Saturday, February 4, 2012

I See By Your Outfit / Part One

Bookseller, actor, theatre owner and producer, author.
Casting director for film, theatre director.
New York actor, writer, teacher in Japan for 28 years.
Software developer
College theatre professors in California and Nebraska.
Senior Lecturer and Coordinator of Creative Writing in Stockholm.
Freelance journalists.
Author and editor of The Advocate in Los Angeles.
Madame Librarian.
Editor and author.
Art historian.

What we become, the artistic, fortunate youths, with an outlet for theatrical adventures in Baton Rouge, all attracted like moths to mates, to peak experiences, a cross section of youth everywhere, the adopted, the verbally and sexually abused, ones unsure of sexual leanings and some who consider themselves aberrations because of it, the over-sheltered girls whose parents consider theatre a playground of the Devil and his Corrupters of morals, the merely directionless with closed avenues everywhere they look, the sad, the shy, the well-adjusted, all banded together as conspirators in the creation of Art, fulfilled and thrilled by their accomplishments, by their sense of belonging.

A hot gym, echoey, an entire wall of windows facing 10th Street, bottom windows opening outward and doing nothing more than serving as an airfoil for the hot breeze flowing along the building, basketball goals on each end, a proscenium stage on one end with barely enough wing space for set pieces and actors waiting for cues. But it is the hardwood firmament from which dreams are launched.

Teen Town Theatre.

A musical every summer. Those without automobiles catch rides on humid summer mornings for a day of building sets and gathering props and sewing costumes and memorizing lines before rehearsal in the afternoon. It is an everyday thing, something to look forward to while other friends the same age hang around swimming pools or cruise neighborhood streets without destination. Two or three plays during the year, catching rides after the last school bell and heading downtown for the same routine and rehearsal in the evening.

In time, shows adding up, crushes unspoken, painful first real romances, facing audiences with learned lines and surviving, thriving, knowing so much is out there to blunt the fear and slowness of growing up, word gets around and some are lying, sneaking to work on shows at TTT, parents somehow finding out about nightly trips to Sammy’s Lounge to hear Nelrose English pounding the keys while older singers around the piano bar are howling out dirty lyrics, congenial booze hounds with upturned faces, teenagers edging closer to the bar, prized bar stools coming open, raising drinks and voices, wise to the world of show tunes and bawdy ballads.

Some nights after rehearsal, long before the interstate, long trips down Highway 90, through small towns with speed zones and neon-lighted bars in gravel parking lots, heading toward New Orleans and the dark mystery of jazz, Alan Jokinen carrying his guitar, looking every bit like Conrad he plays in Bye Bye Birdie, leading us to smoky French Quarter apartments where there are other musicians and girls dressed in black like characters out of experimental plays, apartment doors thrown open to enclosed patios crowded with plants, girls named Sissy and Decky with dark eye shadow and pretty faces who take notice, unexpected twists, night-long romances.

1 comment:

  1. And there's the gist of it all. Always hoped that I would one 8:00 morning run into Nelrose English at the Toddle House where we would have a husky chat over coffee and cigarettes.