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Spotlight is harshest when you flub a line

POSTED: February 1, 2009 1:00 a.m.

I didn't get to watch the inauguration of President Barack Obama until they replayed it on cable.

As it was happening, I was running around watching people watch the inauguration for a story. I actually heard the oath of office on the radio and I knew something didn't sound right.

Chief Justice John Roberts did a little juxtaposing of words. I felt for him.

The whole world was watching. If they weren't watching, they would see the flub played over and over and over again on TV.

Missing lines in front of a crowd is not fun. I speak from personal experience.

For the past nine years, I have been the narrator for the Living Christmas Tree at First Baptist Church. Not only am I the narrator, I actually write the words I recite. Well, not all of them, some of them come from the Bible and were written by Isaiah, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.

What's really interesting is that I actually do pretty well on the biblical text. It's the stuff that I write myself that gives me trouble.

Trying to remember self-written lines is tougher than you think. I'm certainly not comparing myself to a literary great, but you never heard anything about William Shakespeare playing Hamlet or Romeo or Julius Caesar. He wrote the stuff and somebody else read it.

Last year, on opening night, I had a disconnect between my memory and my mouth.

The whole episode lasted about 15 seconds. But when you are standing there in a spotlight and every eye is on you, it seems like 15 days. Your throat gets dry. You want to run but the spotlight would probably follow you. By the grace of God, I somehow recovered and actually made it funny and folks seemed to take it in stride.

Mark Green, who is the director and conductor of the annual event, aged a bit during my reflective pause. He has the uncanny ability to direct the strings to play louder, tell the tenors to sing softer and keep the whole tempo going at the same time. But there's not much he can do for a fellow who is frozen momentarily in the spotlight.

I love when kids have school plays and musicals. The parents of little children have heard and recited the words so many times that they tend to move their lips along with the children performing on stage.

I don't know if Chief Justice Roberts' mama is still with us. If she is, I'm sure she would have rehearsed the lines with him. She would have been sitting there watching and moving her lips right along with him. If he messed up, she would have kissed him on the forehead and told him everything was alright. At least, that's what my mama would have done.

I had a similar experience when I participated in my first and last piano recital. I think the song I was supposed to play only had about five notes, C, D, E, F and G. I didn't play the right ones or in the right order.

I ran out the door and hid on the floor of the car.

My daddy took me to the Varsity and I felt better.

Chief Justice Roberts, if you're ever in Atlanta, I'll take you to the Varsity and we'll commiserate with each another.

Harris Blackwood is community editor of The Times. His columns appear Wednesdays and Sundays.



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