Saturday, July 24, 2010

Will I Lose My Dignity?

I performed in the last season of Paul Greene's Wilderness Road at the Indian Fort Theatre in Berea KY in the summer of 1980.  A recent graduate of Estill County High School.  That tender place between high school and college.  Parents still caring and champions for the boy they couldn't believe had a driving license, much less a high school diploma.  Fresh from my World Champion Clogging Titles. Hee Haw and Grand Ol' Opry appearances (thank you, YouTube, for not coming along until years later).

Dad drove me to the audition at the Chapel at Berea College and at first they said, "No."  Dad, my champion, stepped in and said, "Give my boy one more chance."  

I took the stage (chapel) one more time and belted what I'm sure what must have been a Southern Baptist hymn that contradicted the whole notion of musical theatre, but what the closeted theatre liberals at this somewhat conservative production must have found cute and enchanting.  To this day, I don't know what my stage dad did behind the scenes, but it must have been a page from the Lorna Bell Bundy Playbook. (He may have even written that for her:  He's long dead, but he was first.) 

I was cast.

Two weeks later, mom and dad drove me to Berea for my seasonal stint as what still to this day I consider My Summer as a Chorus Girl. 

Last words from Dad, when he dropped me off at the Senior Dorm at Berea (which HE had negotiated--- Really Good Digs), before the Goodbye Hug.  "There are effeminate people in theater. That does not mean they are....he did not complete the sentence.  GAY."

These people took their historic place in Kentucky outdoor drama seriously.  I loved being around the cast that had, in some cases, been cast locally, and more times than not, from mysterious places from the hell of what was then summer casting just so you can put something on your resume.

You would think I would have come out of the closet that summer.  After all, I was the one in the Senior Berea Dorm that had the Evita White Album.  But I was afraid.

I was afraid of me.  I now understand that I was afraid of me.  Not dad, mom, conservative upbringing:  Me.

I did not come out that summer.  At all.  Even with the Evita album.  High Flying, Adored. Too afraid. Weak is different from terrified, to be clear.

As RENT plays this summer, in my own now-proclaimed hometown, I have chosen not to attend.  One could say it is because it is too damn hot to leave the house.  One could say I've seen the brilliant Pulitzer Prize, Tony Winner 9 times. Enough Already.  But there really is no excuse other than this:

It is simply too emotional of a theatrical experience for me to imagine outdoors, amongst the smuggled sangria and blankies and well-intended local theatre supporters.

No doubt, the audience will experience joy, pathos, and sing along (is there a RENT HEAD front row?).

I can't go.  But I sing the body electric for all of you who are there.  The various sponsors, including Ace Weekly, Joe Artz and the SummerFest Team.  The amazing director T. Bonner who I stood on the line with in A Chorus Line years ago in the Lexington Musical Theatre production when I performed the role of Mike.  "I Can Do That".  And truth:  I really couldn't.  But the applause was addicting.

So, I'm not going.  I've written One Last Song.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Remains of the Day

"Everyone tells you the trip to Europe is exhausting," I wrote in my journal on May 30, 1983, "and everything they say is true."

I've been hearing and thinking about "getting rid of" lately.  Trips to literal or figurative garages.  Basements (ew).  Snakes.  Really bad yearbook photos.  Toss.  Look through.  Remember.  Spiders.  Rotten potatoes.  Even, yes, something as fresh as yesterday's Big Fridge Clean Out that my Life Hope Tom does from time to time, in the chance of creating something extraordinary out of the odd swiveled carrot at the bottom of the veggie bin. Stone Soup.

For some unknown reason, I held on to something that may very well be the most succinct, tiny volumn of my early life that changed me for good.  Be careful what you toss, into a salad or otherwise.

I discovered it the other day.  In the attic of my the house Tom and I own. Not mom and dad's house. Ours. Readers younger than I reading this: You, too will some day have an attic.  At least, I grant that you will, because this is what I discovered.  And I feel 22 years old tonight.  Be careful what you purge.

Excerpts from this courdoroy-bound journal.  The spelling and grammar are mine, unedited from the remains of the days:

Battle Gear:  Eurail Youth Pass, International Student ID, International Youth Hostil ID, Personal ID Card

PFANDER:  Second day in Bregenz.  Climbed to the top of Pfander and viewed Alps.  One hour and a half climb. View spectacular!  Exhausting!!

Food I:  The Goldener Hirsch is our daily eating place.  Pork is delicious in barbecue sauce.  "Eis Krem" is delicious stands on Bondensee shore. Vanille and Erdherre.  Wiener Snitzel is a pork fillet served with lemon and was my very first Austrian meal.  Lasagna is good at most cafes and cost about $4.00.  Coup Danemark is a great chocolate ice cream dessert.  Pommes Frites are french fries and are served very often.

Munich:  Saturday night Jim, Anita, Jan and I decided to go somewhere other than the touristee Haufbrauhaus, so we went to what is similar to Times Square, Leopoldstrasse in search of a disco in Frommer's Guide called FLASH, but never found it.

Accomodations:  Haus International.  $10 a person, 5 in a room.  Indoor pool.

There is more to come from this journal.  I may or not post it here, but it sure felt good to write this much.  And you cannot believe how musky from your own attic smells better once you take a deep breath and start to read how young you were.  And are.  Journey on, all of us.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Stand Before Your God

Paul Watkins begins his memoir "I swear I thought I was going to a party."

How many of us grew up with similar literary soft, hard pillows:

"Mother's Younger Brother was in love with Evelyn Nesbit...He could no longer look at the silhouettes.  He wanted to pack his heart with gunpowder and blow it up."

"I'm stuck by the gap between romance and reality, between my fantasy even now of how such a conversation "ought" to have happened (violins, lit candles revolving in the sky) and the sadness that accompanies the real thing."

Here's Conroy:  "I was famous among my roomates for my mercurial mood-swings.  But they excepted my melancholy as some distorted mirror image of my own overwrought flights of euphoria."

I'm pretty sure Silas House wrote for me when he says, through Anneth, "All my life I've been looking for magic in all the wrong places."

And, yes, I too have been afraid of putting air in a tire ever since that tire blew up and threw Newt Hardbine's father over the top of the Standard Oil sign. 

Now, on the eve of the weekend of the 26th anniversary of my Own Special Protagonist, my central character, the author our our life together, I write:

To be inspired is to be alive.
To get each other is to challenge beliefs and hardships.
To love is to prepare for less than and tingle when it happens and sting when sometimes it doesn't.
To count the days is more important than counting the years or decades.
To not understand that any time with a lover, friend, lifemate is a daily joy is a mistake.
The most important thing is to breathe.  One's own breathe.
My own breathe.
In concert with his and ready to change the cadence, because individuals are marching their own lives.
But the band is ours.
The leader is the heart.
Marching, side by side, sometime
And others, marching with a different music.
But the same beat.
Our hearts.
The leader of the band oversees our every move.
And the breath.  To breathe.  
To be prepared to live the next parade.
To be inspired to be alive.

I love you, Tom.