March 21, 2005

When I was a senior in high school, the head of the Fine Arts Department decided that the musical that year would be Grease. For those of you unfamiliar with the musical-theater canon, Grease tells the story of Danny and Sandy, two high-school students in 1950s America. Though innumberable obstacles conspire to keep them apart, in the end love triumphs when Sandy (played in the 1978 movie by Olivia Newton-John) casts off the innocent persona she’s cultivated in favor of that of a leather-wearing, high-heel-strutting, smoking-hot babe.

I was horrified by the whole thing. Deeply moralistic and prim, I couldn’t imagine a worse message to send to the student body.

“Are you honestly telling me,” I homosexually asked the head of the Fine Arts Department, voice quivering with righteous indignation, “that we’re supposed to get on stage and tell our classmates that they should just ignore their principles and pretend to be people they’re not, just so they’ll be accepted by the cool gang?”

“I’ve got you in mind for the Teen Angel,” she said.

“I’ll be there at 3:00,” I replied. My scruples, while considerable, could not in the end overcome my secret desire to come down from heaven and sing “Beauty School Dropout,” an exhortation to Frenchie to abandon the salon and come back to high school. “Now your bangs are curled,” I’d sing, “your lashes twirled, but still the world is cruel.” Who among my classmates knew that as well as I?

I don’t remember what we had to sing at the auditions but it was not “Beauty School Dropout.” However, as the class’s most nearly out homosexual, I had the best voice in the bunch, so whatever it was I’m sure I was immensely pleased with myself. The role was within my grasp.

Unfortunately, we still had to read lines; all the boys had to alternate in a scene near the beginning of the show in which the ne’er-do-wells who surround Danny are stripping a car. I had no idea what stripping a car was but I knew that, if these roustabouts did it, it had to be an insalubrious pastime. When my turn came to read, I assumed a menacing pose and hissed:

“I don’t know why I brought thith tire iron! I coulda ripped thothe babieth off with my bare handth!!!”

Not my finest hour, I knew, but I wasn’t worried. As the Teen Angel I wouldn’t have to say anything about tire irons; I only had to sing about teasing combs and the steno pool. And so it was with great confidence that I walked into the Fine Arts building the next day to look at the cast list.

I was Eugene, the gay geek, who has a line or two and no songs. Other characters refer to him as “Fruit Boots,” but our director, who worked in an arts and crafts store and whose name was Warren, cut all those lines because he found them offensive.

I got out of that place as soon as I possibly could.

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15 Responses to When I was a senior

  1. chris says:

    how horrendous! you shoulda slept with the teachers. I understand sleeping around is a common method of gaining employment in the musical theatre arena.

  2. MzOuiser says:

    I boycotted that musical when my high school did it… and it was my senior year. Instead I went downtown and was cast as Anne in our community theatre’s production of La Cage Aux Folles.

    I’d have called you if I’d known…

  3. i. bendito says:

    Well… how did it end (with Warren and all)?

    Were you abused?

    I hate cliffhangers.

  4. Not an M.D. says:

    Did you play the part?

  5. Lauren says:

    And then, on the night of the prom, you killed them all with the power of your mind.

  6. chris: You understand correctly, but in this case I doubt Mrs. Brabham would have gotten enough out of the experience to warrant giving me the part, and it would have been unpleasant enough for me not to be worth doing it otherwise.

    MzOuiser: Oh, drat! Because then I could have fulfilled my dream of playing Petra.

    i. bendito: Warren did not interfere with me, but when I spoke with him about my crush on the guy playing Danny he did give me some good advice, which I promptly ignored.

    Not an M.D.: Yes, because I had a crush on the guy playing Danny.

    Lauren: A thousand times in my dreams.

  7. jon collins says:

    I think Grease says a great deal that’s useful, namely, that if you want to be popular, you should be a filthy, made-up, cigarette-smoking whore. Sandy may be foolish, but she’s not wrong, is she? Worked for Paris Hilton.

  8. campbell says:

    John Collins: worked for me too. And how!

  9. Adam875 says:

    A friend of mine (who reads this blog, so of course I’m stealing her thunder by beating her to the comment) likes to say that the moral of Grease is “Embrace your inner ho.”

    And really, singing voice aside, you’re the perfect Eugene. You just know he broke out of his shell after high school and became a big slut. A big telekenetic slut.

  10. jd says:

    hi. i have a link to your blog on mine. it’s been there for a few weeks, however, i don’t recall asking if it were okay.

    i’m asking now.

    i enjoy reading. 🙂

  11. anapestic says:

    So what pretender ended up playing the role that belonged to you? And why didn’t you poison him or her and step in at the last minute? You’re never going to be Eve Harrington at this rate.

  12. Marc says:

    You know what’s even worse? Seeing a nine year-old perform “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee” in a kid’s talent pageant. What kind of parent lets a nine year-old sing, “lousy with virginity”?!

    Okay, so that being said, I loved Grease for its trashiness, even though its message was indeed all wrong. There were poignantly dark songs (“The Worst Thing I Could Do”), infectiously happy ones (“We Go Together”) and heartbreakers (“Hopelessly Devoted to You”). There were priceless lines like this one: “Hey! Rizzo’s got a bun in the oven!” or this one: Jan:“Isn’t it just the most…to say the least?” Rizzo: “The very least!” And even though “Beauty School Dropout” was one of my favorite songs and a fabulous production number, the song “It’s Raining on Prom Night,” was my favorite of the whole show. It didn’t play for more than fifteen seconds in the movie but I loved the album cut. Thanks for the memories! (Oops. That’s Bob Hope.)

  13. This is very funny to me. I am a musical theater actor and improvisor. It’s a rare, rare occasion I have an audition where they ask for a monolgue, but it does come up. Could I have your permission to use this as an audition monolgue? It would never be performed for money, only in front of people who MIGHT hire me in auditions. Thank you.

    Mark Barateli

  14. Androo says:

    Darlling! I too played Eugene in Grease and was supposed to DOUBLE as Teen Angel…but I too was prevented from playing the role. Now I begin to ask why…
    Typecasting doen’t begin at home – it begins in highschool!

  15. Patty :) says:

    The tradition of teaching teens to succumb to peer pressure is still in full swing! The big musical at my high school was Greece this year. Many students’ responses were the same as yours, so just be aware that the tradition is alive and well.


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