Required Listening: Take a Chance On Me by ABBA

 

There is only one word that accurately describes my theatre career—fleeting.

I made my stage debut in the Monsignor Clancy High School Production of The Girl Who Was Asked To Turn Blue. It was written by Ev Miller, a man who, as far as my parents were concerned hated people. We believed this because no one with a sense of humanity would ever subject someone to this type of specialized torture. This was, no word of a lie the abu ghraib of high school theatre– demeaning to those forced to participate, and a three-tiered emotional process for those forced to watch: shock, followed by anger, followed by shame.

I played 817, a lovable but albeit misunderstood blue alien. This meant I was covered from head-to-toe in blue body paint (yes, we were the original Blue Man Group). My costume was simple: a pair of blue nylon stockings and a cropped hospital gown that rarely came low enough to cover my inhibitions (the shock). I had one line and I delivered it during the first 30 seconds of the play (for my parents, this was the anger). 817 spent the rest of the play in the back of the theatre “reacting.” Basically my theatre career had ended up the same way my sports career had – benched.

If they existed I would include a photo of myself in full-costume because it’s really unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Fortunately, my parents didn’t care to archive this moment in our family’s history (the shame). They say they forgot, but I’m convinced they just never wanted to remember me this way. The play ran for 7 nights– we did not receive an extended run, or a national tour.

I wasn’t ready to admit defeat, so when my new high school announced their next theatrical production would be Anne of Green Gables, I saw this as an opportunity to make new friends, not to mention a good opportunity to add a second set of credits to the back of my head shot.

I had put a lot of work into my audition piece. I chose a pulled-from-the-headlines monologue from a visceral episode of 90210 entitled Perfect Mom. I played Jennie Garth’s mother, Jackie Taylor, an over-the-hill former supermodel, whose addiction to divorce, alcohol and prescription drugs leads to an inevitably dramatic and humiliating public breakdown during the annual Beverly Hills Mother-daughter Fashion Show. Not familiar? Watch the drama unfold here.

Unfortunately I failed to realize that Anne of Green Gables was actually a musical production, and although I was praised for the gender-bending originality of my monologue, my being tone-deaf meant the audition did not go well. It did however land me a lead role behind the scenes. Upon being rejected from the play, and later the stage crew (manual labour? no thanks) I demanded two things: that I be given a respectable backstage role and that my name appear on the program. And, did it ever…

Dan Williamson – Make-up Artist

I had no experience in applying make-up, but I was a quick study. Or so I thought, until on opening night just before curtain call I overheard a panicked cry from the show’s director Mr. Murray, an excitably flamboyant drama teacher who refused to call people by their ordinary names. Instead, he would assign each student the name of a 1950’s Hollywood leading lady.

“Who did this? Who did this to my precious Gilbert? This is Green Gables not Grey Gardens!”

“Whoa. Gilbert lookin’ fierce,” I heard someone from the back mutter, followed by a congratulatory high-five. The actor playing Gilbert wasn’t outwardly gay at the time, but six years later I would catch sight of him dancing proudly on a float during the gay pride parade. To him, I say you’re welcome.

Okay, so maybe everyone (even the women) looked like transvestites. From far away who would even notice?

The next day the reviews were published in the school newspaper. I watched as all the drama geeks made a beeline to the cafeteria, each eagerly waiting to see if their months of hard work had paid off. One by one they read the reviews, and one by one their faces faded from excited anticipation to bitter disappointment. I grabbed my own copy of the paper to see what all the commotion was about– but I didn’t make it past the headline:

Anne of Green Gables – What A Drag!

Thus ended my theatre career. I was not invited to work the make-up counter for the remainder of the show’s run, nor would I ever have the guts to audition for any future high school theatre productions. I may have been blacklisted from the high school theatre circuit, but that wouldn’t stop me from finally receiving my very own, and well-deserved designation from Mr. Murray. For the rest of my high school career, I was no longer Dan. To Mr. Murray and the rest of the drama department, I would forever be known as the one, the only…Lady Macbeth.