Barber Chair

This week I got my own hair cut in a real barber shop for the first time since I was a child. It was a phobia I just let go of at the age of 45. What I didn’t realize as I sat in the old-fashioned style barber chair, is that this would not be my last important encounter with a barber chair this week.

The play starts technical rehearsals in less than 48 hours. Things are tightening up nicely and the stakes are high. The play opens in a week.

The play’s director, Gary Zinter, decided on Wednesday that it would be great if we could get our hands on a real barber chair for the production. The theater has almost no budget. However, two dear friends of mine had weeks ago (and coincidentally) offered me a barber chair which I declined. Bingo. Now I need that chair!

The play has already been staged, so this addition will create a domino effect. Some scenes traffic patterns will have to be re-staged to accommodate a barber chair. It is a little late in the game to add such scenery, but we all agree the play is aching for the iconic symbol. The pros of adding the chair this late in the process outweigh the cons. A few phone calls later, the barber chair (graciously donated) is due to arrive at the theater on Friday at the eleventh hour. It is to be immediately put into use to allow time to reblock the scenes to include it.

The eight actors are getting into wigs to do a run through of the play when the chair arrives. It is a beautiful chair: black leather. It looks perfect on stage in this 80 seat, minimal theater. Our director, Gary is glowing. All hail! The Theater Gods have smiled upon us.

However, it is quickly discovered that the chair’s hydraulic lift is broken. It is stuck in it’s highest position: too high to be used and allow the audience to see around it. The excitement in the room changes to focused agitation. Everyone pokes and prods at the chair to investigate.

Try this. Do that. What about this? Move that. Nothing works. Things are tense. The beautiful chair is stuck and apparently of no use or benefit to us after all. Rehearsals need to continue, so the chair is moved to the lobby. However, no one wants to give up. It is placed on it’s side and people begin to work on it like paramedics. I am not mechanically inclined, so I step aside to watch.

At that moment, I realize how lucky I am. No one involved with this play is getting paid. Ironically, there isn’t even any prop money for my character to pull out of his wallet to pay the prostitutes. I am amused and touched that I am watching half the cast crouched on the floor furiously tearing apart this barber chair …wearing their wigs from the show.

Todd, the actor who is playing my child molester and various other gay hustlers, is on the ground and unscrewing the base. He is our main aide. I quickly refer to him as “The Chair Whisperer” from 15 feet away. Todd agreed to shave his head to be in this play. He is bald and the only one not wearing a wig at this moment.

Next to him is the be-wigged Joan. She is playing my mother. She is right down there next to Todd in the thick of it. From my angle, it really looks like my mother. Lord knows, my mother would have been there getting her hands dirty, doing everything she could do to help.

Collin is utilizing his phone as a flash light for Todd while wearing his long gay hustler wig. He has also agreed to shave his head as well as do an intimate nude scene for the play. Cole is opposite Collin in his very blond wig holding another flash light. He plays me as a child and shares an extremely tense scene with Todd in the play. Monica is running back and forth fetching tools from storage wearing a wig made of yarn. Our director watches semi-patiently from the side. He shaved his head a week ago for the hell of it …or maybe out of solidarity.

This is how my life has rolled for the last few years. My life, spinning out of control, has now spun into the ironic. This week I have been both fulfilled and panicked by the support and warmth I have felt.

Do I really deserve this? Will this luck reverse?

As I write this, I cannot tell you whether there will or will not be a barber chair in The Cut. There is, however, a lot of passion on and off stage for this play. I will not guarantee the show will be perfect. What I can offer is that I have been honored to be a part of what was me; what is me; but has now grown to be bigger than me.

Art has taught me another lesson.

About Dennis

Dennis Milam Bensie’s poem “Eight Ball” was published in Greater National Society of Poets, Inc in 1980 when he was a freshman in high school. It was featured thirty years later in his memoir, Shorn: Toys to Men. His short stories, poetry and essays have been featured all over the web and in print. His second book, One Gay American, was chosen as a finalist in both the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the Indie Excellence Book Awards. His latest book Flit: A Poetry Mashup of Classic Literature has been featured in Kolaj Magazine and was a part of Tribe Magazine’s “Anti-Shame Week”. The author has been a presenter at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans and at Montana’s very first gay pride festival.
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