The Show Must Go On
As I hobbled about today, it put me in mind of Ray Zahab, the ultra marathoner, who along with America's Charlie Engel and Taiwan's Kevin Lin ran from coast to coast in Africa conquering the mighty Sahara. The trio ran an average of 75 kilometres a day for 111 days, without a break, and endured some of harshest conditions on earth. In the end, they had traversed 6,920 kilometres, endured physical pain and overcome untold personal pressure to quit. A movie was made about this expedition, narrated and produced by Matt Damon, called Running the Sahara. How Ray managed to limp through muscle cramps, shin splints, calloused feet, and sheer exhaustion and still keep moving -- I just don't know? Or, maybe I do.
In 2000, while playing Biff in Death of a Salesman in front of a closing night full house of 600 patrons at Keyano Theatre, I fell flat on my face while exiting stage left early in the first act. I dragged myself out of view of the audience and tried to get up. Confused, overcome with pain, I had to shed my suit, get into pajamas and climb to the second level of the set and crawl unseen into bed. My dresser backstage looked deeply concerned as I winced and struggled to make the quick change and get to my position in time for my cue.
Laying in the dark, beads of sweat rolling off my brow, I struggled to stay conscious while waves of excruciating agony rolled over me. The lights came up and I carried on with the show, hopping from one fixed position to another, from the banister to the kitchen chair to the sofa. From line to line and scene to scene I kept going, at that point having no idea what had happened, only knowing that the show had to go on.
In the spaces between the dialogue, I tried to parse things together -- a blunt force to the back of my left leg, a few strides after Norm Francoeur's character had hit me with an umbrella, a basic piece of stage combat. Walking upstage and to the right, just beyond the edge of the set, I got hit -- or, at least I thought I got hit. In reality, my Achilles tendon had snapped and rolled up the inside of my left calf, leaving my foot completely floppy and uncontrollable.
So maybe the ability to endure pain is rooted in commitment? Ray was committed to crossing the Sahara -- every fiber of his being focused on that one goal, I was committed to the character and his arc in the play. Ironically, and completely by accident, the injury occurred at that point in the story when Biff's athleticism started to go downhill. The audience members thought it was a character choice, and apart from a few astute thespians, were completely unawares that I should have been removed from the theatre and taken to emergency way back at the 25 minute mark of a three hour performance. I had surgery late the next day.
January 22, 2010 - 199.6 pounds, 29.3% body fat