Sunday, March 28, 2010

Oh, What A Beautiful Night

I had the most beautiful night last night.

First off, let me backtrack a bit and point out that I have a running history of repeatedly missing the big musical productions put on by my old high school. Why would I care? Don't most people consider being made to sit through a high school stage show (much less one where kids burst into song and stumble through ensemble dance numbers) a form of punishment? The kind implemented at the 5th Level of Hell, reserved especially for jerks, bullies, nosy neighbors, and those morons who talk out loud during movies? Perhaps. But none of these people have ever seen the shows put on by my alma mater, the Mona Shores High School Choir. These tend to be lavish spectacles with eye-popping sets, stunning costumes, very professional technical work, and an unending chorus of some of the most talented kids you have ever had the pleasure to watch.

And every stinking year, I miss their show.

It may have a great deal to do with the fact that I stopped teaching summer classes in comic book storytelling and am no longer involved in youth ministry. So there are fewer and fewer kids whom I know in these programs. Thus, there is no one to remind of the approaching show dates. For several years running, I've been subjected to conversations like this:
ME: So, what's the big Mona Shores musical this year?
NICE & EXCITED PERSON AGLOW WITH THE THRILL OF HAVING GONE TO THE THEATER: Oh, yes! Little Shop of Horrors this year. It was great!
ME: "Was"? (under breath) Dammitt!!

This year I was lucky enough to meet a remarkable young man named Kyle, who was hanging around with the two lads who do my yardwork—so my home would not look like a boggy swamp, as it would if I were left to hack, thrash, and pull at the grass and leaves as I do when left to my own devices. Kyle told me about the Mona Shores production of Dinsey's Beauty and The Beast this March. I made a point to save the date before the show this time. Before the actual show. Crucial detail.

Kyle impressed me as a sharp fellow and he even let me hypnotize him so that he'd laugh himself silly whenever he heard his name spoken. I likewise entranced his leaf-raking pal and the two of them were soon literally on the floor trying to spout their names at one another, eventually convulsing in helpless laughter as if they were a couple of hyenas sucking down nitrus oxide. Definitely going to this kid's show.
[Oh yeah, they also sampled my official Briz's Double-Chocolate/Chocolate Chip Candy-Topped Fudge Brownies that day. Then, through hypnosis, I increased their taste buds to experience said delectable brownies, on a scale of 1 to 10, as 10, then 14, and eventually 25. You never saw anyone scarf brownies so fast. And lick the plate clean of crumbs. But more on that story in another blog entry.]

Dan Gregoire and Emily Tascone perfectly paired as the title characters.

What a show it was! The sharp-witted, hearty-laughing Kyle played Gaston, the brutish huntsman who attempts to woo heroine Belle in all the wrong ways. The slim and mild-voiced Kyle strutted in his muscled costume like the perfect Teutonic boor and belted out songs in a rumbling voice that I swear came out of the ankles of his boots.

Left: Kyle Belle playing it to the hilt as Gaston.

He wasn't the only one to blow me away with his stage presence and prowess. The entire cast was electrifying, from the main players to the supporters, to an extensive ensemble of townsfolk/angry mob/dancing flatware that moved in perfect rhythm and executed complex choreography with military precision. You ain't lived until you've seen a castle filled with living and breathing forks, knives, and spoons leaping past a tiny dining table and swaying upon staircase and balcony in time to the music and singing their little highly-polished hearts out. In 1979, we were told of Superman: the movie that "You will believe a man can fly". Well, in this instance, you will believe that Grandma's best silver can sing for your supper. Belle wowed us with her dulcet tones, Lumiere and Cogsworth led the enchanted furnishings in stealing the show more times than not, Beast shook the rafters with a truly soulful voice, and even silent players like the gargoyle and the floor rug amazed me with how perfectly they presented their characters.

I come from a long line of theater snobs. I admit it. I will super-glue the seat of my pants to the chair before I will rise to give a standing ovation to any production I feel has not earned it. These kids (KIDS, mind you) had me on my feet last night.

By the time the lights came up, my shoulders and palms were sore from applauding, my throat a bit ragged from whooping and cheering "Bravo!". It was so worth the forty-minute bike ride to that coffee shop on my rickety, squeaking bicycle to buy my ticket.

Lumiere (Nick Schrier) flirts with Babette the feather duster (Hannah Rouwhorst).

So what does all this have to do with hypnosis, apart from what I mentioned before about Kyle le Gaston? Here's the story.

The place was packed. No surprise. So I took it upon myself to draw upon my days of attending the symphony with my father and sought out the lower right balcony (yeah, in a high school auditorium, I know) for a good view of the show. Directly behind my chair was a quick-witted fellow of fluffy hair and wool cap who was working a monstrous spotlight. He politely cautioned me that the glaring light a few inches above my head would get very hot and that I should be wary of that. I assured him that I came from a family of theater people and that I would take care not to rise suddenly or make shadow animals in front of the lens. I moved one seat over just to be safe, anyway. More on the wooly-chappeaued lad in a moment.

Also as part of my upbringing, I was raised to not just slip out the back after a solid production. You go backstage or into the lobby and congratulate the performers. They kept you enrapt for more than two hours, the least you can do is take two minutes to shake a hand and offer a pat on the back for their efforts. It was fun. I couldn't turn around without running into wonderful folks I knew through the theater. Linda the stage manager, Mark on sound, fellow attendees like the glorious Anna and Rabbi Alpert, and my old pal Heather, whose big-haired son had played Belle's father Maurice. I also found my buddy Eric [whom we recall from the Your Arm Is A Pump Handle and Let's Dispel Some Hypnosis Myths! entries] who had been applying his expertise to lights.

As is always the case with me, I got to talking on about me being a hypnotist (I don't even know how I inject it into conversations anymore, I need very little prompting. "Nice day, isn't it? What a lovely sweater. Did you know I'm a hypnotist?"). And Eric, being awesome, opted to let me put him under for the small gathering of interested stage hands and performers. Eric went under like a pro, laughed hysterically, forgot his name, got it back, and had his feet stuck to the floor. He walked away with a smile broad enough to displace his ears and I found myself with a very captive audience. Enter the spotlight expert with the wooly hat.

His name was Deric. He was tall, friendly and very genuine. He wanted to be hypnotized. I agreed, only because my pal Heather, fellow grown-up and mom, was present. Deric showed considerable intelligence and creative soul by going under instantly. I brought him back to the room after a quick relaxation induction and his face bore a grin that could only be described as joyful. Deric enjoyed a few repeated inductions, each time going deeper, coming out happier. One student nearby, caught up in the excitement of the moment, suggested I command Deric to act like some kind of animal—chicken, duck, whatnot—and I was quick to remind everyone of the Code Of Ethics and how Deric was under my protection as much as under my influence. So instead I offered to share one of my favorite exercises with Deric, to which he agreed, and soon had the delightful Deric laughing so hard at the mention of his own name that he was unable to stand up. It was great fun for all.

I left Deric with all triggers removed and the usual aftereffects of hypnosis, which meant he was feeling great. Deric had a beautiful smile plastered on his face I knew was not going anywhere soon and he thanked me profusely. Much to my surprise, my friend Heather the Mom treated me to a big embrace and thanked me. "He really needed that", she told me. I can remember all too well the stress of working on a big show while also under the academic pressure that comes from the latter half of the school year.

Deric had a spring in his step from then on, sharing hugs with friends and smiles with all. I was invited to the cast party by Heather's son, but declined, since I was neither a teacher or a chaperone. Seeing the joy in Deric was party enough. And like I said, it doesn't take much to give a little back to those who made your evening so special and magical. Anyone can give balloons and cards. I prefer to give my favorite gift, the gift of hypnosis.

Above: Deric, the man in the hat himself, in a lovely autumn image he shared with us for this blog post. Keep smiling, Deric!
All cast photos shown are property of and copyright by the Mona Shores High School Choir Association.


  1. Sounds like a great time. Any chance that you might make a youtube video with these kids?

  2. Who knows? It'd be pretty awesome, that's for sure--just for who they are and how bright and responsive they've shown they can be!