Thursday, June 26, 2014

My brief, illustrious theatrical career

My first time on stage was in the first grade as one of the dwarfs in Snow White. I can’t even remember which one. All I can remember is that I loved “Whistle While You Work” and Snow White was the most beautiful girl at Church Street Primary School. All the boys were jealous of Brett Rogers, who got to play the prince and got to kiss her

For my second time on stage my identical twin brother and I sang and danced to the song “Sisters” from the movie White Christmas. Only we changed it to “Brothers.”  Neither of us could even begin to carry a tune — couldn’t then and still can’t. Nevertheless, the audience loved it simply because we were so damn cute.
I was also in a few dance recitals. I can’t remember anything about them, but I was reminded once. I was interviewing for a job, and the woman who was interviewing me had a daughter who had been in dance class with me. She told me that I once bit her daughter on the butt. Yikes! I didn’t get the job.
After that I never again performed on stage, but I did join the drama club in high school. Why? Because (1) a lot of my friends were in it and (2) the faculty advisor was a beautiful young teacher who had not long before been Miss Mississippi. I joined the club to be close to her.
Ten years late when I was hired as an art teacher in a little town in Missouri the principal saw the drama club listed on my application and asked if I could direct the high school play. The job paid $200. I was about as well qualified to direct a play as I was to perform surgery, but an extra 200 bucks sounded awfully good, so I accepted the job.
The play had already been chosen and paid for. It was an incredibly stupid comedy about boys who dress up as girls in order to crash a girls’ spend-the-night party. The students were not stupid. They immediately saw how bad it was and starting riffing on it in rehearsals, improvising lines that were much better than what was written in the script. I told them to go for it. Improvise to their hearts’ content. I didn’t so much direct the play as allow them to do what they wanted to do. It played one performance only and was a huge hit. The principal and many of the parents told me it was the best play ever done at that school, and since many of those parents had six, seven and eight kids who had all gone to the same school and they had been attending plays there for years, I figured they were good judges.
That was it for my theatrical career. Never again did I step foot on or behind stage, but I spent a lot of time sitting in the audience. And yet, in 2003 The News Tribune offered me the job as theater critic. I guess they figured if I could write about art and literature I should be able to write about theater.
Since then I’ve been learning about theater on the job, and I’m still astounded that people in the business consider me some kind of authority. Little do they know. Oops! Did I just let the cat out of the bag?

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