Shards by Jack Neary

Jack is Back!

The entry below is being cross posted from local playwright Jack Neary’s own blog called Shards.

I’ve been wondering what it would take to get me back on this blog. For some reason, I haven’t been able to get my brain around anything worth typing here. Not that anything I’ve typed up to this point is worth the cyberspace it occupies. But I’ve been busy, working, and every time I considered blogging, I was just too damned tired or stressed or pissed off or frustrated or annoyed or discombobulated to get down to it. There was just nothing prompting me to get back up on the blogging horse.

Until last night.

Last night, for the first time in six years, I had a Burger King Whopper.

Six years ago, I lost 42 pounds over the course of about eight months. I did this by not eating crap. A lot of the crap I was eating at the time was Burger King Whoppers. I’d get out of a rehearsal or a performance late at night, probably having skipped dinner. I’d head home. A glance to the left off the Lowell Connector drew my baby blues to the glaring Burger King lights on Chelmsford Street. And toward those lights I would go, tummy gurgling in anticipation of another late night Whopper.

And with the Whopper comes the Fries. Everybody knows that.

I would make this Burger King pilgrimage often. Once or twice a week. And think nothing of it. Well, I’d think of it, because the belt buckle was gnawing at the burgeoning folds at my waist but…I devoured the Whoppers anyway.

Because the Burger King Whopper, you see, to me, is not really crap. The Burger King Whopper is, to me, the Greatest Food In History.

I’ll tell you why.

In my first summer out of college, I worked as an actor at Theatre By The Sea in Matunuck, Rhode Island. Let me amend that. I was not primarily an actor. I was primarily a member of the Junior Company at Theatre By The Sea. There were about twenty of us–show biz hungry 20-somethings so early in our careers that we believed the torture TBTS management inflicted on us was par for the course. In fact, it may have been. Perhaps all summer theatres worked their apprentices like plow horses and pack mules. Perhaps all summer theatres called whatever they dubbed their Junior Company kids to the shop at 8 am, without breakfast, worked them non-stop until noon, then didn’t serve them lunch, worked or rehearsed them from 1 to 5, then didn’t serve them dinner before they shoved them onstage to appear as happy chorus cowboys and farmers in OKLAHOMA before summoning them again for a couple of hours after the show to do some more grunt work in the scene shop before bed. Yeah. All summer theatre was like this. Absolutely. That’s what we told ourselves, anyway. Because we were working in theatre, and working in theatre is HARD. Right? Right!

Please notice in the paragraph above the effort I made to emphasize the lack of FOOD offered to us by TBTS. There was a restaurant attached to the theatre, yes–but we had to PAY FOR THE FOOD IF WE WANTED TO EAT IT. And few if any of us could afford that. We all PAID A FEE to be a part of the Junior Company, so there was no salary.

(Wait, that’s not entirely true. I was cast as the Puerto Rican Delivery Boy in Neil Simon’s THE GINGERBREAD LADY at the beginning of the season, the only JC member so blessed. As a result, I received my first check as an actor. Seven dollars and fifty cents. I don’t consider that a feather in my cap, however, because of the life price I paid. You see, I was a fair skinned Irish kid who could do Simon riffs with a decent Latino dialect, so in order to play the Puerto Rican, I was also asked to blacken my blond strands by RUBBING SHEETS OF CARBON PAPER INK INTO MY HAIR. Anybody who knows me now or takes a look at my headshot knows how successful THAT experiment was.)

Bottom line: we had no food. Or if we did it was only the food we could muster up by trying to grab a half hour to walk or bicycle to the general store about two miles down the road to get some Wonder Bread and boiled ham, which we would fashion into sad sandwiches to stuff into our skeletal faces on our way to the next shop call or costume parade or photo session.

I know–the Whoppers–I’m getting to it.

Anyway, we did six or eight shows a week, I forget how many. But one of our show days, on Saturday, featured a matinee and evening performance. And in between shows, probably because there was some kind of Rhode Island child abuse law, TBTS fed us. Once a week. Just once.

Every Saturday, after the matinee, before the evening show, the truck drove up, opened and dropped the rear flap, and handed out the red, orange and white paper bags containing our sustenance. The same menu week after week.

Burger King Whoppers.

Never before, or since, have I tasted anything so desperately divine.

And last night, for the first time in six years, because I was late for a rehearsal and had to grab a fast dinner, I glanced off the highway, saw the Burger King lights, went there, and had myself a Whopper.

God Almighty, it was good.

Not quite as good as it was between shows of OKLAHOMA.

But damn, damn good.