Tuesday, June 6, 2017
... and 50 years ago, about now ... (part 2)
As I wrote a couple of days ago here, it was fifty years ago that I directed my first play at the Aurora Middle School (thirty-some would follow).
The (barely-legible) program above is the only token I retain from that experience, my first year of teaching (1966-67), not counting, of course, the memories of the students involved, some of whom remain in my life via Facebook.
I mentioned that the members of the Drama Club at AMS met with me a couple of times a week during the school's "activity period" (whose genesis I wrote about in the earlier post), and I really can't remember how we decided to write a comic version of the founding of Aurora--but that's what we did.
We worked on it throughout the fall, on into the winter, and when spring break arrived, we were not quite finished, but I knew I would have to finish it over the holidays, or we would not be able to produce it for the school--long our intent.
So ... over break ... I "borrowed" the school's lone electric typewriter (which sat on the desk of that wonderful AMS secretary, Mr. Fiddes) and went to work on assembling and revising our various drafts. Then I typed the script on ditto masters (!!!) and took it over to the home of Bud and Donna French, whose oldest daughter, Linda, had been one of the writing team.
Oh, the Frenches! One of the first families that welcomed me to Aurora--that made me feel I was doing some good (long before I was actually doing so). Their support throughout the years was unwavering, and I had the privilege of teaching almost all of their seven children, some of whom were in subsequent plays I directed.
Anyway, I read the play aloud to the assembled Frenches, and they responded,, as I recall, with enthusiasm--though I well knew that they would never have done anything to make me feel bad. And so ... with more confidence than the thing merited ... preparations for the production began.
Our full title was The Founding of Aurora; or, The Grapes of Wrath. And the story involved some things that I'd rather forget. (I still have a script, but I am not consulting it for these blog posts; I already remember too many unfortunate things about it!)
In the single program I have remaining, the names of the writing team are barely legible--and in some cases illegible. Here are the ones I can read: Lin French, Mary Sarvadi, Virginia Dart, John Mlinek, Kevin Hale, Anna Lebas. (If there are others that you veterans of that production recall, let me know!)
The story ... yes, the story. Here's what I remember: A group of settlers arrive in Aurora; they are led by the Rev. Ku Klux. (!!!!) They are met by the local Native Americans, led by Chief Vine-in-the-Mind. His daughter is Polkadotus. (Even my keyboard is groaning at this point--at the creakiness of the puns, at the absolute cultural cluelessness of the teacher who promoted all of this.)
Here are some names of the other characters: Nodnyl Nosnhoj (read it backwards), Drib Nosnhoj (his wife--read it backwards), Shamrock Holmes, Ima O'Biddy, Concord Welcher, Rolling Grape, Shrunken Raisin. There's also Blanche Moody and John Buck.
Well, the Rev. ignites a war with the Indians--but before all is lost--Love breaks out. Peace and fraternity reign. Etc. (Whew.)
One of the elementary school teachers in Aurora loaned us some plastic grapes to use (see title), and when the show was all over, the grapes were pretty much ruined. And I had to come up with $$ to replace them. And for me in 1967, $$$ were not easy to come up with. (I think I paid her back on the installment plan.)
to be continued ... next time: tryouts, rehearsals, the production!