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You Want Me to Do What?

Have you ever woken up in the morning, recalled the various things you would do that day and think to yourself, “This is not my life?” For me, I have started each day with that thought since January 21 – the day I auditioned for the HBS Show, Network Effect.

Let me take you back to that audition day about 10 weeks ago. After much prodding by sectionmates who will remain nameless, I agreed to participate in the Acting and Singing auditions. While nerve wracking and moderately embarrassing, this was nothing to write home about. But, then, after singing (and try to keep in mind this is the first time I sang outside of my shower in about 10 years), I heard the following, “Matthew, that was great, would you please go to Dance Auditions on Thursday?” And in my head I thought, for the first of many times, “You want me to do WHAT?”

Now, as a general rule, I don’t dance. Since moving to Boston in August 2001 I have not once been to a club downtown. Even at the many balls throughout the year, I haven’t once stepped onto the dance floor. But, for some reason, I agreed. Now, jump forward two days and picture me with 20 other students in the Shad Hall Dance Studio. At this point I wasn’t sure if I was more terrified of the dance audition or the possibility that I might actually be cast. Well, all of my fears came true. I was cast in the show as both a member of the ensemble and as a dancer. While I was reading the cast list, all I could think was, “You want me to do WHAT?”

This is when I discovered that my life was no longer my own. Now my life belonged to the HBS Show. Within days I attended my first dance rehearsal. The choreographer showed us the first combination. I thought to myself, “I can do that.” The choreographer showed us the second combination. I thought to myself, “I can do that.” The choreographer said, “This is when the man will lift the woman in the air and flip her backwards over his right arm.” I thought to myself, “You want me to do WHAT?”

But there was no time for panic; we were paired off for the dance number. I introduced myself to my mercifully petite dance partner by saying: “Pardon me as I put my hands on you, lift you in the air, and flip you over. By the way, what is your name?” We started. I began to realize that my time was split between only three activities: Class, Rehearsal, and Sleep. Then, another e-mail: “Matthew, we’d like to add you to another number, what would you think of playing disgraced Enron exec, Jeff Skilling?” I thought to myself, “You want me to do WHAT?”

We left for Spring Break. We returned from Spring Break. Somehow during this time Burden was transformed. There is no way to describe what Burden looks like now. But let me say this, the stage that was installed had just been used at the Grammy Awards. We started running the show on the new stage; under 150,000 watts of new lights; with 15 new wireless microphones. The director reminded us, “You need to be ready to perform this show for several hundred people in 8 days.” I thought, “You want me to do WHAT?”

By the time you read this, we’ll be ready. Network Effect opens on April 1. Seven giant dance numbers from swing to salsa; 16 songs from hip-hop to country; thousands of hours of signing, dancing, acting, and orchestra rehearsal; dozens of new set pieces; and, a hilarious script to tie it all together. All of it ready to go for you.

Recently I was reminded that next week I’m going to return to my normal life. I thought, “You want me to do WHAT?”

March 31, 2003
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