The Debs are thrilled to welcome Beth Feldman, a former television network executive who pole vaulted off the corporate ladder to launch Role Mommy, an online community and events company dedicated to inspiring busy moms to pursue their passion while raising a family. She’s the co-author of Peeing in Peace: Tales & Tips for Type A Moms (the book featured in the essay below) and is the author and editor of the newly released humor anthology, See Mom Run: Side-Splitting Essays from the World’s Most Harried Moms. Thankfully, during her most recent book tour, Beth is proud to say, no one left the room during her readings.
Here’s how she got the nickname Sideshow Beth:
I finally discovered why talk shows and big concerts have opening acts. To warm up an audience and get them ready for the bigger star of the night. Oftentimes, opening acts are quite refreshing. They get you in a good mood and prepare you for what’s in store for the evening. But what would happen if the opening act had to wait around until the end of the show to perform? Would people stick around for their spiel? Well, I recently learned the answer to that question.
I knew I should have been a bit skeptical when I was invited (along with my co-author) to do a reading from our book following an off-Broadway show. The offer seemed genuine enough and I instantly started conjuring up thoughts of how we would read a chapter and have the entire audience laughing so hard that we’d be on our way to instant stardom. Me, on a stage – right across from some major Broadway shows…the dream of a lifetime – or the nightmare that I’d like to forget?
The day of our reading, I even went to an upscale salon where I had my hair blown out for a bazillion dollars and even booked a session with a make-up artist who had just finished touching up Miss Mexico. With cash flow dwindling, I then zipped into Ann Taylor Loft and found a cute little dress that had been marked down 40%, raced back to my office and then slipped it on in time for our special night. I was ready to knock ’em dead!
We arrived at the theater and we almost missed the place because it was sandwiched between a newsstand and I think Burger King…okay, I know I wasn’t starring in “Mamma Mia” but we were technically still a stone’s throw away from the Great White Way. We climbed a flight of stairs and saw the sign for our book and I started to get goose bumps. We met the star of the show and then talked about how we’d do the reading. We learned that we had to be out of there pretty quick because they were getting ready for another show at 10pm and then discovered that we weren’t going to be the opening act, we were going on after the star. Something told me we were in for a bumpy ride.
My stomach began to churn as I realized we’d be playing to a room of new mothers who probably had to get home in time to relieve their babysitters. And so, we sat through the one hour and fifteen minute show and the minute we were introduced, the place started clearing out. It was as if someone had yelled “fire in the theater” and the patrons couldn’t find an exit fast enough. As I attempted to read my chapter, more and more people left the room. And even more painful, the parts where I thought they’d laugh, there was just deadening silence. I tried to read as fast as I could and in my head I imagined I was in a dentist’s chair having root canal. Then my writing partner read her chapter – and as she shared her personal tale of mommy woe, the room cleared out even more. By the time she was done, there were a total of five people left in the theater – me, my writing partner, my husband, the stage manager and the star of the show.
To say I was mortified is the understatement of the year. I felt as if I had bombed off-Broadway but then I realized – I was supposed to be the opening act…not the closer! My husband summed it up best when he looked at me and said – “Look on the bright side, if this were the circus, you’d be Sideshow Beth.”
And that was my first brush with off-Broadway – a sideshow experience where the room cleared out the moment I opened my mouth. I sure do hope I have the opportunity to go back on a stage again, but this time I better be the opening act or the main attraction. Because when you’re “the closer” in a room full of new parents, you’re pretty much dead on arrival.