-Art's Art-
Recollections of a Small Town Boy


Within a few months after my wedding to the redoubtable Molly, she convinced me that civic duty dictated a try-out for the Gastonia Junior Woman’s Club’s annual fund raiser. The thing was billed as a lot of fun and a way to meet and mingle with people who mattered in this culture starved zone. The masses would shuck out for tickets to watch nominally respectable townsmen make fools of themselves on stage.

Both of us won minor parts, possibly by demonstrating that we got there and could carry a simple tune. I did the worst I could manage but still made the cut.

A company which charged hefty fees for producing/directing such extravaganzas-- Cargill&Co or something was engaged, and I admit those guys were good at acting interested in their task. Usually. Song and dance was the theme, nothing heavy you know. The director was adept in cobbling together snippets of this and that from failed Broadway shows, numbers that were cut from hit plays and who knows where.

Stage props were scavenged from homes, schools, merchants. Trunks of filthy costumes arrived just in time for dress rehearsal and left no opportunity for a proper cleaning. The lights, we were assured, would make them look great on stage. I cannot affirm or deny that, but I’m thankful no one mentioned a suspicious stain on the seat of my pants. 

But it was all fun, although much of my fascination lay in observing the play outside the play. The performance did not rise to the level of Folies Bergere, but the naughtiness may have exceeded expectations.

I don’t know how many dollars went for worthy causes espoused by the sponsoring club, but it is doubtful that they topped legal costs for settling marital conflicts which occurred in the course of long rehearsals, post rehearsal parties, cast parties and so forth. 

The three divorce cases would likely have occurred, play follies or real, wouldn’t they? One seemed to turn on a husband complaining about coming home for six weeks to leftovers or a note telling him to go buy a burger for dinner. Another involved a wife, who while working for noble causes, found her husband happily restoring relations with old girl friends. One more surprised me. A member of the local publishing clan got into a nasty dispute complete with fisticuffs over alienation of affection–aka sordid sex. My surprise came from my assessment of ‘Garland A’  as a dark, dour, taciturn–Heathcliff with his hair combed.

We heard whispers for months of other tensions, and I hope all came to happy resolutions. At least there was no gun play in the script or offstage afterward. 

Not until age fifty did I tread the boards again. Playing the lecherous Senex in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” was tiring. What could I do beyond heading home, grateful for a place to rest!

Art Darwin
28 Feb. 05 

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