My two years at Pilgrim's Academy proved that it wasn't the public school system that was lacking, it was my attention. So, in ninth grade, I began my career as a Freshman at Cranberry Lake High School. The nerdy kids that I'd hung out with in elementary school decided I was too popular to hang out with them now. And while the popular kids appeared to like me, I never felt comfortable hanging out with them. Since I was failing at playing the role of myself, I threw myself into the one thing I felt I was actually good at: acting.
My parents had taken me to an audition for The Bogtown Players' production of Our Town when I was six. Since then, I'd played Linus in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, the narrator in a bunch of kids plays, and even had the occasional small role in shows like Bye Bye Birdie, and the horrendous stage version of the popular TV show, M*A*S*H. Near the end of my days at Pilgrim's, a bunch of actors from M*A*S*H decided to try and redeem themselves by getting parts in the UMass Cranberry Lake production of The Crucible. My mom decided to let me audition, since the show was supposed to be for college students and adults, and the odds of them casting a thirteen year old were slim. Of course, nowhere on the audition sheet, did they ask your age.
I got not one, but two parts. Admittedly, two of the smallest parts in the play, but when combined were...still, one of the smallest roles in the play. But I was ten years younger than the next youngest cast member. I was invited to parties where I got to watch people get drunk. And since I didn't have much stage time, I did some homework, and some writing during rehearsals.
On Wednesday nights, while we rehearsed in the main theater, an acting class took place in one of the studio rooms. The teacher didn't seem to mind if the upstairs actors crashed his course, so I sat in and watched grown men and women perform terrible monologues, improvs, and terrifying acts of mime. On monologue night, most of the students got on the makeshift stage and performed something from Shakespeare or Sophocles. They didn't get into costume or use any props, they just boringly recited a familiar set of lines. I was about to go back to the dressing room to do my homework, when one of the students said "I'm going to do a reading from Tarzan, King of the Apemen." He, then, ripped off his t-shirt, and wiggled out of his jeans, revealing a leopard skin g-string. This was going to be worth sticking around for.
I don't remember any of the lines from the monologue. It was something that was supposed to be funny. But the lines were trite, the jokes were predictable. And while the actor showed amazing energy by leaping around the stage, he had the verbal delivery skills of a tracheotomy patient. He kept pausing for laughs that didn't come. And then, during a dramatic leap into the air, something magical happened. His left ball swung out of his g-string and hung there while he said something stupid. The class began to chuckle. The chuckle grew into a murmur of laughter. Encouraged, the student leapt more frantically, delivering his static lines. Then his right ball fell out. Chaos of laughter. My face was red rocks under a waterfall. The professor was applauding. When the monologue ended, the actor did a sort of half curtsy-half bow, and it wasn't until his head was pointed in the direction of his crotch, that he realized what everyone was laughing at. I caught every class after that, but nothing exciting happened.
A week before The Crucible opened, the director scheduled an extra rehearsal on a Tuesday night. "I don't think I can come." I told the director. "My mom is going to Florida to visit her parents, and my dad has to work."
"Can't you borrow one of your friends' cars?" She asked.
"I'm thirteen." I told her.
"Holy cunting fuck!" She said.
When my mom picked me up that night, the director apologized for all the times she'd swore in front of me. "I thought he was eighteen!" She said. "I knew he was a student, I just assumed he was a student here. I mean, he always goes to that acting class during rehearsals, and I thought he was in the class or something."
"Don't worry about it." My mom said. "I can assure you he's heard worse."