by Steve Gaines

I never was a leading man…
in almost fifty years of acting
in my fondest dreams of course but never on stage
it was just something I never was
always the character part
occasionally stealing a scene here and there
…a shadow in the wings hanging on the next cue
but not the glitz and glitter…just the interesting pieces
second banana types
lackeys and spear carriers

the almost fifty years…echoes in general hubbub
always remembering the tall dark
and handsome dream of my distant youth
having brought to adulthood
nothing but my unexceptional five foot ten
inches of portly presence
with a propensity toward villainy and bombast

I never got the girl…
in the story
never kept a stable of sweet young things…
at the stage door

all I ever managed was steady work
few nights sans the call of the Muse
but not the flashy for me
not the front page of the Sunday supplement
simply “also in the cast”

it could have been worse I suppose
I could have been just another pretty face
strutting and posturing
through audition after audition
just one among all the many
other pretty faces
vainly turning my good side down stage
demonstrating the steely blue eyes the chiseled chin
one of the too many aspiring after that lofty role
what ever it might have been
…might well have been one of those fragile hopefuls
left too many times
on the craggy edge of an ego’s destruction…

but I was not!

and just as well…
I could never have played with those big boys
could never have survived those flights and falls

all I ever got were those roles no one else coveted
all those parts just right for me
all I ever got were the little etudes
not the down center arias

but there were modest compensations
never a bad review
never the headline of course…
except maybe “that once”
just reasonable mentions
in mostly accurate adjectives

I never had to memorize
all those important speeches
never had to make every rehearsal
like leading men usually do
just had to hang around
and do a little exposition from time to time
threaten the hero
scandalize the heroine
make do
with the lesser rewards
always content
with the other prizes
interesting costumes
and enigmatic props
the occasional up stage opportunity…
laughs out of all proportion

but never the champion myself
never the dashing lothario
doing battle in tights and a codpiece

just the bad guy
or the old guy
or the clown!

always the part with the odd accent…
the limp
…whatever handicap was needed

I never was a leading man

…unless you count the summer as Macbeth
that sometimes whimpering champion
of his wife’s grasping Regicide
I guess that was almost a leading man
at least I had all those “important speeches”
but just like many of the other parts
at the finale I ended up dead

…and then there was Claudius…
Hamlet’s uncle
another posturing killer
who also ended up on the wrong end of a sword

and one or two other “important” if slightly bent …
“principal roles”
but that was it!…
no more…

yet far be it from me to complain
the money was never a question
thou I usually settled for scale
I never argued with the little extra bits
from time to time
never needed an agent either
so at least I kept all that modest money
no ten percent gone flying off in other pockets

…and neither are there are any
grand wishes in my resume
maybe a stab at that major Shakespearean King
Mr. Lear and his daughters…
if I still can still memorize all those lines by then..?
whenever “then” is!

never a leading man
just a follower
never the
leading light!