Here I Come, To Save The Day…

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I saw a photo yesterday. It was of a matchbook from Harlequin Dinner Theater (Rockville Md). The Harlequin was one of my families’ favorite venues for an evening’s entertainment. I found it unique in that the waiters/waitresses that took drink orders and served them at intermission were also members of the cast. They were usually from the chorus but sometimes a supporting actor or actress would serve a table or two. It was fun to see our server play a character onstage and I guess they were happy for the opportunity to make some tips.

I’ve only had two dinner theater experiences as an actor. And the only reason I had the second one was because my wife coerced me into it. The first one was an unmitigated disaster. It was just after college. I found myself stranded in Toledo Ohio due to some financial miscalculations on my part. While I waited for my coffers to be refilled, I had some spare time so I did theater at night. A couple of shows with the Toledo Repertory Theater led to a paying gig at the Commodore Perry Dinner Theater. The show was How The Other Half Loves, a British sex farce.

The production was rough. The audience was rougher. The producers, thinking a comedy would be well served if the crowd was in the proper mood to laugh, offered ridiculously low prices on their alcoholic beverages. By the time the show started, the audience was half in the bag. Instead of making them laugh, their inebriety just prompted heckling.

What may prove to be my lowest moment onstage came when I, playing a husband who is having an affair with the wife of his boss, stepped out of what was presumed to be the bathroom and appeared onstage wearing a towel as a cape, a big S on my chest sculpted with shaving cream while wearing a pair of Underoos two sizes too small – with a plastic Mighty Mouse embarrassingly glued to a location where I would have rather not had the audience’s attention drawn. It has taken me decades but I have finally blocked out of my memory the comments and catcalls that were hurled my way.

I determined that my time in Toledo would be cut short. The very minute my contract at the Commodore Perry ended, I loaded my car with the few possessions I had and hit the highway. No lie… I literally left that night after the curtain call. My embarrassment trumped my lack of funds. I figured I would drive until I was out of gas and money. And this I did… and survived to tell the tale.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

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Our Neighborhood Movie House

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Mount Dora is about to get a new Epic Movie Theater! Opening date is just around the corner and it is exciting news for our little town. We haven’t had a movie theater in our local environs since 1996. And to say our citizens are excited would be an understatement.

Even before the theater has officially opened, news has arrived that the Central Florida Film Festival has chosen our new theater as its official venue. Our cup runneth over. And it prompts a memory which has become something of a family favorite.

Back in the day, when I was running my Christian film review website, I was invited to review the entries of the Florida Film Festival hosted by the Enzian Theater in Maitland Florida. As I waited for the festival date, I continued to review the mainstream movies that were being released weekly.

My reviews, which I called “movie parables,” were designed to explore spiritual truths to be found in the secular entertainment of our day. It was a new concept and I received a lot of hate mail because of it. Non-Christians resented my bringing my faith into their entertainment world and religious Christians didn’t much care for my bringing secular entertainment into their faith.

It was an interesting time but one that led to a ten year career in the film review business.

One day, I stopped at the post office to pick up any correspondence that may have arrived to my film website’s PO Box address. Among the bills, there was a small package wrapped in brown paper addressed to me in a crayon scrawl. I didn’t recognize the return address and I wasn’t expecting anything. I thought it odd but I took it and put it in the back of my car and drove home.

When I arrived home, I told my wife about this package. She, knowing about the hate mail I had received, freaked. She made me promise to call the police to find out how I could x-ray the package before I opened it.

I, being a dutiful husband, did as she asked. It was a brief call. I was told to stay put and not touch anything. Within minutes, two firetrucks, three police cars and a few unmarked cars blocked off the street where I lived. I normally would have sent my wife out to deal with this since calling the police was her idea but she somehow decided this would be a perfect time to take a shower.

I walked out the door and the man in charge came over to me. He asked me where the package was so I went to my car, took it out and started walking back to him. He sternly instructed me to stop where I was and put the package gently on the ground. I obeyed.

He studied it for about five minutes then took a penknife out, slit the bottom of the package and withdrew its contents. As he handed it to me, he could not disguise the smirk on his face.

It contained a videotape of a film that had been entered in the film festival and sent to me for review purposes. It was a documentary of the life of porn star John Holmes AKA Johnny Wadd.

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I am pretty sure I was the butt of many a joke that night at the station house.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through digitalization of film, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

 

Keeping In Sync

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As many years as I have been transferring home movies for families, I would have thought I had captured every sporting event known to mankind.  I have transferred baseball games, football games, soccer matches, volleyball games, lacrosse matches, field hockey games, martial arts exhibitions, and more. But yesterday was a first. I transferred a videotape that had actually contained a client’s family member performing a synchronized swimming performance.

Now, let me first state how appreciative I am at the discipline needed to effectively pull off a synchronized performance of any kind. It requires great concentration, skill, and practice to move in unison with another person. Just ask the Rockettes. But, in this particular instance, there is a problem… the elephant in the room if you will…

I discovered through the watching of the tape I transferred that I am incapable of seeing a synchronized swimming performance without bringing to mind the Saturday Night Live sketch featuring Martin Short and Harry Shearer. First aired in 1984, it has arguably been declared as the best sketch ever to have appeared on SNL.  That is high praise. There may be a few sketches that I would personally rank higher but I can’t argue with the impact it had upon my brain because this sketch will invariably come to mind whenever when I see a legitimate synchronized performance no matter how good it may be.

In the sketch, Shearer and Short appeared as brothers who pursued their passion for the sport even though, in Short’s own words, he is not that strong at swimming. For your viewing pleasure, here’s a link to this classic SNL routine:

 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotape, audio cassette, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Make ‘Em Laugh

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Last night, I found myself watching a “lost” episode of The Carol Burnett Show. It reminded me of how much I enjoyed the old comedy sketch shows that were so prevalent as I was growing up. For a long time, I thought comedy was what I wanted to do for a living.

A comedy sketch was actually the thing that started me down a path towards the theatrical arts. I was a junior in high school and I was encouraged to take an elective class in public speaking. For a class assignment, I chose to present an old Bob Newhart routine. It went over so well I was asked to repeat it for a Forensics competition and it took me to the final round.

The next year, I was president of my school’s Forensics club and began applying to colleges that offered a solid theater or speech/communications program. Up to that point, my school counselors were trying to direct me to a math related program as I was scoring in the upper percentile on those aptitude tests. But its tough to get laughs by filling out a spreadsheet.

For your listening pleasure, here’s the routine that made me what I am today… at least it started the ball rolling.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit www.homevideostudio.com/mtd.