‘The Story of Daniel’ Episode Six ‘Daniel the Freshman’ Conclusion – First Half


The Story of Daniel’

Episode Six

‘Daniel the Freshman’

Conclusion – First Half

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When last we met Daniel was leaving the audition for ‘Sweet Charity’. It was late at night, most likely 10:30PM-11:00PM. I was a freshman, so I didn’t drive quite yet. I didn’t really know anyone from the drama department or the last year’s cast. Therefore, I (Danny) hoofed it home, once again. It was a long walk, even when it wasn’t so late at night, but being as tired as I was this was one of the longest walks ever.

I remember when I had made it past the tracks, how relieved I felt that I was half way home. That night, the walk from the high school to Frances street out by Mykawa road and West Broadway, was a long one. By the time I came up to my neighborhood, the ‘walking on air’ was long gone, and the reality of having to get up in just five hours was hitting home. Little did I know that this late night walk would soon become a regular event.

When I finally got home, my mother had left for work. I unlocked the front door, and did a ‘zombie shuffle’ into my bedroom. I took off the now soaked with sweat clothes, set my alarm for 5AM and fell into bed. I remember, as I feel into a deep sleep, fragments of a dream. A dream of me being in a play, in this play I was on the apron of the stage, downstage right, and all the audience was laughing at me! Then I fell into a much-needed sleep.

After that night, my days now became divided between; a full schedule at PHS, a 36-40 work week at Ron’s Krispy Fired Chicken, rehearsals for plays after work and a long and sweaty walk home, around midnight. That was my routine, for the next three years. Only in my senior year, did I finally cut back my schedule @ Ron’s and have a couple of nights a week off from work. Till my senior year my life was; getting up at 5AM, walking to school for my 7:30AM class, classes until 2:30PM (or 12:30PM my Junior and Senior years), off to work at Ron’s as soon as I left work, I would put in six to eight hours at Ron’s and then off to rehearsals. It kept me out of trouble, and very busy.

The rehearsals for ‘Sweet Charity’ took me away from everything that I didn’t like about my life, and my days. The rehearsals took me away from the drudgery, and to a different place. They took me to a place of hope and understanding, and among people that didn’t judge. Most everyone there was there for one reason, and one reason only, to entertain his or her friends and family in Pearland. I don’t know of a single person, which was on that stage, as a step headed to a sound stage in Hollywood.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, we all had dreams. At least, at that point, I felt that the dreams were all grounded in reality. This first show was really a different experience. Not just for me, for the entire cast. About one-quarter of the cast werenew to the school plays and acting. The other three-quarters were familiar with how to ‘put on’ a school play and acting, but were learning what it was to have Truman Dunahoo as the ‘Assistant Director’. Since ‘Doc’ feel asleep early and often, Truman actually did all the directing, staging and after-rehearsal notes. Hang on, that is not fair, I remember ‘Doc’ often giving notes. He gave me notes about my lines in the first scene. Matter of fact (and this might only be relatable to actors) ‘Doc’ gave me my very first note. “Louder! Much more excited! You have only one line to make an impression, make us remember you! You might want to remember that note for later in this story.

So, an evening on the set of ‘Sweet Charity’ started with Truman’s vocal exercises, followed by some movement exercises, and concluded with diction exercises. After our warm-up we would either run the show from the beginning (my favorite rehearsals, since I was in the opening scene) or Truman would have a list of scenes that he wanted to run and would dismiss everyone else. However, even when most of the cast was dismissed, I never went home.

Truman had found out about my experiences with; running the projector during the summers and my education (by my father) in electronics and electricity. Truman quickly put me to work on the stage lights. When I wasn’t acting, I was on the top of an aluminum scaffold fixing lights and putting colored gels on them. I had/have a real fear of heights, and let me tell you that fear is not negated when you are just ten feet above a wooden stage.

However, each and every time, I would just climb that scaffolding, get up to the top, and work on the lights.

The lights had been the very first item on the list of parts of the stage to be rehabilitated. The impression I got, from Truman, was that the stage, lights, and flats and costumes had not been properly maintained, in the past several years. This would leave the stagehands (me, and several other people with smaller parts that wanted more involvement in the play) with a very big list of work items to be completed before opening night.

The set flats were in far too bad a shape to be used, I remember Truman telling me one night. We would have to build all new sets, but not for this show. Our current production, being a musical, we could take liberties and not have the large sets, which would come with later productions.

This takes me to the very first weekend set party. It wasn’t really a party, Truman just figured more people would show-up if he called it a ‘party’. It was on a Saturday afternoon, so I took the morning shift at Ron’s and finally made it to the ‘party’ around 2PM. I don’t know if anyone else has this memory of Truman, but I remember (that day, and many set parties that followed) that he had a knack for organizing people and getting everyone working. If you didn’t have a tool in your hands, Truman knew and he would soon find you and put you to work.

It was an essential skill, which Truman had, for the PHS theater department at that time. Because, Truman was shortly proven right, about the sets and later the make-up and costumes, our stores had not been maintained and often ravaged and depleted. People had been taking advantage of ‘Docs’ declining health and mental awareness and borrowing, without permission, and not returning. It took a lot of work, and time, but we all managed to get all the materials we needed to pull off the production.

I, eventually, ended up with; the walk-on role in the first act scene one, a non-speaking role of a guy picking up a girl right before the dance scene in the brothel, two or three chorus parts and I was in a couple of group scenes. In between I would help with pulling curtains and running props. I had managed to find a way to keep myself very busy when I was not on stage. That is one thing I have never been able to do, when not performing, just hang around and do nothing. I just can’t do it. For me, it has to do with rhythm. A play, like a piece of music for singing or instruments, has a rhythm, a beat. For me, plays have a rhythm, too.

If I was not doing something back stage, or performing on stage, I felt I would loose the rhythm of the play. Luckily, I was good at keeping busy off stage, and after ‘Sweet Charity’ and ‘Bye-Bye Birdie’ I would never have to worry about not being on stage. I remember the rhythm of ‘Sweet Charity’ to be very fast and steady. Bump, bump, bump, bump one right on the heals of the one before. Once the first lines were delivered (one of them being mine), I stayed right with that rhythm till the closing curtain. I had never felt anything like that before in my life.

This driving, yet unheard, rhythm. Well, you heard the rhythm when the pit orchestra played.  Oh, please let me side track, for just a moment. High school musicals are a very good idea. I didn’t know many people from the band. Being in choir and theater, well choral people stick together. Seems the same is true for band members, they stick together. This is not entirely a ‘Bad Thing’, nor is it unexpected. However, when we performed ‘Sweet Charity’ we used a pit orchestra made up of members of the band.

The orchestra was right there with us, towards the end, every rehearsal. We would miss ques, and drop lines or mess up, and the band would have to start over with us. Band members would, miss ques, drop notes or mess up and we would have to start over with them. They heard Truman give us notes and corrections, and we would hear them get notes and corrections. Very shortly the members of that pit orchestra and the members of the theater department gained a respect for each other. I got to know some band members, and some band members got to know the actors, singers and dancers.That is what is really god about high school musicals.

Groups of students, with similar interests, getting to work together and overcome division and gain respect instead of make fun. From that point on, I never used the term “Band Geek” again. I know, I got off topic, but it seemed important to relay. Between my ramblings writing and my adlib reading these ‘episodes’, they are going to end up being short novels.

We were rehearsing with the band, so if you are guessing that it is getting close to ‘Opening Night’. You would be correct. J Everything was built, and being used on stage. All my lights were working, and gelled. All I needed was a bit of luck and for no lights to burn out before opening night. Most of us were wearing ‘street clothes’ that looked ‘period’ as costumes. Dawn had several dresses made for her costumes, as did some of the other girls in the parlor.

I distinctly remember walking home, our last rehearsal before the ‘’Opening Night’, thinking about putting on stage make-up. For some reason, that was my one personal hang up, make-up. I mean, it is 1974 in Pearland, Texas. Guys just did not wear make-up and I had enough problems getting bullied. The last thing I needed was to be in front of the whole school in make-up! Shortly after I deliver my very first line of my acting career, the whole make-up issue would disappear. Just to be replaced by a much greater fear. … … …

. To Be Continued… Tomorrow!

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About Daniel Hanning
I am a; writer, editor and publisher. I write, most often, articles about our space program, fun videos andpolitical works. My most recent additions are; A Week In Review, Sunday Funnies and The Adventures of Nadia. Along with The Mars Report and Lost in Space. ENJOY!

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