Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The principal of the thing


The above is a photo of a program from a high school musical performed at my alma mater of Ravenswood Penitentiary High School in 1976, courtesy of my Facebook pal and high school chum Pami…and the significance of that production was that it served as the the-a-tah debut of your humble narrator, who was only in seventh grade at the time.  Do we have a picture of this?  Yes, we do…get a gander at the nerd in the top right corner (you might have to click to embiggen):


Nyaaahhh!!!  Talk about a geek!  (I am proud to admit, by the way, that I was voted in my high school yearbook “Most Likely to Be Pantsed During Gym Class.”)  Old-time radio and classic TV fans are familiar with the source material of this play as the long-running sitcom starring Eve Arden as America’s favorite schoolteacher—but apart from the character of Connie Brooks there’s very little in the actual stage musical that resembles OMB.  Connie’s object of affection in the stage version is a high school coach named “Hugo”, and the benevolent dictator in charge of the high school answers to “Mr. Wordsworth,” not “Osgood Conklin.”

I got the part in this play because my music teacher, Joyce Good (Pitchford), suggested I try out—I used to get extra credit points in her class by being my natural hambone self and she encouraged me to channel that energy into good and not evil.  I think I may have been the only one in the cast who was familiar with the radio/TV show (well, I had heard a few of the radio broadcasts—my exposure to the video version would come later) and all I really did in the play was imitate Gale Gordon.  In recognition of my talent for mimicry, I won the “Best Actor” trophy handed out yearly by the high school theatre department…and according to its director, the wonderful Lonnie Brewster; it was the first time he had given the award to an underclassman (seventh grader).

Anyway, I thought you might get a kick out of seeing what a doofus I was in high school (yes, I know that a good many of you are stunned by this revelation).  And incidentally, the title of this post is not one of my typically terrible puns—that’s the actual song I got to sing in this thing.  Sometime back, another Facebook friend (and the man who encouraged my early writing efforts), Forrest Poston, told me he still had his cassette copy of the play…complete with my vocals.  (I pray this does not fall into the wrong hands.)  In fact, I remember seeing Forrest backstage during one of the play’s performances (he was there to review it for the school paper) and he was telling me that I was “layin’ them in the aisles.”

“How’d my song go over?” I asked him.  After the longest pregnant pause in the history of the theater, he continued: “Yes sirree, boy…layin’ them in the aisles…”

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10 comments:

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

I am so sorry to have missed your theatrical debut. Geek? C'mon, with those matinee idol looks, you must have had followers by the dozens at the stage door every night.

Wish I could have heard that Gale Gordon impersonation. Best Actor and everything.

Rich said...

Wait, how does seventh grade qualify as high school?

Stacia said...

ADORABLE. I'm glad you posted this, it's hilarious, entertaining AND it proves you're not a replicant.

she encouraged me to channel that energy into good and not evil

What a spoil-sport!

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Wait, how does seventh grade qualify as high school?

Well, it doesn't -- it was a high school production, but I was still an underclassman at the time. And yet, through the sheer force of my talent, I was able to challenge the orthodoxy back then and appear on the high school stage. (Okay, I wasn't the only one who did this -- my fellow classmate Jeannie, who's also in one of the pictures above, was in the show, too, as "Elsie." Her brother Timmy was also in the play [as "Martin"], proving that nepotism can rear its ugly head even in a small WV town.)

Even back then, Rich, I was a rebel...on the crux of my lifelong dedication to sticking it to The Man.

M. Bouffant said...

I attended a 7-12 school, but seventh & eighth grades were known as the Lower School, & we were kept in our own bldg., well away from the upperclassmen.

But the real question is who played Snoopy in this production? (A significant departure from the source material.)

And cracking up over "auditeria." Better than multi-purpose room, admittedly.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

we were kept in our own bldg., well away from the upperclassmen

We had the same deal at my school...it was known as "the annex."

But the real question is who played Snoopy in this production? (A significant departure from the source material.)

I can only speculate as to why RHS wasn't sued for blatant copyright infringement was that Charles Schulz had other things on his plate.

And cracking up over "auditeria." Better than multi-purpose room, admittedly.

Another example of "sticking it to The Man." Functions like that were always supposed to refer to the venue as the "cafetorium," but Miss Good got a little rambunctious.

Pam said...

OMG! Where are the Li'l Abner pictures?

On a typical day, if I had my druthers, I'd rag offen the bush with Jubilations T. Cornpone and namely you. Because progress is the root of all evil, even though what's good for General Bullmoose is an unnecessary town. Although I'm past my prime - so it's a typical day.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

OMG! Where are the Li'l Abner pictures?

I don't think we took the same kind of photos for that play's program that we did for OMB. There might be a stray yearbook picture, but all my treasured high school memorabilia is stashed away securely in my father's unpenetrable storage shed.

The Lady Eve said...

Ivan - You were not a bit dorkier than any other 7th grader who ever trod American soil. Is there any chance you could get a copy of the cassette your friend has and somehow upload it and link to it...and continue "layin' them in the aisles" ?

Pam said...

I went to a college where the music department was the largest at the school. Students were required to give many performances during the four years. So...we all went to lots of recitals.

I always struggled with what to say afterwards when a performance was... shall we say, not up to snuff. Some people would be brutally blunt ("Well...that sucked."). I just couldn't do that (I know...you don't believe that). So I came up with, "You looked lovely!"

My new line will be "Yes sirree, boy…layin’ them in the aisles…" SO much better.