Toastmasters or Just Plain Toast?
Me? I was Burnt to a Crisp
First board meeting … of the new season … with the brand new artistic director. Everybody was on their best behavior, wanting to make a good impression. Round the room we went, making self-effacing and semi-profound introductions, introductions that would make Toastmasters International proud!
The first board member to speak stressed the theatre’s contributions to the community.“Damn. That’s good. I could have used that,” I thought.
Another hailed the theatre’s commitment to thought-provoking social commentary and its support of emerging artists. “Wow, I wish I’d said that.”
On and on it went, as board member after board member took a turn, offering lofty, wise, and kind thoughts about the value of art, their love of theater, and the importance of giving back to the community.
You could see the feverish minds of individuals as they nervously plotted what to say. You would have thought we were all back in school trying to impress a new teacher or a new boss or a new beau – or maybe even auditioning for a part in a play!
Some might have been recalling their time in Toastmasters International or regretting that they hadn’t joined that organization back in the day!
Public School 6. Schooled in Humiliation
Sitting there, waiting for my turn, I recalled my first public speaking humiliation. It came in fourth grade at P.S. 6 in Manhattan. I stood up to give a book report on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped. I wrote and recited it in the first person. The teacher said it was “too good” and that since it was in the first person, I obviously had plagiarized it. I didn’t even know what the word meant but quickly learned it was bad. At lunchtime, I ran home crying.
Talk about drama! Much drama ensued as my parents marched to school, demanding an apology from the teacher.
This incident happened on a Friday the 13th. To this day, in all seriousness, I have a fear – no, I have a deep dread – of that day and number. And I’m not too fond of Robert Louie Stevenson either!
Talk Trauma Runs Deep
Anyway, you would have thought by now, after years as a TV reporter, one who gave live news reports for years, I would be accustomed to impromptu public speaking, but here I am, a middle-aged woman, sweating about what to say to the new artistic director!
By my turn – I was near the end of the squared roundtable – there wasn’t much that hadn’t been said. So, I was left with a stark and clear option: exaggeration with a dash of humor.
“Casting. I’ve been on this board for five years, and I love serving on it, but honestly, for me, it’s all about getting cast in a play,” I started breathlessly. Then, having started, I could not stop myself.
“In kindergarten, I played the starring role – Baby Moses floating down the Nile – in Temple Beth Shalom’s end-of-year pageant. In college, I starred as the Virgin Mary in a production at St. John the Divine’s Cathedral in NYC, although my sexually-frustrated boyfriend of the time groused that it was just a case of type-casting.
“When I joined the board of trustees at this theatre, I was sure the former artistic director would instantly recognize my talent and re-ignite my acting career. But did that happen? Obviously not.
I shamelessly befriend the casting director, but did she champion my talent? No.
Now … now, you new artistic director, I am hoping you will be the champion of my theatrical re-birth.”
And with that, I stopped. I had to. I had run out of breath.
And also with that, the ice was broken. The last four board members followed suit, offering up their own childhood starring roles as well as providing succinct statements about their motivations for board service.
Introductions at last concluded, we turned to the meatier business at hand. Budget, marketing, governance, the new season and such. Miraculously, the session adjourned on time!
It was a great start to a new season. Bravo!
Toastmasters Toast and Buddha
After the meeting, however, some wag suggested – given I had played Moses and the Virgin Mary – I should round out my religious-themed acting career by trying out for Buddha if there’s ever a production requiring one. I blushed, rightfully or wrongly, taking this comment as a shot at my middle-aged paunch!
In any case, although I’m no stand-up comic, this I know – I made an impression on our new AD. Whatever else she thinks of me, she won’t forget my name!
And now, bring down the curtain. I exit stage right.
🎭 🎭 🎭
Whale-Watching Whoops Update
On another subject, last week I wrote about the misadventure caused by a mistaken reservation date for a whale-watching adventure I had arranged for Handsome Hubby and me as well as my fears about seasickness.
Here’s the update: Handsome Hubby wound up making the trip solo since the correct date of our reservation coincided with the meeting I just described above.
How did it go? NOT WELL.
HH didn’t get seasick, but nearly everybody else did on the tiny vessel, the Salty Lady. And those who didn’t turn green on the approximately two-hour choppy sail from San Francisco to the tiny rocky Farallon Islands to seal- and bird-watch were rewarded with the noxious smell of bird excrement and black flies that swarmed –and stayed – with the boat the entire rest of the voyage.
As for whales? HH said the group spotted three “spoutings” in the distance during the entire eight-hour expedition.
At home, my weary spouse said he appreciated the gesture of booking a trip for “us” but suggested next time I do so, I check out the “Landlubbers’ Special.”
“I don’t think that exists,” I said.
“Exactly!” he replied.
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