A flair for the not-so dramatic
December 7, 2006
It was a blast this past Monday at the Wheeler, giving the freshman class a taste of Aspen’s history. Georgia Hanson from the Aspen Historical Society lined up some heavy-hitting actors to portray different characters from the past and present; some in fact, playing themselves. Now, when I say freshmen, it’s not all-encompassing, as there were some faces in the crowd I’ve known since before I could legally drink whiskey.It brought back memories of past stage performances I’ve been involved with, and for the most part, there’s a reason I never studied drama. Early in my high school years, I played Daniel Webster against Jimmy Anderson’s Mr. Scratch (the Devil). It didn’t seem a close contest as Scratch seemed to overpower me in every scene, but then, that’s the way Benet wrote it. We got the giggles on the last night, only the two of us on stage, and finally an exasperated, “OK, that’s enough,” from the director got us to move on.As seniors, the late Judy Fitzpatrick Byrnes and I teamed up in a production of “Time Out for Ginger,” a play which primarily left me with two distinct memories, neither necessarily about the plot. I played young Eddie, a smart-assed jock who finally got knocked on his butt in the last act. People didn’t really say I did a fine job of acting, but rather, they thought it was a fine job of typecasting. I took offense at that although, at the same time, I couldn’t really come up with much of a defense either. During rehearsals, I got a big crush on Sylvia Sardy, the director, but she left town without a backward glance almost before we struck the set, leaving me to graduate with the monkey of unrequited love on my back.On to college, majoring in English literature and spending most of my time in musty libraries, nose pressed to the pages of centuries old poetry volumes, the thought occurred to me the drama department might improve my social life. It attracted what I considered to be the most alluring girls on campus, and it was exciting when they expressed interest, not only over my well-read personage, but also over the fact no matter how sophisticated the campus, I was still a cowboy at heart (although at the time I might have been considered more of a transmogrified hippie biker than anything else).Anyway, I hung pretty close to those girls and their wing of the university, and before long found myself the stage manager for a production of Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man.” A big blonde guy not unlike Jimmy Anderson, but ingratiatingly impeccable, played Charlie Cowell the anvil salesman. For purposes of this column, all you need to know is he had to enter and exit stage right three or four times during the course of his performance. He did it so smoothly, so flawlessly, with a flourish and élan not unlike a work of art, that watching him stride smugly through the wings, at the last moment gathering up the (empty) anvil valise in his pudgy, huge hand and hitting the stage without missing a beat, it begged, nay, pleaded for interference of some type.On the final night, a few of us in the know held our collective breath as big Charlie, the smithy’s friend, grabbed for his anvil bag at the last possible instant before striding smoothly (he assumed) onto the stage and what? To a man of his size, the stealthy addition of a genuine hundred-pound anvil merely served to hold the traveling bag to the floor, and the popular songster and meddler, after an almost inaudible grunt, could be seen prancing around the stage with only the handle of the valise in his grasp. Fortunately, his red-faced umbrage turned to humor as he realized it was not incompetence, but purposefulness that had brought him down.Tony Vagneur has better manners now, we hope. Read him here on Saturdays and send comments to email@example.com.The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.
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