Tuesday, September 13, 2011

PBA, Book V

The last entry concluded with a mention of a girl I met while working at Eckerd Drug. To recap: after a rather stormy 4 or so months, we called it quits a few weeks before Christmas, 1989. I thought that was the end of the story. It wasn't. I will skip some details (such as my accompanying her on her senior prom cruise) and mention that the following summer I found myself showing her around the PBA campus. She was about to start her freshmen year. I was a senior.

I'll skip more details and relay that we had a pre-semester week of hanging out (beach, movies, dinner) and my introducing her to a few peeps at PBA. Oh, maybe I should mention that I brought her into Respectables, a downtown club that played "alternative" music and was a bit of a haunt for me. We got thrown out because someone realized that she was under 21 and that I bought her a drink. "I'll be back in here next week!" she yelled as we were escorted out. I was embarrassed and pissed off.

She would, upon starting school a week or so later, quickly adapt to campus life, complete with new boyfriend. She barely acknowledged me now. What was I expecting? I was so young and stupid. When she called over the summer, did I believe that she wanted to get back together?! I think I've blocked any such conflicting thoughts from my memory. I was good at self-torture.

I would later meet a girl I began dating and a few months later I found myself in a very curious spot - sitting with my new gf across from the old one (with her new bf) in one of the ancient houses used for girls' dormitories. There were others there, in the living room; it was awkward and just downright weird. I'm continually intrigued by relationship dynamics, how someone so dear to you at one time can, in the space of very little time passage, become almost inconsequential. There were no incidences that night. The old gf would leave PBA by midway through her second semester. In a strange parallel, so would my new gf.

Why? Such a long story. I've debated how much of that saga to relay in this series (or at all on this blog). I would be engaged by Valentine's Day, and she would shortly thereafter quit school and move back to central Florida. Her rationale? She was to be married, why did she need to continue school? I was puzzled and a bit sad about this; she was a talented actress who had already appeared in a production on the PBA stage ("The Lower Room"). It was my desire that she continue her studies and acting. At that time, she did neither. I graduated a few months later and moved to the Orlando area to be near her. Another story. Maybe another time.

But that senior year at PBA, I would also take the stage, in "Rope". My friend Allen was taking a directing class and their final was to be a one-act play, either original or adapted, presented near the end of the semester over a series of 3-4 nights. He caught me on the steps to the library one afternoon and asked if I was interested in playing the lead: identified only as "he". I was taken aback, but quickly accepted. Have I told this story here before?

I remember the hours I spent memorizing the considerable amount of dialogue. The natural acting would come once I knew the words. Hopefully. This was a 2 character piece, an adaptation of Katherine Anne Porter's short story. Allen described the scenario as "funny", and I could agree if the humor was deemed the "recognition of life's horrors" kind of funny. Porter creates a put-upon man and his somewhat high maintenence wife, city sophisticates, who take a annual trip to the country. The story deconstructs their relationship, a subtle shaking of the marital rug that reveals a bit of dirt about them. It was an almost academic psychoanalysis, with artful dialogue. My friend did a splendid adaptation, really bringing these people to life. Hopefully, we actors did the same? Gigi, another senior, played "she", totally nailing the part, though Allen put her through a bit of hell as he had her practice a certain shrieking cackle about 1000 times. I had my own multi-take madness, having to repeat a line of dialogue with every imaginable inflection almost as many times. Our director was precise.

The performance itself was eventful. The show before ours, a bizarre skid-row drama called "Starstone" or something, which I remember featured people living in trashcans, involved a complete dousing of the stage with water. When we took the stage for "Rope", it had not sufficiently dried. One of Gigi's entrances took her across the stage a bit faster than intended. I also missed a chair with my foot as I was trying to step/lean on it. I hope I covered it well. Our stage manager got caught on stage as the lights came back up before the next scene. Most significantly, the last line of a lengthy monologue of mine was given a last minute change in my vocal interpretation. I raised my voice about 2 octaves to mimic Gigi's, not at all how we rehearsed it. It was a split second decision that was entirely selfish on my part; I did it because I knew it would get a laugh. It did. Allen and I have never referred to this. I hope he wasn't mad.

At the drama department's award ceremony a few weeks later, I, to my complete surprise, won the award for Outstanding Male Actor. I'm not sure if I really earned that, but it was a nice sentiment. I also was recognized in the Business Department as Outstanding Senior. Dr. Robert Inglis, one of my frequent professors, handed me this honor during a ceremony in the First Baptist Church sanctuary. These were nice caps to my senior year.

Next time (final entry?): we'll back up and talk about another girl with whom I worked at Eckerd and attended PBA. That story will involve absusive exes wielding hammers, a near car chase, and a fateful toilet papering. I know I can't wait.....

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