Time to Remember
The first show I ever saw was a bus and truck tour of A Chorus Line in Birmingham Alabama. I was a thirteen year old transplanted "Yankee", a doughy sissy boy with no friends to speak of except the class nerd who inevitably just put up with me but held me with the same disdain as my other classmates. My parents had bought season tickets to the Birmingham Civic Centers Broadway Series and I was fortunate enough to see two of the three offerings which also included Annie and Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.(Funnily enough, it was the latter which I missed probably because of its' salacious title, when Chorus Line was indeed the more adult of the offerings in its frank conversations of sexuality. I learned a lot about sexual identity from that show.)I can't think of a better show that translates what it is to be a performer than A Chorus Line. It is about an audition, and shows the (often) painful and heartbreaking process with pinpoint clarity and of course culminates in the brilliant show stopping finale "One". It was like a crash course in the business of theatre, and the lengths performers go through be part of the show. Part madness, part love, all show business. And somehow, it all made sense to me. When the curtain came down, there was no turning back. I was smitten.
I had always enjoyed singing , masking the sounds of my voice by cranking the stereo so no one could hear me (at a younger age, my dad told me no one wanted to hear my voice- that he preferred the actual singer) . That year I bought the cast albums for Chorus Line and Annie (yet another transcendent show in my theatre obsession- polar opposite from Chorus Line but full out spectacle, a great illustration of what the show would become after the audition.) and memorized every song from both, singing them at the top of my lungs in my bedroom when no one was around. I sang every role, changing my voice to match the actors, copying every inflection.
My Junior High offered a theatre class, but it had limited openings and I never got in. I waited patiently until High School gave me the opportunity to be in drama class. This was finally my shot at inclusion, to finally be part of like minded individuals. I had no such opportunities before- everyone I went to school with had known each other since kindergarten, I was not athletic, cared nothing for sports ( which I gathered was blasphemous in the eyes of Alabamians),I was not Southern Baptist (which actually WAS blasphemous to southern Alabamians) and I sounded funny with my northern dialect. Basically, I was a pariah.
There was a small group of students that seemed to have the same hunger as I and I forced myself upon the group, shoehorning myself into the first production- a two person one act that I didn't get cast in . I would crash their rehearsals, obsessed with just being there, drinking it all in. My desire to be part of the production led to the teacher to create the position of cue-prompter - basically the one to follow along in the script and give the actors the correct lines. The show was called "Where have all the Lightning Bugs Gone?" and we took it to the regional High School acting competition. I happily tagged along (I also competed in the duo acting competition where I received a certificate of "Good" performing a scene from Barefoot in the Park.), in awe of the other plays from the competing schools. Our group won and we went on to State where we ended up placing third.) That initial win solidified us a close knit group of friends. We were like a drama class version of The Breakfast Club or a precursor to Glee- The charismatic band guy, the just-blossomed-over-the-summer princess, the good ole boy who had technical know how, the no-nonsense country girl, the loudmouthed and abrasive "experienced" thespian, and the doughy hanger-on .And we were the stars of the class, in our own minds at least.
In an act of social defiance, we called ourselves "the clique" as none of us actually belonged to any of the established social strata's of high school hierarchy. And despite the lack any other actual performances that year, we defined ourselves as actors. We found the place were we belonged. An unlikely assemblage of disparate views linked through the commonality of theatre.
I thought that was pretty fantastic.
I actually felt like I belonged.
End part One
Memories, opinions, stories, reviews, pop culture.