Monday, May 30, 2005

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch

Thurl Ravenscroft, voice of Tony the Tiger and singer of the theme song from 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas," dead at 91.

When I was a junior in High School, I took my first speech class. Mrs. Harris was a chain-smoking, Pepsi-swilling, speech teacher with a voice like sandpaper but we loved her because she loved acting. It became apparent rather quickly that there were a few kids in Speech 1 that were already beyond giving basic speech's ("Who inspires me"). I was one of those kids.

As Christmas approached, Mrs. Harris announced that we were going to put on two short performances. She wanted to try something different, so she decided on doing the plays in the study hall... sort of a theater-in-the-round sort of thing where the audience would sit on the floor. It would be a small affair with just a few classes coming to see the show. We would do two small plays: Merry Christmas Charlie Brown and How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

This was all great by me. I was beginning to realize that I had a talent that few others in the school did. After years of being ridiculed by my peers I had become fearless and impossible to embarrass so it was easy for me to stand up in front of people and be a fool. There is a great deal of liberation when you have been pushed to the point that you no longer care what the cool kids think. I was a little cocky about it but don't hold that against me. After a lifetime of non-stop teasing I deserved a little gloat. I had no doubt that I would land the lead in our little Christmas show. There wasn't a person in the class who could beat me in an audition. All those hours eating frozen pizza and watching Showtime while my peers were out drinking beer and experimenting with sex were about to pay off.

Mrs. Harris announced that there wouldn't be any auditions.

She decided that since she had already spent a few months with us, she already knew who should play each part. This was all fine by me since I was sure I would get Charlie Brown. I mean, I was Charlie Brown for God's sake! So I sat in the back of the room, leaning back in my chair like the brilliant fucking thespian that I was and waited for her to call my name.

"...Lucy will be Kathy Macintosh and Charlie Brown will be Rick Reginald."

Let me first say this about those two. You couldn't ask for two better people to hang out with. Kathy was beautiful and brilliant and it wasn't until a year later on a speech trip, when everyone was hanging out in mine and Rick's room that I realized that I might have been able to get a date with her if I had only had the courage to ask. Of course, I didn't ask and so Kathy has joined the list of girls who might have changed my life if I had just had some self-esteem. It's a long list.

Back to the story..

"What! How can I not be Charlie Brown!," I screamed, (only not out-loud, just in my head... ). Before I could ask Mrs. Harris how long she had been clinically insane she continued, "Now, How The Grinch Stole Christmas. The Grinch will be, of course, Duane." (that's me.)

"Excuse me Mrs. Harris," I said, "But the Grinch doesn't have any lines!"

"That's right," She said, "You're the only one in class who can pull off the facial expressions."

That crafty speech teacher shit was firing on all cylinders. By cleverly inserting two little words into her announcement ("of course") she had convinced me that I was the best actor in class and talked me into the worst role! (actually, it wasn't the worst role. David Perry got that. He was my dog.)

So, two weeks later I covered myself in green makeup and climbed to the top of Mt. Crumpit. Unable to be quiet, I ad-libbed through the whole play and got quite a few laughs. Much more than Rick Reginald who went on to be a Congressional Page and eventually married Betty Gomez who I had been in love with since 9th grade.

Hey, but I was The Grinch!

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