The Story of Daniel – Sohpomore Woes – Episode Seven – Part One

The Story of Daniel

Episode Seven – Part One

Sohpomore Woes

I remember the summer of my freshman year, clearly. I wanted to do ‘Summer Stock’ in the theatre with Doc and everyone else, but my mother had another idea for Danny, work. Not only were the Hanning Family Vacations gone for good, they were replaced with Danny working the whole summer. My freshman year has come to an end, and a new year was starting.  ‘Doc’ was not going to be as much a part of this year as the head of the years before.  ‘Doc’ was getting on in years, he’s still held a speech class in the mornings, but had given the drama department to Truman.  Rather, the Schooled District had given the drama department to Truman, but…  The next show ‘Doc’ was giving to someone else. 


For the life of ease and your readers I don’t remember this guy’s name and that’s kind of funny. It’s funny because I worked with this guy every day in the theater on ‘Bye Bye Birdie’.  I saw him over at Doc’s house, every night I went over to visit Doc.  He was at the school was the period he was in my personal life.  Yet the life of me, today, I could not remember his name if you held a gun to my head.  I wonder…   Is this because he was such an inconsequential human being …  Or is this a home from the typewriter that dropped on my head.


First, and if anybody can tell me is aimed at putting a con man on the other shoe or on face book please.  Second in my humble opinion this gentleman just didn’t make an impression on Daniel.  I had performed well in ‘Sweet Charity’ for Truman and ‘Doc’. I auditioned for a role in the UIL contest for One Act Plays, in 1974, for Truman and ‘Doc’.  Again I got to work with Don Lockwood, she was just incredible on stage.  We did well, in the contest that year, better than the Drama department had it for several years before.  So when it came time for casting for ‘Bye Bye Birdie’, I expected to do well as far as being cast.


I don’t clearly remember the auditions for ‘Bye Bye Birdie’, not even as well as I do the auditions for sweet charity.  All I really do remember, is that I was not cast at all. L For this musical, I would be a technician? I was put in charge of the lighting crew, but not even a walk-on in the play.  Now don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with being in charge of the lights, I knew the lights and sound and quite well.  I had heard that this new director had wanted to put two spotlights, in the center of the theater, and he would need someone good to help them pull that off.  I was that good, but I really wanted to act in the musical. I had spent the last nine years in the school choirs, and was in the A Cappella choir at PHS, I just didn’t understand.


Looking back today, I understand why I was not cast.  I had been openly vocal about ‘Doc’ taping this guy to direct, what should have been, Truman’s first show at Pearland high school.  The smooth switch, from Doc Springfield’s tutelage to Truman taking over of the drama department, had hit a snag.  In addition, readers, I was not sold on ‘Bye Bye Birdie’.  I was involved, even my sophomore year, with the election of plays at Pearland high school. ‘Doc’ would ask me, during class, what shows I thought we should do and Truman would ask between classes.  I had floated a lot of ideas, my sophomore year.  Here’s a list of the shows I thought we should’ve done; Oklahoma, South Pacific, Westside Story or any major ‘Broadway’ play.  Just, please for the love of drama, not ‘Bye Bye Birdie’.


See, my dear readers, Truman had a vision for the drama department of Pearland high school. Truman’s vision was to perform comedy works with interpretive value.  Truman and I both thought that if we could do something lighthearted, but not musical, it would draw more men from Pearland.  The first musical, ‘Sweet Charity’ had good audiences. We thought that we would fill up a third to ½ theater for most performances.  Truman and I knew, with the right play, we could pack the auditorium at Pearland high school.  After many months discussion, during the summer of my freshman year, Truman I had landed on ‘Kaufman and Hart’ plays.


These plays, when they were on Broadway, were very popular with a broad demographic of people.  This broad appeal, combined with the lack of music, had the greatest potential for an increased audience in Peraland.  Truman and I both knew we were not going to pack that house with just women.  Someway, somehow, Truman I had to get the man of Pearland to come to our plays.  However, both of us being from Texas, we knew this would not be an easy chore, but if anybody could do it in Pearland it was Truman and I.  The last thing in the world, my high school drama department needed was a musical a based Elvis Presley.


However, Doc was emphatic.  This new guy, whose name I still cannot remember, was going to take Truman’s first shot at directing by himself.  If I  remember correctly, and correct me if I’m wrong, Truman was none too happy about this decision either.  See, Truman had been hired as the drama department director.  He had not as an English teacher, but as the director of the drama department at Pearland and high school.  Enough of that…


I didn’t agree with ‘Docs’ selection of director.  I’d didn’t agree with their selection of play.  Nevertheless, I was going to be a part of the production, and I was going to do the best I could for whatever production at Pearland high school. This new director wanted to do some revolutionary things, in this play. Revolutionary in that they had not been tried, before, @ PHS. Moreover, revolutionary in that many people were not sure this director could pull them off… them being; removing the spotlights from the lighting booth and putting them on plywood platforms in the audience! Another was building a huge mock-up of a telephone for one scene in the play, wanting to “have the Elvis character fly in one scene…” Yes that is what I was told early on in the production.


I told ‘Doc’ and this… this new director, then I wasn’t comfortable designing or building the platforms he wanted to put live spotlights in the middle of a sitting audience. These spotlights weigh hundreds of pounds, and the very center is a several thousand-degree arch of electricity that makes the light. It was kind of like sitting a tiny-tiny sun in the middle of an audience of people.   However, when push came to shove I did help build the platforms that put these huge spotlights out on. I want to say right here, the Pearland high school drama department, the people that came to that show, and the people of the Unified School District, were all very the lucky that year.  What if one of those spotlights had fallen off one of those platforms during the performance? There could have been a big fire, and a lot of people would’ve been hurt.  I told ‘Doc’ how I felt.  He trusted the door judgment of this new director.  I told Truman how I felt, Truman told me he was out of the decision process. I did what I was told, and took his plans and built his platforms for the spotlights.

Now, the production of ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ went on.  I did the best job I could with the lights there were on that stage at the time.  I had two helpers on my spotlights and those two young men and did an excellent job.  One of those young men, that helped me with that spotlight on ‘Bye Bye Birdie’, was Leo Gabriel III.  I had chance to catch up with Leo, recently during the power chair campaign.  Leo told me that working on ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ was some of the best fun he had, in school, in his entire life.  Leo said he’d learn a lot from being in the production, and that was the most fun he’d ever had learning.


When I heard that, from a now successful business owner in Pearland, I began to understand just how these productions touched the lives of other people.  Let me explain; see up to this point at Pearland high school I had just been an actor.  I had seen the looks on people’s faces as I performed, I understood what we actors did, in these productions, what we did getting our message to our audiences.  I understood the entertainment value, I understood the social impact, and others just came to ‘just have fun’.  What I have not understood, before, was the importance of everything that went on backstage and offstage.  Please don’t misunderstand; from the very moment I ever walked onto a stage, for a show, I understood that the person pulling the rope for the opening curtain and was just as important as the lead actor.  We all had a part in the play, a cog in the wheel as it were. If any of us missed our role, the whole production suffered. I had deep respect for every single person on that stage, be they an actor or support staff.  I understood, from my very first show, my very first performance ever, that a single line could turn into a cameo performance.


That, I’ve got to tell you, is the single most important aspect of theater and the theater process, for me. That is why the theater productions are, to this day, still very important to public school education. Leo told us; “The most fun I ever had, doing something at school” I am tell you, people that has power.  I will never forget the lighting crew of ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ at Pearland high school, in 1975.  What I didn’t know until this year was that I was not alone in my positive remembrances of these productions.


I have been sitting here, in my apartment in Cypress California, for the past hour trying to remember…  I am trying to remember the exact timing of the next few events.  If, per chance, I get them wrong please let me now and I will correct some.  Thank you.  As best I remember ‘Doc’ passed away shortly after the production of ‘Bye Bye Birdie’.  However, I just had this nagging thought that ‘Doc’ passed away at the end of the production right before the first night of performances.  If anybody reading this remembers, let me now.  Nevertheless, as I remember, ‘Doc’ passed away shortly after the last show of ‘Bye Bye Birdie’.  This is a big loss to the drama department.  Doc’s passing was a big loss to everyone in Pearland high school.  He touched lives throughout the entire choral department, the band department, the drama department and creative writing departments.  I can’t think of a single teacher, at Pearland high school, more people knew then ‘Doc’.


Later this week I’m going to present you with the story of Doc’s passing.  Right now though, I wm continuing with the best times of my sophomore year.  It was contest time, my dear readers. IT was time for the Universal Interscholastic League contests for; Band, Choir, and drama.  Last year ‘Doc’ had done ‘The Red Shoes’ with Don Lockwood myself and many others.  We won several awards, with that play and cast, and did very well to contests.  This year Truman got to pick the play, and direct the play, for Pearland’s drama entry into the U.I.L. contests.  I look back on it now and Truman really did play it safe.  Truman had decided that instead of picking a bigger production, instead of taking on controlling the talents of half a dozen or a dozen students.  Truman played it safe and Truman played it smart.  The show was ‘Where Have All the Lightning Bugs Gone?’.  It was a One-act play by Louis E. Catron.  It was a beautiful little one-act play, about 20 minutes in length, with just two actors on stage and a bench.  Sigh.  At this point I had done musicals.  At this Point I had done a fun one-act play.  At this point I thought I had done theater, and I really did think I knew the power of theater, boy was I got to find out how wrong I was. J

I don’t mention the names of many people, in my stories.  I do it for a lot of reasons the most important to me is that I don’t want to offend anyone.  I don’t have contact, right now, with all the people, that were in my life at that time.  Therefore, I triedto mention names as little as possible, but right now I’d like to make a small exception.


The play was ‘Where Have All the Lightning Bugs Gone?’ this setting was Pearland Texas and the year was 1975.  She person that most occupied my heart and mind for the next three months, Susan Myers.  Ever have one of those people, from your past, you don’t have much of a memory of them  before you started hanging out, and you don’t have much more memory of them after, but the memory you do have is incredible?  I don’t remember Susan being in ‘Bye Bye Birdie’.  She wasn’t in the cast of  ‘Red Shoes’ if she was I don’t remember.  However, when Truman cast Susan Myers opposite me in ‘Where Have All the Lightning Bugs Gone?’ and he casts a show of a lifetime.  The play, ‘Where Have All the Lightning Bugs Gone?’ , is a play about innocence.  It is a play presented about the innocence of two young people in love.  In the larger sense, it is a play about the loss of innocence by America.  It is a play about the loss of innocence of our great nation. And, what that loss of innocence meant.


‘Where Have All the Lightning Bugs Gone?’ was probably the single most intense performances I ever gave, at that point.  Three years later, in 1978, I would perform ‘The Zoo Story’ by Edward Albee, and that would end up being the penultimate acting experience of my career.  I had never acted before with Susan Myers.  The very first time she and I read the lines, it was just the three of us in the auditorium, the three of us realized… We had a heck of a show on our hands!  Susan and I took to the script very quickly, and very quickly we both realized the other was extremely serious about their art.  Dear readers, I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this before in your life, meeting someone else where they’d kept an almost unbelievable depth of principle and conviction to their art. What a blessing it is to work beside someone like Susan.

End of Part One – Episode Seven of ‘The Story of Daniel’


Be sure to come back Friday August 31, 2012 for Part Two!


Thank you for your kindness and support.

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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