Leading From the Rear

I remember a time when I was in high school. My father taught Speech, English, Theater, and other related subjects. He also usually produced the plays, one in the fall and one in the spring. Dad was what you might call strong willed and was noted for rubbing people, especially incompetent administrators, the wrong way. One way or another he had gotten crossways of the current principal of the school and to “punish” him, the principal asked one of the other English teachers to produce the spring play.

My dad was one of the best teachers I ever new except my mother but that’s another story. But he had carefully trained himself to be a Broadway stage manager. His teaching credentials were a concession to his father who had no confidence in his ability to make a living as a stage manager. When my father graduated from college he presented my grandfather with his diploma and said, “There’s my teaching degree. Just like you wanted.” He was then promptly drafted into the Army. But not before he married my mother and got her pregnant with me.

He spent his time in the Army in Germany, a good place to be considering the Korean War was winding down in South East Asia. He was assigned to a training company but was almost immediately sent on a temporary duty assignment to produce a variety show with talent pulled from the various units assigned to Europe. And what a show it was. I never saw it, of course but he often told stories about it as I was growing up.

The point I’m getting at is that producing a play is a challenging task. It isn’t something that just any English teacher can pull off. Especially not the one the principal assigned to produce the spring play. I consulted with dad to make sure that he wouldn’t take my participating in the spring play as disloyalty to him. He assured me he would not and encouraged me to go ahead.

So, having acted in plays and watched my dad produce them since the age of eight, I proceeded to manipulate the “faculty sponsor” of the play into producing the play I wanted to do, “Big Rock at Candy’s Mountain”, a comedy parody of Woodstock, complete with live rock music. I designed the set and lead the crew that built it. I pulled together a band that cleverly served as three different bands as each of the guitarists took turns leading the band under a different name. I played one of those musicians. It was a lot of fun. But it was successful because I knew how to produce a play and lead a cast and crew. In other words, in spite of the “faculty sponsor”.

Dad got back in the good graces of the administration the next year and went on to produce many plays at the high school. The other English teacher was more than happy to let him do it. And I went on to play a gunfighter in western theme parks during my summer breaks in college.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.