December 30th, 2002

abstract butterfly

The King and I

Last night I watched The Sound of Music on television. I do not know if this was the first movie I ever saw (perhaps it was Mary Poppins), but it was one of the first. When the movie began, I was not sure I could see it yet again, but soon I was following along with the songs--I remember all but a few of the words. I like that musical very much, for all its superficiality.

When I was eight years old, I was one of the children in an Arkadelphia, Arkansas community theater production of "The King and I". Although the children roles in that play are in the main numerous, walk-on and chorus-y, many more children showed up to audition for the roles than the number of roles available. The odd spectacle ensued of fevered auditions for bit parts. I remember standing in the Arkadelphia school cafeteria, singing my audition song, "Let's Go Fly a Kite", from Mary Poppins. I knew I was a sure thing, because with the aid of amplification, I made the windows rattle. When one is eight, rattling windows with song is a good sign. I could also sing a fairly mean "Getting to Know You" and a credible "Whistle a Happy Tune",which got me through the second audition. The fellow they cast as Anna's son was arguably three sizes too large for the role, but he could hit the notes beautifully.

I remember the commute to rehearsals (just how many times does one have to rehearse to sing "Getting to Know You" and to do the "March of the Siamese Children"?), acting precocious among older kids and adults (using a collection of trivia I gleaned from the World Book Encyclopedia, as well as riddles I made up, without a noticeable gift for doing so). The woman who played Anna had a costume hoop skirt. I thought it was so exotic and theatrical. Our church choir director did the part of the eldest wife, who gets to sing "Something Wonderful". I have this vague impression that parts of my personality were formed listening to people repeatedly sing lines like: "he has a thousand dreams, that won't come true, you know that he believes in them, and that's enough for you". I still remember having my hair dyed jet black for my role, with dye sprayed directly from a can. In those days, it seemed as though an aerosol can was always preferable to other alternatives for doing just about anything. Some place deep down, I feel a lack in my life because I don't really know the songs to "Carousel", but it's one of those silly senses of lack I try to overlook.

I have never really done much in the way of drama, though I did take a drama class during law school. I helped co-write the class play with the instructor, which pretty much amounted to my serving as typist as most of my ideas were rejected prior to final draft. I remember how the drama teacher was miffed when I chose studying for finals over viewing the play I had co-written. I'm surprised, with hindsight, I did not attend. I should also note my non-stunning performance as one of the rat-voiced priests in a high-school summer church camp production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" (resurrection grafted on).

I wrote a play just after college, which is enormously silly. It is a humorous (and pretentious) play in 7 acts, and contains more than a bit of homage to Beckett and Stoppard. I pull it out once in a while, because it is like a time capsule to how seriously I took myself when I was 20. Of course, I still take myself fairly seriously, so these old, regrettable works of literature are like semaphore signals, spelling out "lighten up". Now I try not to take my writing efforts too seriously.