My brain is a lot like Wikipedia. It absorbs all this knowledge, and for a while, it can just regurgitate it on command. Then, after years of being useful and helpful, it starts to jumble together with misinformation, hacked passages, and general troll graffiti. I used to pride myself on how well I could remember anything. I could pull up great and vast walls of text and recite them line by line, starting from anywhere along the road. It was a skill I had somewhat naturally and made even better by all the rote memorization I did over the years for theater and forensics.
Yes, I was a theater kid. Actually, in our own ways, all the children in my family were theater kids. My older brother and sister were actors, I was a brutal murderer of dialogue, and the little brother became a techie. I think of all of us, he is the one that learned the most practical skills from the experience. Man, I wish I’d spent more time being a techie.
I became enamored with the idea of theater at a very young age. I watched my brother and sister go through high school, and some college, doing shows, and it just stuck in me that I wanted to do that. In fact, the very first line from any play I ever memorized wasn’t even my line. It was my sister’s.
“A Star is Mighty Good Company.” –Our Town
Over the course of 4 years of high school, I was in 7 plays, tech crew for 2, did children’s shows and one acts, and performed a dozen or so different short pieces for competitions that I never won. I am not a talented actor. I repeat: I AM NOT A TALENTED ACTOR. I think I managed to refine my skills just enough to make a passable LARPer, but I never had any chance of becoming a big name movie star or anything. I never harbored those dreams. I knew if I was ever going to Hollywood at all, it would probably be as a screenwriter (although I’m not particularly good at that either, trust me) or as a director. I know, and always have known, that I owe 100% of my success at the high school level to being a legacy student in the theater department.
Thanks, Bro and Sis!
My short-lived acting career began the week of my 14th birthday. Despite singing being the one ability that I lack beyond all others, I went ahead and auditioned for “Oliver!” I hadn’t developed my intense, inexplicable fear of singing in public yet. That wouldn’t develop until very spontaneously during my Cinderella audition four years later. I went in with the full gusto that only an adolescent boy can really manage. I danced the dances (poorly), I sang the audition songs (extremely poorly) and I read the audition lines (apparently a little less poorly.) Somehow, despite a rather large turnout for that particular show, I managed to wrangle a role… as a freshman… with more than one line.
EAT IT SIBLINGS!
I was cast as Noah Claypole.
For those of you not familiar with Noah’s role in Oliver, he is basically the undertaker’s buttmonkey. He is also a giant butt-face.
He might also get his ass kicked by Oliver for being a douche.
I have to admit, I did not have any problems with the fight. It consisted mostly of one of the Olivers, either a 12-year-old girl or an 10-year-old boy, jumping on my back while I wailed around like a fool. Since it didn’t involve singing or dancing, but more making an ass out of myself, I was pretty good at it.
What I wasn’t good at, was putting the moves on an older lady, a friend of mine, who was playing Charlotte. In the script Charlotte’s character description is “Their [promiscuous]1 younger daughter.” This put me in a pretty awkward position of doing things like smacking a girl on the ass in front of (hopefully) hundreds of people!
Look. I was 14 at the time. Believe me when I say that back then, I still had a bit of shame left to me.
The scene embarrassed me, and worse, everyone knew why. So, in the wonderful, helpful way of theater people, they decided to make me get over it… through the repetitious practice of ass-smacking.
I can’t say for sure, but I definitely felt like I no longer had blood with to blush with by the end of that little adventure.
Over the next four years, I began to understand that our theater teacher was going out of his way to put all of us into strange and uncomfortable positions on stage. That really is part of being an actor. By the time I was a senior, I wasn’t very timid about much anymore. I had gone from being the kid that couldn’t smack a bum to being the guy that whipped out a surprise bikini during a dinner theater, although, I have to admit, I almost lost it with that one.
I can say, quite thankfully, that because of my singing problem, I didn’t have to drop my pants on stage at any point in my career.
This doesn’t explain the frequency with which I do it publicly now.
Nothing can explain that…
And if you’re curious, no, I can’t still remember my lines from Oliver, or any other play I was in during high school. I could fake it, the scripts to most of them are available online, but I won’t. My mind just isn’t the steel trap it was. I don’t really need to remember those lines, anyway. I remember the stories from backstage, and everyone knows, that’s where the real action is, anyway.
Those… those are a story for another time…
… a time when people that were adults back then can no longer read them…
- The Script doesn’t use the word “Promiscuous.” ↩