The Tony Awards are on tonight. I like watching them because it brings back memories of when I was in theater productions when I was in high school and college. Sometimes in the orchestra pit, and sometimes on stage.
In high school, I was in Bye, Bye, Birdie. I didn’t have a big part. I was in the chorus. Basically, I just stood in the background and sang.
In college, the first production I was in was Guys and Dolls. I got promoted. My character had a name (Liver Lips Louie) and I had a one line solo in The Oldest Established number.
During one of our performances, when we were to be dancing and singing in the sewer, the music started but the curtain didn’t open when it was supposed to. Some guys went out on stage and started the number and some guys didn’t. When the curtain finally opened about 1/4 of the way through there was major confusion. Guys started running on stage and trying to catch up. It was a big mess.
The night of the big mess up, James Bridges the director (The Paper Chase, Urban Cowboy, The China Syndrome, among others) was in the audience. He had gone to my college and he was in town to film a movie there (9/30/55). It starred Richard Thomas of The Waltons fame, Dennis Quaid, Thomas Hulce, and Lisa Blount, a girl that I went to high school and graduated with. My mom worked for her Dad’s laser company. It was to be her first role. She also appeared in An Officer and a Gentleman as Debra Winger’s best friend. She would later win an Academy Award for live action short film in 2001. She died in 2010.
Anyway, James Bridges was in the audience that night to find extras for his film. Two of the guys got small speaking roles. I was just in the background in the marching band and parade scenes. You can see me for about a microsecond in the movie.
We filmed for about a week and I got to see Richard Thomas in his underwear when we were changing into our wardrobe at the same time. Plus, the wardrobe lady told me that the pants I was wearing were worn by Paul Newman in one of his movies. I don’t know if she was lying or not, but I told that story to people for years.
The next year, I got a part in The Gingerbread Lady by Neil Simon. I played Manuel. It was a small part, but a had several lines. I always got big laughs. This is also when I learned that you don’t mention MacBeth, or whistle in a dressing room.
Then I did Three on a Bench. It was a one act play. I had to eat tuna fish sandwiches during the performance. During one performance I totally skipped ahead in the dialogue and it threw everybody off. Important plot points were totally left out.
I also did a play where I played a cop and talked some guy out of jumping from a bridge. I totally can’t remember what it was.
Halfway through my junior year, my advisor, and my percussion instructor told me to quit hanging out in the drama department and doing plays. They said it was interfering with my music education. So, I stopped.
But, every year I watch the Tonys I remember how much fun it was.
ps. Kevin Spacey was the host of the Emmys last year. What a weird and strange difference a year makes.
pss. and yes, I made this about me and not the Tony Awards