When I was twenty, I was cast as the lead in a musical called “No, No, Nannette”, a title that still brings my brother Ian to he knees with laughter and which would probably send my friend Ehren running from the room. Two interesting facts about this musical; One, it gave the world the song “Tea For Two” and Two, it was produced by the guy who owned the Red Sox and in order to produce it he traded away Babe Ruth for cash to the Yankees, thus cursing his baseball team for ever.

At least, I think it was the Red Sox.

Anyway, the show has a lot of tap dancing in it, and for some unknown reason I got the tap lead. The theater where we were doing the show was a 1500 seat proscenium stage with an hydraulic pit and 36 fly lines. It was the most beautiful theater I have ever performed in, easily 120 feet from wing to wing, easily 40 feet from the floor to the proscenium arch, catwalks a hundred feet in the air, and an old hardwood floor which made no noise but had just a touch of give.

I had three or so tap solos, and I really couldn’t do them very well. I was good enough that I understood the language, but I just couldn’t really pull them off. So, every day, at about one, I would go in through the scene shop and talk to the guys building shit in there. From there I could sneak into the dressing rooms and from the dressing rooms I could sneak on to the stage.

I would close my eyes in the dressing room and feel my way to the stage door. Not for drama, although I wasn’t beyond doing shit for drama even when noone was there- I was that kind of twenty year old- but so my eyes would dilate completely. Once I got on the stage, more often than not the only light was from the exit signs that lined the audience, and the drop off the front of the stage was about eight feet. Even worse would be the drop into the pit, about thirty feet when it was down.

If I walked on to the stage with my eyes closed, when I opened them I could see pretty well. I would change in to my tap shoes and start doing the steps, really slowly. For four or five weeks, every day, when everyone else went to lunch and did homework or whatever it is that normal people do, I spent four hours on the stage dancing in almost complete darkness and silence. I only left when I needed dinner.

It’s no wonder I was about 50 pounds lighter then than I am now.

Yesterday there were two moments while watching TV. “Elaine Stritch at The Liberty” was playing on HBO, and she talked about starting rehearsals for “Company”, and I just about lost it. To have been there, then. To have been in that cast, to have been able to be with Sondheim and Hal Prince, to have been there when American musicals were something other than clever and snotty.

And then, on ESPN, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James were being interviewed in a show called “Two On Two”. They were asked who would win if they were all playing in their prime and the answers fell apart into shit talking and goofing around, but then Magic said, “You know what? The game would never end. If the four of us were in here playing the game of basketball, as long as we got food brought in and could sleep every now and then, the game would never end. We’d just keep playing.”

And that’s what it is. Do I want to audition for stuff? No. Do I like the business side of the business? No. But if it was just me and the people I work with in a theater making plays for the rest of my life, if I had enough to eat and could sleep every now and then, I’d never leave. I’d never cook another dinner, I’d never go to another bar, I’d never turn on a TV.

And sometimes it feels like I could do it, I could make a life for myself. I know my eyes are closed, and I know most of the time I’m not even in the dressing room yet, I’m still in the scene shop, but I think I’m feeling my way, and sometimes it feels like I might have found the stage door. And I’m just putting it out there, if given the chance, I won’t leave. If I find the door and I make it inside, I’ll starve before I leave again.