Friday, August 30, 2013

Theatre History (Debstyle)

Tomorrow is the birthday of the man who got me hooked on theatre.  Every year when his birthday rolls around, I get to reminiscing about those early days.  I remember it like it was yesterday...yesterday...yesterday.......
When I was fifteen years old, my best friend and I were obsessed with the Beatles and anything remotely related to them.  Barb (my BF)  had moved to Philadelphia but we still sent numerous letters to each other every month with any Beatlesque tidbit we could find.  My mom and I went to Philly to visit Barb and her mom and we found out that Jane Asher (who was then Paul McCartney's girlfriend) was playing Juliet  (Name That Play!) in the Old Vic touring company that was in NYC, just an hour trainride away.  Now, I was expecting to get all giddy when I saw Jane Asher step on stage, and I was, sorta, but I was not prepared to be totally blown away by the play itself.  And all those people on the stage doing said play. It was like eating chocolate, and having sex, and drinking beer and giving birth and..well, you get the idea.  Pretty fucking awesome.  I turned to Barb after it  was over and said, "That's what I want to do." 
My mother was not exactly thrilled with the news.  She had always envisioned me as a sort of Eleanor Rigby Librarian, tucked back in a corner, wearing my face that I keep in a jar by the door kind of thing.  Sound like me?  Yeah.  There's a reason I've gone through therapy.  ANYROAD.....
At that time, my mother's favorite person in the universe, her brother (he was always her favorite person in the universe, not just at that time), was engaged  and Ma was all about impressing Uncle Paul's fiance, Marie.  My mother was dead set against me doing anything about my theatre leanings, when Marie said she thought it would be a good idea if I took acting lessons and she heard they gave them at the Pittsburgh Playhouse on Saturday mornings and they weren't very expensive.  (Pause for a Hallelujah Chorus to my Aunt Marie.)
Side note:  The reason my mother was vehemently against me having a Life in the Theatre was because she was convinced that actresses were really whores.  I only wish I had have half the sex my mother thought I would have had by now.  Frowny Face.
So, I took a 10:00 a.m. acting class at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.  My teacher was Thom Thomas.  And my life changed forever.
The first thing he had me do was Amanda Wingfield's monologue from "Glass Menagerie".  I loved it.  And never looked back.  Well, I did for a little while, but that's beside the point.
During the course of the course, Thom announced that he and his partner were starting a summer theatre that summer and they needed apprentices, who would do tech work but also get a chance to act.  I somehow convinced my parents that this was a good thing (I may or may not have played the Aunt Marie card)  and I spent the next seven summers working at Odd Chair Playhouse.  It was magical.
Thom taught theatre at Point Park College and I refused to apply to any school other than Point Park.  That was a fun fight (and Ma and I had a bunch of them),  but I won and got in and continued to be in awe of Thom and theatre.  Until the morning I  looked back and got scared and left for 26 years. 
But, still, I came back and don't intend to leave again until they carry me offstage feet first. (Exit stage right, please.)  And I owe it all to Thom Thomas.  So thank you, dear friend, and a very happy birthday.   

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