This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, November 15, 2000

November 15, 2000 - Acting is Reading With Your Whole Body

It all started with a script -- "Greater Tuna."

Award winning director, Katie Damp (Best Director, "Raisin in the Sun," down in Colorado Springs last year), gave me the Tuna script some months ago and asked if I'd be interested in one of the leads in the two man show. She offered the other part to David Truhler, an enormously talented and experienced actor -- most recently seen as "Ali Hakim" in "Oklahoma."

I thought Tuna was hilarious. And there was one part I really, really wanted to play: Bertha Bumiller. Bertha was a Texan gal who headed up the Subcommittee to Snatch Books off the Shelves of the Local High School Library.

I've sat on the other side of the table of people like Bertha, and I've often thought they get to have more fun than I do. I am a professional librarian, and the odds of my getting to say the things she said ("There are four books we're going to try to have removed nationwide"), were pretty slim. So I told Katie to sign me up.

I suppose it should have occurred to me at the time that I'd also have to undergo some physical changes. Of my 8 characters, two of them are women.

The last time I had been clean-shaven was 1977, for exactly one week. My children, even my wife, had never seen my face. David's kids had never seen his face, either.

I don't know about David's family, but here's how my family took it. Six year old son: "You look better with a beard." Thirteen year old daughter: "You look weird." Wife of 17 years: "Ugh." As for me, my face was still my face, although another chin had somehow crept in. Shaving my upper lip for the first time in over a decade, I nearly sliced off my nose.

Another change: I am near-sighted, with mild astigmatism. My characters couldn't wear glasses. Without glasses, I couldn't see.

So I went to my eye doctor, who prescribed a novel solution: off the shelf, disposable contact lenses -- for a single eye. I walked out with one eye adjusted for distance, and one eye naked to the world (but capable of reading). I had never worn contact lenses before. Learning to touch my eye was ... interesting.

Then we mixed in the costuming. Gwen Nappo, who has an uncanny ability to find cheap, character-appropriate clothing in metropolitan thrift shops, outfitted David and me in some wacky outfits. Dresses. Wigs. Bolo ties. Slippers.

Individually, all of these changes made sense, sort of. But one day I realized that in the space of just a few weeks I had gone from a bearded, bespectacled, soft-spoken library director, to a clean-shaven man standing on a stage in a dress, tights, and heels, peering out of one good eye, and hollering at people.


My kids thought this was swell. Perry (the six year old) caught every rehearsal he could. Both he and Maddy helped me with the 49 pages of lines to be learned. Maddy became one of our fleet-fingered back stage dressers. And my wife picked up the slack in life as I became ever more monomaniacal.

Throughout the process, I've been aided tremendously not only by the sharp-eyed directorial corrections of Katie, but also by David's all-out comic genius. This boy has brought me to the point of near-incontinence, just by walking across the room in character. I'm also grateful for the stage management of Diane Sortore, and the sound and lighting skills of Ryan Williams and Seth Alison.

I am told that many people don't like change. And although I'll admit that all of these shifts in appearance and behavior do have their moments of stress, I haven't had this much fun since I was a kid.

I think "change" is why most people read -- we all have a longing for adventure and transformation. That's what keeps libraries in business. But the acting piece takes that one step further. Theater, finally, is just reading with your whole body.
"Greater Tuna," while itself a play more suitable for adults than young kids, is primarily designed to raise some money for Castle Rock Players, which has a focus on youth. Hence this column: please consider attending one of the shows this weekend.

The shows will be held at Kirk Hall, November 17-19. Friday and Saturday, there are performances at 8 p.m. Saturday, there will be a special matinee at 2 p.m. -- which allows people to get out in time to attend Castle Rock's Starlighting Ceremony. Sunday, we'll have a final performance at 4 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults, and $10 for seniors. To reserve tickets, call 303-814-7740.

No comments:

Post a Comment