On Being Remarkable

I had called it “Kitsap Little Theater.” Our first production was a one-act play called The Day After Forever, and as the 17-year-old director and producer, I took the whole thing very seriously.

It wasn’t my first theatrical endeavor. In the fifth grade, I got involved with a group of kids who had been rehearsing a student-penned play during recesses. When I gave them my "new and improved" version of their script, unsolicited mind you, I was instantly named the play's new director. That might have had something to do with the subsequent departure of the original play's authors/directors, but such a correlation has yet to be proven. Anyway, I was thrust into directorship at a tender age. How very Charlie Brown.

The play made a favorable impression on school-assembly audiences. Ever the marketer/opportunist, I immediately attempted to launch a sequel. However, my follow-up piece, which had something to do with mice and Christmas, never made it on the boards. My later PTA-sponsored attempt at the Broadway musical The Pajama Game didn't make it on the boards either, the big failure of my adolescent life. Of course, in retrospect I know dealing with my own adolescent turmoil along with a cast comprised solely of adolescents, might would have been too much for anyone, but because of that failure, I approached my later theatrical endeavors as a young man with something to prove.

Originally I had intended my fledgling Kitsap Little Theater to produce the play Arsenic and Old Lace, but only three people auditioned. I told the auditionees I was the production's stage manager. These were experienced community theater folk, and I was afraid they might balk at a teenage producer/director. I don’t know how I expected to make the “real” director materialize, especially since I had already given her a name and identity, but since we never made it into rehearsals I was spared the trouble.

Instead of facing defeat, I rounded up a few very loyal friends from my Pajama Game debacle and settled on producing one of those more "intimate" small cast shows. One of the community theater women from the previous audition actually stuck around and played a role. I don’t know if she believed my story about the “real” director, whom I claimed had quit the whole affair because of a low turnout at auditions, or if she actually stayed around because she wanted to support my effort. Looking back, I suspect the latter.

Actually, a second community theater woman initially stuck around too, for a few rehearsals anyway, before coming up with some excuse to bow out. Because of that, along with my "show must go on" attitude, The Day After Forever presented my first experience playing a role in drag. That is another story entirely and not one I like to talk about, but I was able to make lemonade out of those lemons a few years later when I got to play the cross-dressing Francis Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I’m not sure why I decided to use the words “little theater” in the name of the group other than because there were a few theater groups I had read about and admired with similar names. But to me at the time, it was always about the dream of a theater group, a little theater, and never about the fact most of us in the group were . . . little.

Looking back now, I realize I missed the real marketing opportunity. The very thing I worked so hard to downplay was also the very thing that made the entire theatrical venture so remarkable. How many teenagers would post audition notices and hold auditions, find a place to rehearse, gather a cast, rent an auditorium and advertise the production with zero budget (not counting those old Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney movies)? If I had known how remarkable a thing that really was and understood the true implications behind the name Kitsap Little Theater, perhaps more than a half dozen people would have witnessed our two or three performances.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said:
Don’t say things. What you are stands over you the while, and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary. (Social Aims, 1876)
Sometimes the things which make us truly remarkable may be obvious to everyone but ourselves.