A Father's Journal / The acting apple did fall far from the tree
Normally, I would rather have someone jab a sharp stick in my eye than sit through a child's play or recital. If my kid is in it, that's different. I signed up for that. I go willingly. However, I do not expect friends to come to my child's plays, and I don't want to see their kid's plays. My wife is different; she loves to see other kids in plays and invites her friends to see our children's stuff.
Fairfield Ludlowe High School's production of "Oklahoma!" was different. It was good. Even if my child were not in it, I would have sat through it. I wouldn't have voluntarily gone, but once there I would have sat through it. It was that good. They had lighting, microphones, an orchestra, and a nice set. The principle actors could actually sing. Most of my attention was focused on my daughter Caroline who was listed in the program as an "Oklahoman." She did not have a name like some of the other characters, but she sang and danced as an ensemble player. Caroline and her friends Maddie, Katie and Ashley did great. When they sang the title song, "Oklahoma," I could actually feel the wind come sweeping down the plains. It reminded me of my high school thespian career. The lights, the smell of grease paint and the applause of the audience.
The difference, at my high school, was we had only two giant army surplus lights, no sound and the only make up we had was an eyebrow pencil. We didn't have a beautiful auditorium with a sound system. As actors, we had to set up folding chairs in the community center before the play.
I got into acting because they announced that there were 10 girls for every boy who tried out. The drama department pleaded for more guys. I figured with those odds I could do okay. There had to be cast parties etc, so I thought I could take my pick.
I was cast as a feeble old man. The problem was, I was six-foot-five and no one else on the stage was over five foot four. Since we didn't have an excellent make up department like Ludlowe, someone backstage used an eyebrow pencil to put lines on my face. They then parted my hair and sprayed on what appeared to be that white Christmas tree flocking stuff. It was supposed to make me look old. Since we didn't have a wardrobe department, I wore my dad's suit; dad was about five-foot-11. There were was some gaps in my clothing. At the time, I couldn't tie the tie so dad tied it in the morning and I kept it on a chair until showtime.
I remember my mother and little sisters attended along with my brother Patrick and friend Steve. Patrick and Steve threatened to stand on the folding chairs to try to make me laugh.
My big moment finally arrived; I strolled out on the stage as this huge feeble old man, wearing a very small suit, and a Christmas tree on my head. I settled in amongst my midget cast members, said my five or six lines then took off my prop reading glasses that I got from my mom. (No props department.) I then tried to stuff the glasses into my breast pocket. Since I wasn't used to a tie, or the glasses, the glasses got caught on the tie. This didn't happen in rehearsal. I was so nervous that I just kept trying to shove the glasses and the tie into my pocket for about five minutes, until I heard the crash. Apparently, Steve and Patrick discovered that jumping on folding chairs is not safe. I didn't know it was them because the two large lights we had scrounged up blinded everyone. I took the opportunity to remove my tie and glasses and decided the safe thing would be just to hold onto the glasses until the end of the play.
When I walked out to greet my adoring public, it was just my younger sisters standing there. No flowers. Nothing. The 10 girls that still hadn't warmed up to me got flowers.
My sister said, "Mom said you have to give us a ride home."
I replied. "What! Where's mom? I can't give you a ride home. I want to go to the cast party."
"Steve and Patrick fell off their chairs, and I think mom's taking them to the doctor. You have to take Ellen and me home. Hey, what's that crap in your hair?"
I reached up and felt the asbestos laden flocking material still in my hair.
"Never mind. Let's go home"
I didn't even help them put away the chairs.
Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "Father's Journal" appears every other Wednesday in the Fairfield Citizen. He can he reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.