Oh, the Lark of it all!
I thought it might be interesting to audition for my junior class play. My neighbor, Ed Howard, one of the most interesting folks knew at that time, was a frequent player at the Butler Play House and he had mentioned to me that drama allows you to live outside yourself. Sounded interesting to me!
The play was a Moss Hart comedy known to a generation of Turner Classic fans, “You Can’t Take It with You”. I read for a part and did a pretty bad job but I was no worse, I suppose, than others – or was it just that there were only so many readers and lots of parts. I “won” the role of Mr. Kirby and was pleased because many of my favorite classmates were in the cast as well.
We had the usual drill of rehearsals, blocking studies, costume ideas and all the falderal that goes with such dramatic efforts. Our first performance was for the school during the regular day and we did an acceptable job. Bob and Buddy were hilarious as the guys who made fireworks in the basement. Larry portrayed “Ed” who “played” the xylophone while a taped recording of what might have been Lionel Hampton working at warp speed blared unrealistically from speakers in the ceiling. Louanna was perfect as an aspiring ballet dancer. I did get a laugh when wrestling with the ballet instructor Rascolincov, who was played by my debate partner George, tossed me to the stage floor. Mrs. Kirby reminisced about our honeymoon in Hot Springs, offering a double entendre that, despite Barbara’s great delivery, was lost on the young audience. After the curtain call we got a pat on the back from Mrs. Walters and prepared for the second performance the next evening which would allow our parents and other theater goers from Saxonburg to see our work.
All went well until into the third act, Dave Logan acting as “Grandpa” decided to inject, in the words of that popular icon of the day, Mary Poppins, “an element of fun.” He substituted the term “bouillon cube” for several nouns during his otherwise correct delivery. The heresy spread like typhoid and soon others joined in. The “joke” for some reason was hilarious to about half the cast and, like the SNL cast could do on occasion, we “lost it”. Others in the cast tried to hold the show on track. This was probably the tonic needed to drag us through to the closing prayer offered by “Grandpa” which contained several bouillon cube nouns. As we “prayed” around the table, we were stifling guffaws. The final curtain fell.
I am not sure the spirit of comedy was honored that evening but some of us in the cast sure had a good laugh. We did not do justice to Mrs. Walters, our faculty advisor, who was as wonderful a teacher as I ever had. I hope it caused her no pain or embarrassment. I can’t help thinking we might have ruined a great experience for my dear friend, Rita, the student director. Still, when having dinner 40 years later with the “ballet dancer” and her husband the “lighting supervisor” we were able to recall the entire thing with a good chuckle. “What WERE we thinking?”