Standing room only
Those three words, and the accompanying abbreviation (SRO) are what every performer wants to see posted outside the theatre prior to a performance, even though they might jangle one’s nerves on opening night. Regardless of how many years you’ve been singing, dancing, playing, or speaking in public, performing to an empty room is not only disheartening, it can be downright depressing—and for a neurotic like me? Well, let’s just say that “depressing” is on my résumé as a “special skill.” Believe it or not, I’m less than enthusiastic when cornered regarding my abilities to entertain, and it was not without trepidation that I decided to, once again, step into the spotlight and bare my soul (warts and all) for the general public in the form of my latest one-man show, “Dirty Laundry: It All Comes Out in the Wash,” presented on Saturday and Sunday last weekend.
The show was billed as “an afternoon of storytelling with Jonathan Charles Fox and Dharma the Wonder Dog” by the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance (DVAA) and produced by DVAA Program Director
Bizzy Coy. I was both excited and nervous to step outside my comfort zone and turn the tables, as it were, by being the subject of public scrutiny. I’m far more comfortable being on the other side of the footlights and later expressing my “humble opinion” on the theatrical productions that abound throughout the Upper Delaware River region, so it was with nerves of steel (and much hand holding from Bizzy) that I soldiered through the preparations for my show and strode into the Krauss Recital Hall last Saturday, where a wildly enthusiastic SRO crowd welcomed me with hoots, hollers and applause.
I know, I know… some of you are reading this and thinking that I’m “full of it,” for the Jonathan you see out there covering the world of arts and leisure for The River Reporter is “anything but shy,” and has no trouble making conversation—but truth be told? Much of my “public persona” is a facade designed to keep my guard up, my wits about me and my personal life just that: personal. Thus I ventured out into the world, laundry basket in tow, and invited friends (and strangers) to take a peek behind the curtain, based on my therapist’s recommendation that I “take more risks” and appear “less threatening and more accessible” to the world at large, who (according to him) find me “off-putting and aloof.” What?
“Maybe he’s right” I whispered to the dog. “I suppose it can’t hurt to find out what people really think of me.” Uh oh.
Whether it’s wise or not, I do not actually prepare for these events in the traditional sense, but rather create a very loose outline of how the afternoon might unfold, which leaves a lot of room for disaster. Since nothing is scripted and every audience is different, so too is each performance, which serves to provoke even more anxiety, which (as we all know) is my usual state of being.
Imagine, if you will, my utter disbelief when people leapt to their feet, roaring in approval of what I had served up over that 90 minutes each day as I regaled folks with true stories of my stranger-than-fiction life, reflecting on what has been called the “dark recesses of a sick and twisted mind.” Honestly, it is with utmost sincerity and humility that I thank those of you who came out in droves to support me in airing some of my dirty laundry, and your words have truly humbled me.
“That swelled head does not become you,” my mother used to say, and with that in mind, I gasped upon reading the rising tide of uplifting comments regarding “Dirty Laundry” that have flooded the internet over the last couple of days. Lori Schneider’s “Aisle Seat” review claims that “the show was like a ‘Master Class’ in charming an audience and working a room” and that “Fox finds humor and warmth… even when sharing some of the more tragic moments of his life, there is laughter behind the tears.” Wow, man.
“He’s a natural” Maureen Neville gushed online. “I laughed so hard and admit [at points] got a bit teary-eyed too. There’s something special about Jonathan Charles Fox,” I read in utter disbelief, “that everyone falls in love with. He’s unique and won’t disappoint. I promise,” she exclaims, in what I can assure you will be a quote that I will use for the rest of my life.
“What did Sally Field say?” I asked the dog, who cocked her head, but provided no response. I looked it up online, so as to not misquote, which I’ve been accused of doing from time to time. “I can’t deny that you like me, right now, you like me,” she (actually) said when accepting an Academy Award in 1984. Thanks to you all, I feel (IMHO) like I just won an Oscar, too. As for tomorrow, well, who knows?