The Prince of Drama

My Real Memoir

We had one elective. It might have been Creative Writing if I hadn’t had something to prove. I’d gotten sick right before the 6th Grade Talent Show. Everyone was sympathetic, even my parents, and the TV ad spoof I’d written was well-received. But I knew the real reason I’d baled-out last second: it was because I was a sniveling, craven, cowardy custard!

True, I’d told stories and done funny character voices in elementary school, even planned a professional stage production starring me and Debbie Reynolds (emphasis on “planned”). But I’d never actually been on stage! So I had to take Drama. And I knew I could do it because, after all, I was an Actor!

Mr. Baxter begged to differ. He was something almost unheard of in a junior high school drama teacher: a professional! True, he’d taken this demeaning suburban day job to pay the bills, but he had “a life in the theatre” and even ran a professional acting workshop in Hollywood! Whereas I, Mr. Baxter made clear from the start, was simply a class clown (observe the four cut-ups in the back of the Drama Class photo, with notes added by me at age 13).

All right, it was true, I loved making people laugh. But I’d done tragic characters too, ones that had actually made people cry—well, made me cry anyway when I watched myself performing them in the bathroom mirror.

I tried to prove myself by begging Mom to drive me to one of Mr. Baxter’s Hollywood acting workshops. It was in a converted store just off “the strip” (Sunset Blvd.). None of the other actors had their moms with them (possibly because they were in their 20s and 30s), so she hung out in the back. When Mr. Baxter finally called me up front to read a scene with a woman my mom’s age, I was spectacularly…not awful. Still, I didn’t, in Mr. Baxter’s words, “make it real.”

Nevertheless, Mr. Baxter threw me a bone. He’d chosen a one-act murder mystery for our school. The lead roles were played by serious actors—8th graders who’d learned their craft at the master’s hands. I was given a tiny role as the play’s comedy-relief character, an Inspector with just seven one-word lines, all either a “Yep” or a “Nope.”

Even during the actual performance (I was terrified, but, hey, I went on!), I couldn’t remember which was which. Another character would ask me, “Is that the murder weapon, Inspector?” And I would reply, “Yep.” And then the entire cast would whisper, “Nope” under their breath, and I’d say, “Nope.” And on it went. The audience roared, certain it was all intentional, et voilá,

I was a star.

But Mr. Baxter knew the truth. Shortly before he resigned at the end of my 7th grade year, he gave me a look, and I knew exactly what it meant:

“Make it real, Mitch.”

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Humor, Memoir and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to The Prince of Drama

  1. I had a nightmare the other night about when I didn’t try out for the junior class play. I was chided that if people didn’t try out (class of 33 students), they’d just give up the play. So, I got the lead. I hated it.

    The next year, I got the part of the older woman. At least some of the lines were funny.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. When I lived in Connecticut I was in community theater and loved it. June Havoc ran an actor’s class and I auditioned for it. I got in and loved that as well. All came to end with the call of organized commerce. I do remember the fear on that first entrance. I use to write my first line on the back of the flat so I could see it before going onstage and once uttered I was okay. Terrific post.

    Liked by 6 people

  3. Ana Daksina says:

    Before an onstage singing appearance in grade 7, I’d nervously rolled up the accompanyist’s music. It collapsed off her piano mid song, leaving the most silent silent silence in the whole universe around that stage… 😂

    Liked by 2 people

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  5. you’re still a star!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. AJ Hauser says:

    Ah, nobody likes a cowardy custard! 😀

    Liked by 3 people

  7. You always do, Mitch. God bless.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Pam Webb says:

    Oh, I relate to this, Mitch. For all my love of the theatre, I cannot memorize lines. I botched it badly playing Horatio on the Folger teacher workshop stage and I even had the script in hand! Improv bodes better for me. I imagine for you as well.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. gwengrant says:

    So interesting and funny!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. A very entertaining post!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. gpavants says:

    Fun, Mitch. Great to look back to look forward.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Mitch, you had a couple more lines than I did at summer camp. We did a production of “Annie Get Your Gun” (and no, I didn’t get the role of Annie). I played a “native American,” and the part consisted of accompanying someone on stage wrapped in a blanket and keeping a poker face for the whole scene. My counselor said I “stole the scene,” but I don’t think the rest of the scene could have been THAT bad. :/

    Liked by 2 people

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