I think it began when I was three. Mother enrolled me in ballet, tap, jazz and baton lessons – thinking I would someday become the next Shirley Temple. I learned to step, shuffle, ball and change before I knew my ABCs. I failed at baton twirling, but felt the need for such a skill probably wouldn’t serve my future career anyway. After about a year of lessons, I felt qualified to go on to Broadway. Instead I gained gratification for my show business career, by holding backyard productions – complete with a full set of curtains (a pair of sheets clotheslined next to each other), concessions of homemade lemonade and popcorn and a wide variety of talent, taken right out of my circle of friends.
I became the youngest director of my time and lost several of my friends in the process. Show business is like that. Here today and gone tomorrow. Still I persevered. Soon I had a regular troupe of about five kids that agreed to follow my direction. The concessions were a hit at least. I started with the classics, rewriting them into funny renditions of the old fairy tales we had grown tired of. It was time to put a new spin on things.
As I progressed through elementary, the stories began to pour out of me. By the time I reached eighth grade, I was an old hand at it. In fact, all my Saturdays spent at the movies continued to spark ideas for new renditions of old or redone stories. When we were assigned the task of writing a play for English, I put pen to paper and created a masterpiece. At least I thought it was. It consisted of a cast of thousands, exquisite costumes, a hundred elaborate sets and I was convinced I’d receive an “A” and be well on my way to my first Academy Award. My teacher put a damper on any such thoughts, by telling me it was creative, but would be impossible to produce. I was crushed.
It took a couple years for me to pull myself back up by the bootstraps, but I did. I became part of the high school drama team and found a new outlet for my theatrical tendencies. I never got the lead, but was often cast as one of the interesting or funny characters. It was there that I learned the joy of performing before a responsive audience.
I guess you could call me a theatre nerd – or one who was born to entertain, but it was much more than that. Acting was more than a personal achievement. It was the only team sport I was interested in. I call it a team sport, because it indeed is the result of several people working together for the end result. This is when it finally hit me. I didn’t have to be a jock. My less than adequate physical status wasn’t necessary for this task. It was a way to express myself through words, actions and personal dynamics.
I still experience the thrill of an opening night – the excitement that fills the air – the first sound of laughter or applause from the audience – the rave reviews and even the flubs. There is a certain energy that can’t be matched. It’s a feeling of accomplishment for a job well done – the friendships attained throughout the process – the new things learned along the way.
This is why I do theatre. This is why I’m addicted to the art form. Though I am soon to be 76, I still can find a use for this passion of mine. Now I make it my goal to instill the same feeling into the young minds of others. When we grow old, we don’t need to stop living. I will undoubtedly die while directing a show, writing one or teaching a group of kids the basic skills of acting. That’s why every show is special – why every performer contributes to the success of a show and why it gets imbedded in your blood.
THERE’S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS!