Each year, the Hamden Middle School drama department put on two performances. The first one was a play and the second one was a musical. None of the musicals were popular or even known. The teacher sent away to a company to receive little known scripts. He was always very passionate about them and soon it became a well known rumor that he was writing them himself.
After working the light board for the play, I decided to try out for the musical. The only problem was that you had to get on the stage and sing. It didn't matter what, you just had to get up there and do it. If only I had the karaoke confidence I had today I wouldn't have gone up there and choked out a soft voiced rendition of "Happy Birthday".
Somehow, I made it into the play. The show was called "Rock and Roll". Not Rock n Roll, but "Rock and Roll," and I was playing the “Stubs,” second of three members of a motorcycle gang. About a week into the audition process, the lead motorcycle gang member, “Hubs,” was promoted to play a bigger role, and I was bumped up to the gang leader.
The costume budget for a public school musical is not exactly hemorrhaging money, so we were asked to bring in a lot of our own costumes. Thankfully, being a 1950’s high school show, many of the characters were able to get by with jeans and t-shirts. Not Hubs, he had to have a black leather jacket, something nobody in my family owned. Thankfully my first girlfriend, Lindsey, was able to procure one for me. It was only at the end of the performance that I noticed it was a woman’s jacket and had belonged to her mother.
There would be three performances of the show in one weekend, Thursday through Saturday. Before the first performance one of the teachers showed me how to draw on realistic looking sideburns using a mascara brush. I thought it looked so cool that for the second performance I drew on an entire beard – a bit much for someone who was supposed to be a high school street tough. It came off realistic enough for someone in the crowd to ask my mother if I grew it out just for the show, to which she replied “No, my 14 year old son did not grow a beard for the musical.”
On the second night my parents and sister brought me congratulations balloons. They had brought the same exact balloons for me on the first night, but they accidentally let go of them. When telling me this, they pointed up and the first balloons were still resting on the ceiling of the auditorium.
I liked being on the stage. Despite wearing a woman's leather jacket, a mascara beard and only being in 4 scenes, it was fun. The musical it self was kind of a blur – it was mainly a rip off of Grease. I was only involved in one song, and it was about French fries. The cast would go in on weekends and double as the crew, building the set and painting backdrops. My high school had an award winning theater department and I was ready to continue on that path. I used my new found love of the theater to earn a role in the high school’s fall performance of Bye, Bye Birdie as one of the adults. It was so much bigger and more time consuming that I eventually dropped out when it began affecting my grades.