Now I tell you that I consider the people of the east side of New York City are the finest, the kindest, the most intelligent people in the world. People who are not afraid of no word like.. like, anarchist.â€ So began the opening lines to a play that debuted on Broadway in late March of 1968 and lasted about a month before closing.
In the mid 1970’s, I belonged to a community organization that decided to put on this same play for four benefit performances on two successive Saturday and Sunday evenings. Among other energetic amateurs, I volunteered to play whatever part was deemed appropriate for me. Being in my early twenties and among the youngest among the volunteers, I was given the role of Jimmy the Anarchist. It was by no means a lead part but it was significant because the character spoke the opening lines to both the first and second acts. I had to memorize about ten sentences in all plus sing background in the chorus. In both scenes my character had to interact with a street cop. The officer was to bark at me and make an effort to put me under arrest. The fellow who was given this part looked it perfectly when he put on the uniform. He was the nicest guy but he just could not remember his lines. It ended up practically each time I had to say both his and my lines to get through the exposition.
In one exchange, I was supposed to say, â€œI hear they’ve taken Charlie McKenna off the machines and into the hospital. Are we gonna stand for it?â€ The copper was then supposed to say, â€œhear, now! You come over here, lad.â€ Except when the curtain was up, lights dimmed with a live audience hovering over every word, he froze and mumbled a bit. So I said, â€œwhat’s that, copper? You want me to come over to you?â€ And all he could do was shake his head yes.
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