It was now a few months after Mom’s passing and I needed to put my energies into something constructive. Jonathan and Daniel were in elementary school and Morgan was going to Thompson Station Day Care three days a week which afforded me the luxury of having two free days to create, make money, play golf and whatnot. Then word came down that they were closing up shop and we had to find a new day care facility for Morgan. Wonderland day care in Franklin was about ten miles away and much more of a schlep than the place on the corner only two miles away. Morgan didn’t really like the atmosphere and their strict rules all that much and when they informed us they were raising their rates, I volunteered to keep my youngest son home until the time he would start nursery school in six months time.
I was earning a decent part-time wage working Ebay for all it was worth buying and selling guitars, amps and recording gear. I spent my free time writing songs for my next album at night or when Morgan was napping. Still, I felt that the boy needed some extracurricular activity to keep his creative juices flowing. I found out about an art class down in Spring Hill (the next town south of Thompson Station) that was a parent/child facility. It sounded like a lot of fun—it was! We shared our hours there making paper Mache masterpieces and balloon mobiles covered with sparkly things and such. It was a fantastic way to bond with my three-year old and I felt like I was getting to know him better. Being a house-husband was wonderful; I could understand what John Lennon was raving about in the final five years of his life.
One of the mother’s who came to the art studio, Marcia Gallardo, told me about a new group of actors forming at the Spring Hill Arts Center aka SHAC, and they were looking for people for the upcoming production of Oliver. I figured, why not. My father was an actor and I knew it was in my blood. The play’s director and head honcho of SHAC was a seasoned veteran by the name of Dionne (another Yankee) so I decided to audition for the lead as Fagan. After a week of deliberations, it came down to a decision between me and another more experienced actor, John. He ended up getting the lead part, but I received enough kudos for what they believed was talent (I wasn’t so sure) and got the part in a supporting role as Doctor Grimwig. I was okay with that and actually a bit relieved not to have to memorize so many lines. I did three more plays after that, one original called Crossings where I played the part of Isaiah dressed in a long beard and tunic, and Up the Down Staircase. In the latter, I had a scare when I had totally forgotten my line, (an actor’s worst nightmare). There was a thirty second pause where the tension in the air was as thick as Steak Tartare. I felt like I was completely naked and could do nothing else but wing it. Finally, I made up some speech and I think I got away with it since the play resumed—the show must go on! Even though there was that one hiccup, I had a great time doing these plays and had learned so much about acting from Ms. Dionne that I decided to audition for the lead as Cpt. Hook/Mr. Darling in the autumn production of Peter Pan. I was into really it. I bought a Howard Stern wig and grew a handlebar mustache (I even waxed the tips) and soul patch. I looked awesome (if I do say so myself) and got the part.
There were open auditions for children to play various roles such as Peter Pan’s crew and Hook’s navy, so I encouraged Daniel (who was six-years old at the time) to try out. He was hesitant at first but when he saw a few friends from school had also gotten parts he got with the program and got the part as Dirty Dan, one of my dastardly crew members. It took a lot of work to memorize the lines and dances for the part of Cpt. Hook but I felt up for the task, after all, I am a pirate at heart and can be downright scary if I put my mind to it. Funny enough, Marcia, the woman who suggested I check out SHAC got the part as my wife, Mrs. Darling.
There was a scene where Cpt. Hook goes off stage to fetch a lantern to investigate a disturbance in the galley of the ship which was in actuality Peter Pan making crocodile sounds and generally taking the piss out of the fearful captain. I had an idea. I wanted Daniel, who didn’t have any speaking lines, to have a few lines, well at least one. Hook said, “Dirty Dan, go out and fetch me my lantern.” He replied, “Aye aye, sir,” and would venture into the wings to get the said lantern. While he was off-stage I said, “I really like that young chap, he’s like a son to me,” which got a big laugh since most of the audience knew he was actually my son. Like my father, I loved to improvise. It reminded me of the time when my father was playing Sammy Fong in the show Flower Drum Song. There was a scene where the waiter brings an ice bucket with champagne to him but while making his entrance the waiter knocks into a hanging microphone that begins to swing violently back and forth. The waiter said, “Is there anything else I can do for you, sir?” My dad said, “Yes, can you please stop the microphone from swinging.” The crowd went absolutely wild and I was beaming with pride for my father who not only eased the tension but made it seem like it was part of the show. I’ll never forget that.
During one particular performance of Peter Pan, there was a child in the audience that was crying and it began to get annoying not only to me but the rest of the cast. One of my crew had a line, “is there anything else I get do for you captain?” I answered, “Yes, can you please get that young child to stop his incessant crying.” I gave that poor child the look of death. I found out years later when he approached me that he had had nightmares for years about it. Just like my father had done fifty years earlier, I had done my job!
After the show ended, the assistant director, Myra Anderson, informed me that she had written a play called Fairytale Confidential, a story based on the Grimm fairytale’s about four characters (Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty) who had psychological problems. I got the part of Dr. Grimm, the psychologist. It was a main role and I had to learn a ton of lines, most of which were fairly interchangeable. For example, “I see,” or “I understand,” and “tell me more about your mother,” were easily confused.” Sometimes I had the habit of improvising which frustrated the other actors (all women, except for Prince Charming who might as well have been a woman.) I thought it would be a blast being in a play with good looking females but, I’m afraid, it was not the pleasurable experience I thought it would be.
We performed a preliminary week’s run at The Bongo Java, a well known coffee house in Nashville. There was of tension developing between the cast and me since I didn’t want to participate in their nightly prayers to Jesus before the curtain rose. Oh I went along with it at first, but the whole idea of praying about a performance seemed in the same league as praying for the outcome of a high school football game. I think God has more pressing things on his plate. One night Myra hired her daughter, a twenty-one year old know-it-all, to work the lighting. As she was moving the fader for a blackout, there was a glitch in the system which would cut out the lights in mid stream. I, knowing a little about such things, figured it was probably some dust in the fader and all it needed was a little movement to work out the kink. The young girl marched up to me scowling and said with an attitude, “So, I suppose you are the new lighting engineer, too? Take your hands off the damn fader.” I had had enough. There was no way an ingénue was going to talk to me with such disrespect and I was going to let her know how I felt. I said, “You know, you are just like your mother, a REAL BITCH!” I walked off without turning around but I could feel her and her mother’s stares like poisoned daggers in my back. It goes without saying that when the second run of the show scheduled for a few weeks later, I was not asked to return as the lovable Dr. Grimm. It was a shame since I really enjoyed the well written play and thought it had a lot of potential. But I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut about how I felt. I think that is a major theme in my life. Somebody has to speak up—it might as well be me. That was my last play. It was time for me to get back to the music and begin work on my new record; still, it was a lovely distraction while it lasted.