me for Christmas, I can see the faces I miss most: those of my wife and son, back home in Berkeley. Weird things happen with the picture on my computer's screen -- it pixillates, swirls around, even freezes sometimes -- and in a way it's even harder being away from them when I can see those dear, blurry images. But ultimately I think I'm grateful to at least have access to their faces for a few moments. ...

And now I need to get ready to perform a show that's premised entirely on the resemblance of my face to Ben Franklin's. Here's looking at you, Ben!

Entry Filed under: let's digress

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