punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

High School Drama - Act 1: "The setup"

I thought I'd sneak in some "much ado about nothing" stories before the next calamity so this site isn't all about how depressing my life can get.

In this same interlude it doth befall
That I, one Snout by name, present a wall;
And such a wall, as I would have you think,
That had in it a crannied hole or chink,
Through which the lovers, Pyramus and Thisby,
Did whisper often very secretly.
This loam, this rough-cast and this stone doth show
That I am that same wall; the truth is so:
And this the cranny is, right and sinister,
Through which the fearful lovers are to whisper.

-- Snout, the Tinker, playing "Wall" in the opening scene of "Pyramus and Thisby," in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

I played Snout in our High School production of that play. It's kind of funny, but I was looking up "tinker" the other day, and found this in the online New Oxford Dictionary of English:

tinker - noun 1 (especially in former times) a person who travels from place to place mending pans, kettles, and other metal utensils as a way of making a living.

I am kind of a tinker now. I was looking at other meanings in there, and saw "Brit., chiefly derogatory a gypsy or other person living in an itinerant community." That applies, too. I am in fandom, travel around, tinker with things, and fix them for people.

When I was in that play, it was at the end of my "acting career," so to speak (I never made money acting, but I always see it as some career path for some reason). It was going to be replaced by my fandom career a year later (where I HAVE made money), but this play was #2 in a series of three productions we did that Freshman year of High School.

I had gotten bitten by the acting bug in 6th grade, when I played the lead, Scrooge, in a musical version of "A Christmas Carol." For the next two years, I did some theater work for Fairfax County productions and their Children's Theater, tried out for local commercials (no leads), became a member of the Thespian Society, and been to an acting daycamp. I was getting a little jaded because I wasn't getting any big parts, and only my mother approved of this path; my father hated it. He tried, several times, to sabotage it. He walked out on my performances, claiming I was "boring," and he completely discouraged any social life with fellow Thespians.

The blow that killed my acting career, however, was Mr. Duncan. My High School Drama director.

Mr. Duncan wasn't a bad man by any means. He had done some GREAT productions in the past, but I caught him at the end of his teaching career, where he got old and burned out. He was not only the ONLY person that seemed to care if our school had a drama department at all, but he was made to teach Remedial English for "the bad crowd," and was a little toasted from the years of doing that. He still taught drama as a class, which I had him for one year. Drama was considered by most to be a "blow off elective," or "how hard can that be for an easy A?" His desire to bring art and culture into my high school was met with 90% of his class bored and uninterested. Hell, I'd be bitter and burned out, too.

The first play was "The Diary of Anne Frank." There I met some of the veteran Thespians who told me of Mr. Duncan's better days. It was here I learned that Dick Dyszel, or "Captian 20" as local kids knew him (also Count Gore De Vol in the late night creature feature), was as gay and fruity as they come. Dick used to promote our plays on Channel 20 "back in the day," and apparently him and part of his stunningly flaming male crew hit on Mr. Duncan, and even some of the older male actors frequently. But those days were over, and the cast I met were some Senior veterans who were graduating that year, a few assorted juniors and sophomores, and a bunch of eager freshmen. Almost all women. In fact, I would say we only had 5 boys in the entire crew, and even though my audition went terrible, I was accepted because I simply had a male voice. We had girls with deep voices play minor men's roles from time to time, to fill in the gaps. Three of those boys were graduating that year. It seems that the drama department in our school had a "gay" stigmatism, and thus, we called each other DQs, or "Drama Queers."

Mr. Duncan had a rule that all first plays, you worked set. He accepted no actor or actress who hadn't done a play only behind the scenes first. It used to be a year, but he was so short on actors in general, that he shortened it to one play. I signed up for lighting, but since I was "a guy," was put on set. I was so physically unsuitable for the job, and caused a lot of angst and frustration as I couldn't lift heavy things, was completely uncoordinated, and had the art skills of a small child. The girls got "cleaning duty," which they said was sexist, but one of the most amusing arguments of my life came from this struggle; The Boys vs. Girls Pissing Debates. It was started by a guy named Mark, and some other senior girl whose name I have forgotten, so let's call her Jane. Mark and Jane frequently argued about why girl's toilet in the dressing room was a lot easier to clean than the guy's. Mark claimed this was because men had to aim, and girls had to "just squat." Thus started the in-joke about aimers versus squatters that lasted all year. Thanks to my friend Suzi, in 1996, I now know that the lady's rooms can be just as filthy. But that's another topic.

So through the Diary of Anne Frank, I made friends with the lead actress, a short girl named Lauren (a squatter). Lauren had a big influence on my self confidence because she treated everyone as an equal, and always had nice things to say about everybody. Even me. Lauren also had some debilitating bone disorder, and sometimes was so weak, she couldn't walk. Her boyfriend, whose name I think was Drake, was a tall guy who, when Lauren was too weak to move, carried her around the set so she could do her lines. Lauren was only weak physically; mentally, she was still eager for the task and wide awake, laughing and joking. "Take me to front and center, Jeeves!" she joked to her boyfriend. They loved each other a lot, and I hope Lauren got better and they got married. Lauren taught me two things: how to respect myself, that I had a hell of a lot of talent as far as she was concerned, and she taught me how to take a complement, which I was very bad at for a long time. People who praised me got me angry, and I am not sure why anymore. I guess I felt they were patronizing or making fun of me.

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000550.html
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