I last stepped on stage more than 15 years ago.
My wife Paige and I had been married just a few years — we’re fast approaching our 20th anniversary now — and she’s been a theater junkie since about the age of 12. But she’s never been on stage, oddly enough. She’s always one of those folks you never see, who literally makes the show go on.
She’s stage managed more than 40 shows by this point in her life, sometimes captaining the ship for entire seasons at the theater in her home town. You name it, she’s worked on it — “Cabaret,” “The Crucible,” “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” “Steel Magnolias,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and many more. She even worked on a production of “Little Shop of Horrors” with now-famous pop star Sara Bareilles and her older sister as cast members.
Not that she hasn’t had some close calls. There’s still fear in her eyes when she tells the story of an actor who got to the theater so late that the cast was in the process of trying to put her costume on Paige — who was kicking and screaming — with just minutes to go until showtime. But the actor arrived in the nick of time, and Paige was off the hook.
That she’s never been on stage didn’t keep her from talking me into being on it, mind you. Quite the opposite, in fact. So, there I was, in gas station coveralls, my guitar strapped on, in a production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes” at the Ferndale Repertory Theater in Ferndale, Calif.
Paige grew up in the farming town of about 1,300 — the “real” Ferndale if you ask her, as opposed to its Washington cousin. She’d been up and down the streets of the quaint Victorian village in the Redwoods so many times and at so many ages, the whole town thought they’d raised her — and deservedly so. When we met and married, I garnered the nickname “Mr. Paige” there because my only identity in Ferndale was that I was married to one of the town’s daughters.
I’m also convinced half of the town still isn’t quite sure what my name is.
So “Mr. Paige” took the stage as the quiet sidekick Jackson — ironically — swooning over a girl named Mona and filling my new wife’s heart with pride. At least I hope.
I’d done a few musicals in high school, and had been a chamber choir member and singer in a few random bands, but my stage credentials were a bit lacking for a small, six-person cast. There was no large chorus to hide behind, no time off stage. I went into it with a lot of trepidation.
By the end of the four-week run, I couldn’t have enjoyed it more.
In the years since, we moved to Hoquiam, raised our kids from toddlers to teenagers, and when time and opportunity allowed, Paige got back into theater here on the Harbor. You might have seen several shows you didn’t even know she was a part of, and she’d probably like it that way.
Sorry honey, you’re not getting off that easy.
She rekindled her stage managing obsession with “Phantom of the Opera” a couple years ago, and has since been behind the controls for “Rent,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Legally Blonde.” She even branched out from the Bishop Center last fall to stage manage “The Rocky Horror Show” at Driftwood.
I should have known my days off stage were numbered, right?
But this time, it wasn’t entirely Paige’s fault. When I auditioned for my 16-member high school chamber choir all those years ago, I used a song from “Les Miserables” — Marius’ “Cafe Song.” My friend Ed and I used to go on the “cruise” in Redding, Calif. — remember cruising? — blasting the original Broadway cast recording from his speakers while others thumped along blaring rap. It was half serious and half mocking of the cruisers, but … I know, musical geek, right?
Needless to say, my love affair with “Les Mis” runs long and deep. I had to try out. I don’t know that I’ll ever get another opportunity to be in a production of one of the most famous musicals this side of “Cats.”
I was lucky enough to be cast, and I mean lucky, because the talent here on the Harbor runs deep. As the 60-plus cast looks toward opening day on Friday, I couldn’t be more honored to share a stage with them. I’m also excited that there are so many families in the show, mine included. The whole Jackson clan is either on stage or behind one set of controls or another. But, I’m also honored to share the backstage with the tireless crew that makes the show go on.
Don’t forget about them, but, if all goes well, you’ll never know they were there.
Except that I just outed them, of course.
Dan Jackson is The Daily World’s city editor and plays Javert in the Bishop Center’s production of “Les Miserables.” He can be reached at 537-3929, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.