The Story of Daniel Episode Seven – Part Two – Sophomore Woes

The Story of Daniel

Episode Seven – Part Two

Sophomore Woes

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. If you have, you know what an incredible experience it can be and how the whole process can take everyone involved to another place.  ‘Where Have All the Lightning Bugs Gone?’ was that experience for Susan Myers, Truman Dunahoo and Danny Hanning.


Let me set the stage, for our continued journey.  The very last play Pearland had seen was ‘Bye Bye Birdie’. It was flashy, it was loud, there was a lot of movement, and a lot of people. It cost the drama department a lot of money.  So, there wasn’t much money left for our contest play.  Let me set the stage a little for you. In Texas, at the time of this play, a high school department (be they Band, Choir or Drama) would get its budget increased or decreased based on the previous year’s contest results.  Let me tell you, contest results could make or break a high school department’s budget for the next year.  With the financial debacle, that was ‘Bye Bye Birdie’, this year’s U.I.L. contest had to be a home run for Truman. That or he would have no budget, next year, for his very first major school play.


Let me try and unpack that a little, as we say in the business.  The last play had spent thousands of dollars, remember this is in 1974, thousands upon thousands of dollars on set pieces that could only be used once. As I learned, from Truman, a high school drama department needs lots of muslin and flats.  These flats are eight foot by four-foot walls made with ¼-inch wood structure with muslin nailed, then sized to fit tightly onto the frame.  Then these panels get put together, and painted, to give you a beautiful photo realistic set.  If you ever seen one of Truman’s plays; be it one of mine or one of the many that came after. Then you, my friend, know what can be done with some ¼-inch wood, some muslin, cornstarch and paint.  The last director, of ‘Bye Bye Birdie’, had invested nothing in these materials. The very materials that we needed to build sets for our next major show.


See Truman had to have a winner at the U.I.L. contest or he would not have a budget, no money for building the sets and he would need to have a show.  See, this is why I say what Truman did, was playing it smart and safe.  He also played it cheap. The set, for ‘Lightning Bugs’, was a park bench. Then there were our costumes, and a little pancake makeup. I bought my costume for the play, and I think Susan had her mother make her costume as well. 

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the show you are about to see is about a country that no longer exists.  America was a country of county fairs. America was a country of warm summers, hot dogs, and apple pie.  The play, in short, was about an America that no longer existed.  ‘Where Have All the Lightning Bugs Gone?’ was a 22 minute single act duet, between Susan Myers and I, that took the audience for a trip back in Americana.  Moreover, it was a play that; Truman Dunahoo, Susan Myers and Daniel Hanning rode all the way the state. Well, almost, all the way to state.   

          That play was the single most successful production, for Pearland high school’s drama department, in the Universal Interscholastic League competitions, ever.  At district I won best actor, Susan won best actress, Truman won best director, and the play won best play. We flipping swept the awards.  We walked into the regional contest the best one act play team and the best entertainment any Texan could spend their money on, in theater that year.  That play and that show was the single tightest performance I’d ever been in my entire life (to that point). You couldn’t squeeze up playing card in between the lines in that play, it was that tight.  We were the best play, of the time, when we came back from that district contest, and all signs pointed to us sweeping Regional’s too.


          We knew who our competition was, that year. As well, we knew the plays we were competing with, for the Regional contest.  See that was the great thing about the U.I.L. Once you get started, in the contest, with a play you did the same play all away from the first contest to ‘State’. Therefore, we knew whom we were competing against and what play they were required to perform.  We had a lock on being the on the stage, that year, at state.  So, two weeks after our fantastic win at district, we headed to the regional contest. 

         There is a lot about this that I’m just now putting together and remembering. This was my first year going to another school and performing.  I remember Truman had to charter a school bus to get us to the regional contest. It was just Susan,Truman and myself. Oh, there was a park bench, and a handful props but not a whole school bus! So, we used the bus to do vocal exercises all the way to the contest site. The ride was a ton of fun, we ran lines from the play, goofed off, made up voices for passing drivers and generally were a nuisance. 

          When we got to the contest I saw where we placed in the contest, in the order of plays.  It has always been my assertion that the first play and the last play are always the best places to be, to win.  Most of the people that were appointed as judges, at regional and state level, had either seen or heard of your play performance. Looking at the listing of the order of plays, we knew this to be true.  ‘Where Have All the Lightning Bugs Gone’, with Susan Myers and Daniel Hanning, was to be the very first play to perform at this contest.  I remember it’s even clear today, if your play was even a bit weak, you had no chance of getting to be first.  Among other things, being the first play you got to see every play you were competing against perform at the contest.  If they do in a credible advantage in the lane the likely results of the contest.  The only downside, it didn’t give you much time to get prepared once you’ve got to the contest. That was the case today.  Susan and I’d didn’t want to ride in a costumes all the way to the contest.  So, we had dressed in casual clothes on the ride up to the contest location.  When Susan and I got to the theater, for the contest that day, we arrived with 10 minutes before we were supposed to be onstage, ready to perform.  Well, it might have been 15 minutes, but no more than that I am sure.  The point is, Susan and I, we were first. We got excited we were first. Then we realized we were first! We had to run like hell to the dressing rooms.  People even the lock.  Do you believe in fate?  The believe in any oral good fortune at all in this world?


Going into that dressing room that afternoon Susan Myers and I felt as though the wind was at our back, and this would not be the last time we would perform this play. We quickly got into costume and makeup, then we headed to the auditorium to find our places.  As Susan, Truman and I are rushing through the hallways of a strange, but very beautiful and nice, high school we could hear the speaker, in the auditorium giving the introduction for the contest.  I remember we turned right, a couple of times and finally found large double doors These large double doors usually indicate you are going into a hall or auditorium, in high schools.  We had found our destination.  Truman opened the first double doors and it led to the auditorium itself.  We walked a little past those doors and we found a smaller single door. Truman open that one and walked through.  Within a minute he came back out then told us this was the stage entrance, and we went inside.


This stage, which I walked on to, was like no other stage I had seen to date in my life. There was a fly loft for curtains and flats to be pulled off stage, above the stage.  There are movable lighting racks, and all sorts of lighting instruments I had heard of, but I had never seen.  So…  This is what it looks like when the drama department has money, sweet.  I thought then, as I was about ready to grab our park bench and perform, what a shame it was we had this big fancy brand new stage to perform on and yet all that Susan and I were going to use was the apron.  Honestly, I thought those very words! I had that very thought as Susan and I stood up stage right, waiting to go and perform our show.  Here was this beautiful stage.  Due to form new lighting instruments, accommodations for many sets it wants, and more SP pages baseball footage that I’d ever seen before my life.  And all we were going to use was an 8 foot by 4 foot strip of stage in front of the curtain. Truman Susan and myself are all standing offstage at the district U.I.L drama contest overwhelmed a by the size of this stage and the theater.


Therefore any of us did he even do something as stupid as being afraid, it was time for us to hit the stage.  Truman set up the park bench and props and left the stage.  As they introduced the “Winners of District” contest participants from Pearland high school Susan Myers and Daniel Hanning doing ‘Where Have All the Lightning Bugs Gone’.  He walked offstage and the lights dimmed in the house. Susan and I went on stage, in the dark, found our places waited three seconds, then the lightning struck that stage.  Remembering it now, I don’t think anybody in that audience took a breath for the first three minutes we were on stage that day.


That show, that’s crept, power performance was so tight that day even the applause seemed timed.  About halfway through the show my character steps to the very edge of the center the stage the apron and all addresses the audience and looks around.  At this Point I had already been performing about 9 to 10 minutes of this play, saw had been looking up of course looking at the audience as I performed.  However, right there at that point in the play when I was standing addressing the audience one on one I was all struck by just how many human beings were listening to every word I said.  It didn’t show in the delivery of my lines, it didn’t show in my demeanor or in any other fashion.  I was just overwhelmed by the number people I can actually make a laugh; we could make laugh, with those words.  The whole 22 minutes worked flawlessly.  Neither of us missed a line, or a beat, or a hand gesture, or even a nuance.


When the play was done, Susan I stood at the apron of the stage; hand-in-hand, side-by-side and arm-in-arm.  What we’ve heard was tremendous applause, what we saw was a standing ovation.  We must have bowed a half-dozen times, bowed to the left, bowed to the right, bowed center. The applause continued and the people stood.  After what was probably 3 minutes, but seemed like 5 to 7, the house lights turned on and the people stopped applauding and sat down.  As soon as we were offstage I turned to Susan and said these words;


“We’re going to win this, Susan”


I was never as certain about anything in my life, as I was that Susan and I would win this contest.  We watched the other four competing plays, that afternoon.  They were quite good; all in all they were well directed and well performed.  However, not one of those plays had the syncopation, depth of performance, or the social relevance of our play.  Susan Myers won best actress.  Daniel Hanning won best actor. Truman was not acknowledged in this contest, as he was in District. Our play placed third, and we did not proceeding to state.


That day, of that performance of that play, was one of the last two times I ever saw Susan Myers in my life.  Susan and I never performed again, and we didn’t have any classes together.  My sophomore, or junior, year of college I do remember going to a small theater in downtown Huston and watching her perform.  However, I have not heard from Susan sense.  That afternoon, the drive back to Pearland was very quiet.  Truman was very supportive, very appreciative and overflowing with compliments. However, Susan and I knew that something had happened. Something unseen, had taken place and we were shaken badly by this mystery. I lived with this mystery for the next thirty-plus years. I will not reveal, today, but late last year that mystery was finally solved.



End of Part Two ‘Sophomore Woes’


Thank you for your support.


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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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