Before the show began, Bryce, the Thunderbird MC, announced that the show required an audience volunteer to play an innocent victim. There were two requirements: they had to be able to read, and they had to not mind getting a bit wet. I was game. My hand shot up, and so did a girl's behind me. (The girl, I later found out, was the very pretty Emma Beenthere from Pride and Succubus.)
Bryce said he would hold a short competition. He asked me if I were an innocent victim, what sound would I make?
"AAAAAAAUUUUUUUURRRGGGGHHHHH!!!" A horrific yell erupted from deep within my soul, shocking Bryce and stunning the audience into silence.
Bryce asked the girl behind me if she were on a safari and a tiger attacked, what sound would she make?
"Oh, my!" she cried daintily.
He asked the audience to vote. For me, a rip-roaring cavalcade of cheers. For her, some cheers. I was the clear winner. Bryce asked my name, and I gave it. He informed me that sometime during the first half of the show, I would be given a signal that I could not miss unless I had been knocked unconscious.
I had my program and a book in my cargo pants pockets. I took them out and placed them under the seat, just in case "getting a bit wet" was more than just a sprinkle.
Between scenes was a '60s radio show. One show had a bit where the DJ had a message from Stephanie, that she would go to the prom with Tommy (or whoever). Also, it was time for the innocent victim to come onto the stage. Ah! It was time! It was dark!
I stepped onto the stage easily (I was in the front row) and was directed toward the chair that did seem like it was my destination. The chair had been brought in by Evil Von Rottenhausen and his assistant, Wild-Eyed Lulu. I was nervous and a bit frightened, so I just fed on that for my character of Innocent Victim. I sat on the chair. I think some people were laughing at me, either because I was very convincingly scared or because they liked my I ♥ Irony shirt.
"Read these lines or we'll kill you," whispered Lulu. Aaaaah!!
"What is your name?" said Evil Von Rottenhausen.
Lulu didn't give me a line! Did I have a name? What was I supposed to do? "S-S-Sunil!" I said.
"Elephant seal?" snarled Evil.
"Sunil!" I said again.
"Shaquille O'Neal?" said Evil. There was a lot of laughter for that one, so he went with it. He mocked my prowess on the basketball court, as it was irrelevant here!
And then he splashed a cup of water in my face.
Lulu put a card in front of me. I read it. "NOOOOOOOO!!"
Evil asked me questions to which I had no answers, continually addressing me Shaquille. He milked the joke for all it was worth, and it was hilarious. I had to keep from laughing myself. I just focused on being scared. More water splashed in my face. "NOOOOOOO! NO MORE—PLEASE!!" Rudimentary reading ability was, indeed, required. I screamed like I meant it.
More water in my face. Lulu presented me with a card. It read, "¡ON"
Uh. I wasn't sure whether it was on purpose. I hesitated for a moment. And then, I just went with it: "OOOOOOOOOOOON!"
Lulu flipped the card over.
"NOOOOOOOOOOO!" The audience loved it.
There was more water on my face and more NOOOO! and then Evil sent Lulu back to get...a pitcher. We were alone. He taunted me further. I resisted the urge to improv answers because I wasn't sure how much of what he was doing was scripted and didn't want to throw him off or mess him up. I had my two lines to be presented, and I could deliver those with gusto.
"Are you feeling a little hot under the collar there?" he asked. I violently shook my head.
He poured a small cup of water on my crotch. I squirmed in my seat.
Lulu came back with the pitcher of water.
And then she began pouring water on my crotch.
A card: "NOOOOOO! NO MORE—PLEASE!!" It was a very good thing I'd taken the book out of my pocket.
Evil began monologuing, so I tried wiping my glasses off with my shirt. But I think that was the end of the water. I was set free.
But wait! Evil told Lulu to give me a towel (really, a long sheet of paper towel). She was about to, but wait! During intermission, he wanted her to get the towel as wet as possible and smack me on my butt! She practiced, and I reacted with pain. Then we played the Grab the Towel game until Evil finally released me for real and I hobbled back to my seat to great applause.
During intermission, a whole host of strangers complimented me on my performance! "Great job!" they said. "Thank you!" I said. I was being called Shaquille a lot.
Claire, a Thunderbird herself, said that I was the Best Innocent Victim Ever. Awesome!! I told her I just played on my stage fright. Apparently, the actor had been honing and developing the schtick through the course of the run. He hadn't started out asking the victim his name. He was very vaudeville, trying out different things each night and seeing what worked.
Other people I knew who gave me props included Jessica and the aforementioned Emma. Jessica I did not even recognize until she refreshed my memory as to who she was, and Emma I recognized from Pride and Succubus but I couldn't remember her name even though we'd talked a fair bit after the show (after having auditioned together). We talked some more at intermission.
During the raffles, I discovered the girl I'd been sitting next to was also a friend of Dan's. We introduced ourselves after the show. But between those two events were a few more shenanigans.
There was another water torture scene! But this time it was the Asian girl who spoke with a Scottish accent. "Do you remember this game, Shaquille O'Neal?" said Evil.
"NOOOOOOO!!" I cried from my seat. It was between that and "YEEEEEEEEESS!!" But my character only had two lines.
"You do remember this game," said Evil. At some point, he managed to work in an offhand "Kobe was better."
The girl hocked a stage loogie at him in defiance. He swallowed it. "It tastes like Shaquille O'Neal's tears," he declared. I knew closing night was the night to come.
During the final surf battle between Evil Von Rottenhausen and Aaron Trotter, Aaron warned, "Wave!" And Evil waved at me. I waved back. "Hello, Shaquille!" he may have said.
After the show, a couple members of the cast told me I was great. Evil thanked me for being such a good sport. (I still wasn't completely dry.) I was standing in the hall waiting for Dan to come out, and various audience members praised me on their way out as if I had been a member of the cast. On entering the BART platform, I heard someone calling, "Shaquille!" The woman giving me props turned out to be the director of Aaah! Rosebud!
Dan said he'd fed the actor my whole dossier, suggesting he ask me things like "Are you going to blog about this?" But none of it came into play, sadly. Incidentally, the upside-down ¡ON was intentional, and I had delivered it perfectly.
I confirmed that Emma was the other audience member who had volunteered. "Sorry for beating you," I said.
"No, no, it was perfect," she said. She couldn't think of funny things that could have come out of her name. She had enjoyed my performance.
Best of all, however? A few people honestly thought I was a plant. Which was about the highest compliment I could get.