My broken toe doesn’t hurt so much anymore. It’s the fourth toe on the left foot, the one next to the piggy that cried “wee-wee-wee” all the way home. I guess you could say it was the piggy deprived of the roast beef, still discolored a bit, but much better.
How did I break it? I broke it when dancing the polka. It was the first night of dress and tech rehearsals for The King and I. Kendall Kookagey – who played Mrs. Anna – and I had struggled with the dancing together from the very first night of rehearsals. It was my fault, mostly, though Kendall did have a tendency of wanting to lead. Not that I blamed her.
Brittany, the dance instructor, was a good sport about my troubles. She managed to smile at my efforts, but sometimes it was sort of like the smile of a person trying to convince you that her toothache isn’t really all that bad.
The first night of rehearsal, back in August, Brittany had Kendall and me dancing the polka for over an hour. The next morning, I was taking Advil and walking with a noticeable limp. “You hurt yourself,” someone said to me. “How?”
“Dancing the polka,” I replied. Have you ever noticed how high some people can arch their eyebrows?
Of course, that pain was nothing like what happened the night of our first dress rehearsal, the night I broke my toe.
The King was to dance barefoot while Mrs. Anna wore shoes. It was the same dance we’d worked on for months, but now we were to dance around a rectangular platform wheeled out to serve as the king’s ottoman.
We started up on the first turn with perfection and made the longer straight-a-way with graceful moves. Then we hit the second corner, and I hit the platform with my bare left foot. Everyone in the Morton Theater heard the collision. No one heard the muffled groan of pain. (I think the sound man had turned off our mikes during the dance.) We finished the dance – by golly, I had once finished a football scrimmage with a broken nose; darned if I wasn’t going to persevere through a dance at a play rehearsal. But at night’s end, we surveyed the damage. At first, the gash between the “wee-wee” toe and the “roast beef” toe looked like the little toe had almost been severed. But once the blood was cleared, the gash wasn’t too bad. A few stitches would probably suffice. The real problem was the broken toe.
Not much I could do about it except tape the toes together and apply ice and keep the foot elevated. All the next day, that’s what I did. By evening, I was ready for the next rehearsal. That night, Mrs. Anna and the King of Siam worked on their dancing. And the set designers worked on creating as much space as possible for us to navigate our way around the platform. Don’t hit the platform, don’t hit the back wall, don’t hit the plants, and for the King’s sake and Anna’s as well, don’t fall into the orchestra pit.
Mrs. Anna will tell you, herself, about that rehearsal when I approached to take her in my arms for the dance. She would later tell me, “I could see the fear in your eyes.” Yes, I’m sure she could. But I could also see fear in hers. Not only did I have to dance without hitting my broken toe, I had to navigate for her safety as well.
I was so bad during that rehearsal that we were kept after hours with the dance instructor. I’m sure if I’d checked Britta’s eyes, or Terry’s, the director, I would have seen fear there as well. Not until we’d finished the five performances did Terry admit that everyone held their breath and prayed during our dance.
Each night, at the end of the dance scene, the King was to exult in Anna’s final twirl and say, “Come, we do it again.”
When I reached the end of that dance each night, there was no acting to my elation.
I was really elated – relieved and elated – that I had finished the dance without another broken toe. Also, the script called for the Kralahome to interrupt and prevent us from taking yet another lap around the dance floor. That interruption may have made me happiest of all.