July 1992, Traveling Children’s Theater Production of Cinderella, Palace Guard (Stage Right), 7 years old: I really had disagreements with the script’s dissimilarities to the Disney version. All I remember is standing guard next to the Queen—a middle school girl who wore a fancy purple velvet shawl—then staring hard at the shawl for minutes, blacking out, and waking up with the director from the seats yelling: “Dunstan! For the love of God! Quit touching the Queen’s goddamned royal garb!!”
August 1994, Scarville Community Theater Production of Local Pageant, Newsboy #3, age 9: In a show that tried to wrestle my Germanic-rooted hometown’s existential angst over its sympathizer role in WWI and WWII (though that didn’t stop us from putting a bunch of Japanese in an internment camp just north of town), I played the esteemed role of local newsboy who—in addition to wearing knee-high socks and knickers—had to scream out the headlines while running down the aisles holding a newpaper. Two nights I tripped up the stairs. One night I got to the part right after “Extra Extra! Read all about it!” then just completely blanked for like 7-9 seconds.
June 1996, Traveling Children’s Theater Production of Wizard of Oz, Bronx-Born Flying Monkey, age 11: In a bit of directorial panache, I was asked to not only wear black butterfly wings, black face paint, and wave my arms wildly to scare the little girl playing Toto, I was also asked to perform all my lines (9, I remember) in a thick Bronx accent. “Hey DOOR-Ra-theee!” That kind of schtick. Obviously, the actors guild was not strong in our neck of the woods. After our four-day run, my weak Bronx mutated into disgraceful Mexican bandito.
June 1999, Scarville Middle School’s Production of Aladdin, Lead, age 14: Being the only kid going into high school who thought the age restrictions didn’t apply to me (correction: a kid a year older applied for a role, but he had seizures so they made him a Persian guard), I won the starring role. Which meant I put on a turban, embodied virtually every “Eastern” stereotype presented in Said’s Orientalism, and had to kiss my best friend’s three-years-younger sister. Well, the script called for a kiss. We changed to a hug. And by the matinee, we may have just been hi-fiving on our way to costume change.
Photo courtesy familymwr