“What genre would you like your wedding in?” I ask.
During the pre-show for I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change, all the actors wander out into the audience in character, portraying clergy from various religions. My character is that of a minister. I’m the only one in the cast who actually enjoys talking to the audience while in character. My secret is to let the audience members do the talking — they’ve got plenty to say, and they’re quite funny. Last weekend a couple comes in, sits down left.
“What would you like to see tonight?” I ask them.
“Well…” says the man, “just don’t suck.”
I smile at another blue-hair in row C. “So what are the things you like to see most in the theater?”
“I like to see two things,” says blue-hair. “Comedy. And laughter.”
Daughter, early twenties, fashionably dressed, is sitting front and center. Next to her is mother, forties, dumpy, wearing a T-shirt with writing and shorts that show off stubby knees. Daughter clearly is embarrassed to an inch of her life as mother regales me. “Are you two related?” I ask.
Daughter says, “I’m adopted.”
“What kind of shows do you like to see?”
“Oh, all kinds of shows, all kinds, all kinds!” says mother. “We’ve been to see Ice Follies just a week ago, and my daughter here is going for her program at the San Diego Globe! Isn’t that a lovely theater, the Globe? They do Shakespeare. I love Shakespeare, but he just seems to have so many words in him. And we went to go see Anne Frank last Saturday. Have you seen Anne Frank?” she asks.
“Sure,” I say. “I love comedies.” Daughter involuntarily snorts and gives me a look that says, OK, maybe you don’t totally suck. Mother prattles on. “Oh, it was funny, it was indeed! When those doors wouldn’t open and he kept yanking on them. I laughed so hard.”
“Noises Off,” grunts daughter.
“Oh yes, that was Noises Off! Woah, I laughed so hard I thought I’d die.” Daughter rolls her eyes.
Another group of four decides to cross-examine me. “Are you really a minister?” a woman with black-rimmed glasses asks me.
“Yes,” I lie.
“What is the name of your church?”
“Well, I just moved down. First Presbyterian of San Francisco. Have you heard of it?” I lie.
“Where did you study?”
“Harvard,” I lie, but only partly.
“Oh, you went to Harvard. And what did you major in?”
Quick, quick, you shouldn’t have to think about this stuff. “Divinity.”
“And what’s your degree title?”
“Um, I don’t have a degree in divinity.” Damn!
“Oh, I decided to take off a year before I graudated and take the ministry to people in need. So technically I never graduated. But I studied for three years in the Divinity school.” Nice save, Byrd!
“Where was your ministry?”
“I went to South Korea to spread the Word. Some time in Tokyo.”
“Where in South Korea?”
“Mostly in Seoul.”
“Ah, yes? And how long were you in Seoul?”
Damn, lady! “Two years.”
She smiles broadly and lets loose a torrent of what I suppose is Korean.
“Lady, this is the theater and I’m an actor, suspend disbelief for one goddamned minute for me, will ya?” I said. Actually, I didn’t say that. “My Korean is a little rusty,” I say.
“What did you say your degree was in?” she asks.
“Oh, darn, look at that, I have to go back stage now to start the show. But golly I hope you stay afterwards for the free refreshments!” I beam, and then run off at top speed. Dammit. If I were a real minister, they wouldn’t give me such shit.
So I clicked on over to the Universal Life Church, filled in a form, and two days later, John Byrd is a legally ordained minister in the state of California. There’s a significant body of case law that says this insta-minister ministry in Modesto can legally hand out clergy titles like Pez, and the resulting marriages are binding and legal in 48 states and most of Canada. So now I’m ready to issue marriage licenses for the low low price of $5.00 per certificate. Amen. Let us pray.