The Year I Exploded

My Real Memoir

Exploded creatively, that is. Although La Mirada High wasn’t an official school of the arts, a growing number of us were essentially “majoring” in music and drama. The previous year, our yearbook had noted that we were one of only twenty-six high schools in the nation doing four plays a year.

During my junior year, we did five.

I was in all five, plus a touring one-act play. I was also our school’s newspaper cartoonist and had four pieces in our end-of-the-year literary journal. In addition, I was in two a cappella groups, the Madrigals and the Barber Shop Quartet. No, I wasn’t a fan of barber shop music (I considered it hopelessly hokey), but was shanghaied by our choir teacher Mr. Brock. But, dude, it was fun singing four-part harmonies!—and it primed me for the Beatles-esque harmonies I’d sing in a future rock group. Later that year, my guidance counselor said, “Mitch, you’re a jack-of-all-arts. Just stay away from math.”

The tireless dynamo behind our drama juggernaut, Mr. Baker, decided to kick off our kippered-theatre season by rehearsing the first play Time Out for Ginger before school started. This not only allowed him to squeeze five plays into the school year, but to cast actual authenticated adults in the adult roles! These included three well-loved teachers, Mr. Baker himself, and his wife Beverly, a professional actress and well-regarded college theatre teacher.

Wannabe football player Ginger was played by my grammar school crush Belynda (a role performed professionally by Liza Minelli), her uptight older sister Joan by my once-and-future girlfriend Martha. I still thought Belynda was adorable and was seriously reconsidering Martha. But did I get to kiss either of them? Nooooo! Because I was the bully Eddie (played on Broadway by Steve McQueen) who is ultimately flattened George McFly-style by Ginger’s cuddly nerd boyfriend.

Our featherweight Ginger was a smash, and it was followed forthwith by the heavyweight prisoner-of-war drama Stalag 17. How intense was it? It featured a newly-transferred drama student, a brilliant actor named David (we would work together professionally a decade later). David played a Jewish character Harry Shapiro, who, when a murderous informant, Price, is revealed, shoves him out the door to be gunned down by Nazi guards. David, who happened to be Jewish, was so caught up in the moment on opening night that he slammed the very non-Nazi student actor Greg into a post, splitting open his eyebrow. As compensation, once off-stage, Greg received a unique theatrical memento, multiple stitches at the local ER.

On a positive note, the cast of Stalag 17 also included my childhood BFs Rory and Jeff, as well as my new BFs Jeph (that was how he spelled it) and Marc. Shortly after Christmas, Marc, Jeff with no ph and I would launch our first rock band. Quirkily, but rather appropriately, we would name our new band The Luscious Naipseht. “Naipseht” being the word…

Thespian spelled backward.

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

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
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37 Responses to The Year I Exploded

  1. Belinda O says:

    Sounds like you had a lot of fun…but what about academics? Or was your school gracious enough to give you plenty of credits for the creative stuff? I wish my junior year had been half as exciting!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Wow, what theatrics indeed! Sounds extremely memorable 😁

    Liked by 2 people

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  4. K.L. Hale says:

    What an explosive unforgettable year! In my tiny town it took us ALL year to nail Annie Get Your Gun and then we advanced to the Pirates of Penzance …what were we thinking? We needed a Mitch, Jeph, Jeff, and all the girls ;),…some of us COULD’VE formed a rock band or gone up to higher theatrical debuts….but,…oh well! How fun, Mitch! I love teasing about your life!! It brings up memories for my own. I love the times in which you were young and how we get the pleasure to read and know! 💛

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Junior year was my theatre year in high school as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. kerbey says:

    I’m assuming you did not sleep that year.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Nancy Ruegg says:

    We only did two plays per year, plus a Spring Musical, but we were also “short-studented.” The school was new, opening with just freshmen and sophomores. I was a member of that sophomore class. Over the next two years, as we moved up, the school grew to include the full high school program. They allowed us as freshman (at the old, existing school) to choose our colors and school mascot–that was fun! I have to hand it to Mr. Bracken, our speech and drama coach, who took on three plays and a musical our senior year. The third play, Christ in the Concrete City by P.W. Turner, probably wouldn’t be “acceptable” to perform in public schools today. We took that play “on the road” and performed at seven different churches that spring. Wonderful memories–and you’ve brought them all back, Mitch!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Did you ever catch up on all the sleep you missed!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. You always inspire me and make me laugh. Great guy – great life. Thanks, Mitch!
    Especially chuckled at: “Naipseht” being the word…Thespian spelled backward.” Of course!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. You learned English, history, writing, etc. memorizing scripts about everything. Rock band music taught you math (apparently, in your case “Twinkle Little Star” math) and you had loads of fun learning it. That’s a win, win for you, especially since you’re still using the skills you learned in high school drama class.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Ana Daksina says:

    “jack-of-all-arts. Just stay away from math”! 🤣

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Dang, I guess you did explode!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Oh, Mitch, you always, always bring me a smile or laugh. I enjoy reading your memoirs so much.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. R Michael Gros says:

    Loved this remembrance. I went to HS with the daughters of Ron Alexander, author of “Time Out for Ginger.” I got know him really well. He once introduced me as his king-lost son to a bunch of Film and Broadway folks, including David Merrick! I’m still friends with one of the daughters.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Jon says:

    Hey! Math is an art.

    Liked by 1 person

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