Thursday, April 7, 2011


Sunday, April 3rd 2011

James suddenly enters, exuberant, with a water bottle. “I hooped. I hooped for over a minute.”

Art imitates life. James, the 60 year old character I’m currently playing in Circle Mirror Transformation, briefly rediscovers an intoxicating feeling of youth and vigor when he finally manages to keep a hula hoop aloft for more than a few seconds. I experienced the same sense of triumph last Friday, during a rehearsal break, when I decided to give the hula hoop one more try and discovered I could actually control the damn thing! You see, I’ve been fretting about my ability to keep the hoop going since I was first cast in this play, back in December. Every role brings new and specific challenges, of course. That’s one of the things that makes acting such great fun. But when I first read the script and discovered that James had to hoop—and hoop well enough to inspire other characters to applaud and exclaim: “Oh my god! That’s awesome!” and “That was amazing.”—well, I immediately recognized how fraught with the potential for public humiliation the “ hula hoop moment” truly was. I quickly began a Valley-wide search for a hula hoop so I could begin practicing; however, I soon discovered they weren’t nearly as available as they were the last time I had any interest in hooping (of course, that was during the hula hoop craze in the late 1950s, when I begged for one for my 10th birthday). My 6 year old granddaughter, Mina, generously offered hers for practice—with free instruction. Alas, the petite pink plastic circle was far too light for an old geezer like me. So, I made a half dozen fruitless hunting expeditions to local malls and shopping centers; finally. I found a large purple hoop that looked promising. I resolved to practice twice a day, in the morning and evening.

For legal reasons, I won’t reveal the name of the store where I discovered that wretched object (I will merely mention that the logo is ironically reminiscent of a big red hula hoop), but this purple piece of %$&@ became the singular focus of my frustration and wrath for months. No matter how steadily, vigorously or voluptuously I rotated my hips or pulsated my pelvis, it clattered to my feet in seconds. And let me make this clear, this was not an inexpensive item…okay, it didn’t break the bank, but ….it was advertised as a top-of-the-line and indispensible piece of feminine athletic equipment. What it was, actually, was an exercise in humiliation. I became obsessed, gyrating for hours at a time and getting absolutely nowhere. The whole exercise was made even less endurable by the fact that both of my dogs decided that the purple hoop was trying to cause me bodily harm and therefore began a cacophony of protective and enthusiastic barking as soon as I was encircled by the horrid thing.

In spite of my best efforts over the winter months, I began rehearsals last week feeling like a total Hula Hoop Failure. It was all the more galling because when I was ten (and yes, I did get the coveted hoop for my birthday), I had quickly become a Hooping Wunderkind. I used to hoop for hours every day-- I hooped on my knees, on my arms, up and down my torso, hooped around my neck (and developed a nasty case of eczema for my efforts), I hooped up and down our apartment stairs. And even though I was a very shy little boy, I managed to snatch the crown of victory from dozens of hopeful, hooping girls and win a neighborhood contest! However, although I may gained a lot more confidence since 1958, I have also completely lost the narrow waist that made hooping such a snap. I might also mention here that although one often hears the phrase, “Oh, it’s just like riding a bicycle.”, I can’t recall ever hearing anyone say, “Oh, it’s just like mastering the hula hoop!”

So, imagine with what trepidation I approached the prop hula hoop waiting for me in the corner of the rehearsal room on the first day of rehearsal. But I should have known that Actors Theatre’s wonderful stage manager, April Miller, would have scouted out the very best hoop available. After only a few false starts I was able to find the proper pelvic momentum and I kept the hoop going almost effortlessly! Thank you, April---I swear the hoop you found almost rotates itself! Does anyone know of any hooping contests coming up?


Anonymous said...

I would love a similar magic-old-persion version of several things, to make me feel (and appear) more skillful, graceful, and awesome. Let me know what else April turns up.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious, David! And as your sister, I can vouch that you were, indeed a hula hoop prodigy at ten! Very funny blog...can't wait to see the play!