As the old year draws to a close and the new year begins, it is a season for remembering. Silly sentimentalists (such as myself) reminisce about days long past. I was recently caught up in pleasant recollections when the memory of a certain incident shattered my calm. Even now, years later, the memory of that incident chills my heart.
It was the memory of That Time I Was Trapped in a Stage Kiss.
I dabbled in drama when I was in high school. My favorite role was that of the eponymous character in a one-act play by Anton Chekhov titled “The Brute.” I was privileged to play the role of an unkempt, uncouth and short-tempered Russian named Smirnov. It was great fun.
The play had two other characters, a sharp-tongued widow called Madam Popov and her servant Luka. “The Brute” consisted of a long argument between Smirnov and Madam Popov that ended with them falling in love and kissing. This kiss was supposed to be interrupted by Luka, who believed Smirnov was about to shoot Madam Popov and rushed in with a pitchfork to save the day.
I have many shortcomings. One of them is that I’m somewhat uncomfortable with physical displays of affection. I generally dislike hugs. Kisses—even stage kisses—are simply out of the question. However, altering Chekhov’s script was impossible. I had no choice but to pretend to kiss someone passionately on a stage in front of an audience.
According to the script, Smirnov and Madam Popov were supposed to remain locked in a loving embrace until Luka came onstage with the pitchfork. Well, to make a long story short, Luka lost the pitchfork during one of the performances and remained backstage looking for it, leaving Smirnov and Madam Popov to set a record for the longest stage kiss in the history of theater.
All right, it probably wasn’t the longest stage kiss ever. But it was pretty dashed long.
Apart from the awkwardness of kissing someone in front of an audience, the stage kiss was pretty hard on my back since I had to hold up Madam Popov. (If this doesn’t seem so bad, try supporting someone’s weight while pretending to kiss on a stage with an audience watching and see how you like it.)
At last Luka rushed onto stage sans pitchfork, allowing us to end the kiss and bring “The Brute” to its conclusion.
Fortunately, the actress playing the role of Madam Popov had a sense of humor. Even I laughed about the incident afterward, though I rather wished for a steadying shot or two of strong coffee.
The actor playing Luka was jokingly accused of hiding the pitchfork deliberately to prolong the kiss onstage. Much to my consternation, the same accusation was directed at me—as though I would deliberately inflict such an experience upon myself and another performer. I never did find out what happened to the pitchfork.
The incident could probably be made into a mystery story, perhaps titled The Interminable Kiss or Who Hid the Pitchfork? Someone else will have to write it, though. It goes against all my authorial instincts to write stories about kissing.
On that cheerful note, my typewriter monkeys and I wish you a joyful end to the old year and a hopeful start to the new!