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Serenade

As I mentioned in my previous post, over the past few months I’ve been participating in readings of a screenplay at Naked Angels long running cold reading series Tuesdays at Nine – a historical action movie providing beloved American icon Paul Bunyan with a gritty origin story. There’s one fact about this project which I didn’t mention, because I was unaware of it when I wrote the post – that its author and I share a birthday. Last Tuesday, as a matter of fact. Perhaps it explains why I’m enjoying the project so much – the goofily incongruous mix of children’s folk tales and action movie tropes must have a special appeal to January Aquarians.

I discovered our shared birthday, as one discovers everything about birthdays in our current age, through Facebook. Tuesdays at Nine’s group account mentioned the fact in its weekly announcement about who would be reading this past week (its administrators having learnt the information the exact same way we all learn about which of our friends celebrates another trip around the sun on any given day). I thought it was a nice gesture – especially since I wasn’t having read last week – but I didn’t think much about it, largely because I’m still not used to the novelty of having these public announcements at all. When I first joined Naked Angels, the folks running it at the time strongly discouraged writers from promoting their readings, since they were intended to be workshops rather than presentations of finished pieces. But times change, and personnel changes, and online norms have changed even over the four years I’ve been reading there. The people in charge of the program now actively encourage online promotion, and eagerly send out detailed and hyperlinked Facebook blasts to that very purpose.

And so, knowing who would be reading that night, I went to last Tuesday’s installment the same as I do every week. And a few people, who had diligently read the day’s online update, wished me a happy birthday. Nothing too elaborate or overdramatic – we were here to listen to what this week’s writers had come up with, and I was not the center of attention.

Or so I thought.

Midway through each week’s presentation, there is a musical guest – typically a singer-songwriter presenting material they’re working on. Last Tuesday, it was a musical theater composer, presenting excerpts from a song cycle on his electronic keyboard. He finished his two song set, and the host came on to thank him – but he didn’t leave the stage. He stayed, noodling, the melody eventually becoming something very familiar. The host mentioned the names of two people who weren’t on the stage – the two of us whose birthday was that day. And then, somehow, the entire hundred-plus audience wound up singing Happy Birthday. To us. To me.

And it sounded really good! I mean, these were mostly actors. Generally speaking, they know what they’re doing when it comes time to sing. There were harmonies and everything!

I don’t normally make much of a fuss over my birthday (and the older I get, the more inclined I am to pretend it’s not even happening). And it did feel awkward being made the focus of an event that wasn’t supposed to be about me. But the Tuesdays at Nine community, like the theater community as a whole, prides itself on functioning as a family. And it’s nice when your family sings Happy Birthday to you.

Now if I just get them to schedule another Paul Bunyan installment...

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