Ok, maybe not ever. There’s tons of theater I haven’t seen, and I’m not really a critic, so perhaps it’s not within my rights to be completely judgmental. However, as my work-study job in college was as part of the backstage crew at the Edison theater, I did manage to see a fair number of performances while working. I also managed to earn meager wages, but that’s really beside the point at the moment.
Now, these performances were widely varied. We had song, we had dance. We had children’s shows including some of the most sophisticated puppets I’ve ever seen. We had performing toy pianists. We had ballet and a modern hip-hop/breakdance version of Romeo and Juliet. We had comedy and history, and even a little bit of drama. We had student shows and professional traveling companies. But possibly the worst show we ever had (which I can’t recall the name for ) was a series of vignettes played by one or two actors in which voices and music were pre-recorded and then replayed. I happened to be working the spotlight for this show, and when Fate was kind, fell asleep on a sharp-edged bucket up in the catwalks.
One of the acts which I was required to spotlight, and therefore was awake for through what seemed like endless numbers of shows, illustrated a woman going crazy. Her recorded voice wandered in topic from her love life, to sex, to her role in life, all illustrated by the actress, silent, up on stage making funny little gestures with her hands. As she slowly lost it, she seemingly comes back to herself at some moments, saying ‘what am I doing with this chicken’ with increasing alarm. We never see the chicken – the actress on stage never indicates that she is holding a real or imagined chicken. We don’t even know if this is a live bird, or a plucked corpse.
While the scenario seems one that has great potential, its effects were less than might be expected. The lone figure on stage failed to evoke a sense of reality, also failing to garner the audience’s sympathy in the process. As a result, my fellow employees and I used the line about the chicken to make a mockery of- well, just about anything in our lives. Social life becoming overbooked?-what am I doing with this chicken. Professor too demanding?-what am I doing with this chicken. Administration making stupid decisions or not paying you enough?-what am I doing with this chicken. Too many term papers due at once? Headless chicken.
I was completely surprised to learn what I considered an inside joke was not so ‘inside’ after all. Mike sent me the link for a Panasonic camcorder he was possibly interested in (he later discovered some not-so-positive reviews, and canned the idea). I was stunned to find the description referred to MY CHICKEN JOKE: “Whether you’re monkeying around on the rock gardens or recording a performance art piece (what are they doing with that chicken?), this 0.40 lb. SD Palmcorder® camcorder makes a perfect companion for pretty much any occasion.” Ok, so the show I worked oh-so-long ago was a traveling show, and it might even still be in existence. Also, this chicken could easily not be the same chicken – note the use of ‘they’ in place of ‘she’. Still, the correspondence is unnerving. I’ve lost my chicken.