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November 27, 2021

Funny Papers Again Column | All the World’s a Stage, and That’s Fine With Me

I recently mentioned to my boss Ryan that Funny Papers Again seemed be leaning more to light stuff rather than some of the heavier stuff, and by stuff I mean every topic that may interest readers here in our little Valley, so I thought I’d touch on some issues that can be, well, touchy.

But before that I must digress a bit, if I may, as the notorious Facebook social media site figures in both narratives, I’ll give you this one first. As I write this, Jeff Hinderscheid is in Manhattan, the lucky guy. There are many reasons why one may go to New York City, but in Jeff’s case I’d bet a dollar to a peso that Jeff is there mainly because he is a Theater Rat. I know that because I’m a Theater Rat and all Rats recognize our kinship when it comes to stage acting. Let me give you a bit of my first steps on this odd path called Community Theater.

I had done little skits in Sunday School classes when I was a young member of the Greenfield United Methodist Church, a wonderful building still in use for worship, usually playing a shepherd or a wise man. Later in elementary school, I recall in fourth grade our class did a short “Pied Piper of Hamlin” skit, but it was in the fifth grade that I first experienced the rush of being in front of an audience. It happened like this: every year back in the 1960s there was an annual “Americanism Essay Contest” sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary, and in 1963 my fifth-grade class entered along with the three higher classes.

Weeks went by and most of us I’m sure had all but forgotten about the essay when one day we all gathered in the Auditorium. Let me add here without a lot of detail that Greenfield Elementary School at this time had one of the finest Auditoriums in the Valley, ask any old-timer. The seats that day were filled with students from four grades and at that time there were three classes per grade level with an average of 17 students per class, so an audience — counting teachers and guests — of some 225 people, which was about 1/10 of the population of Greenfield at that time.

I noticed that my father was sitting near the front with the principal (and some other adults none of us students knew) and wondered why until during the handing out of awards my older brother was among those called to come up and receive either a first-, second- or third-place award. Each class had three winners. I was not one of the winners in the fifth grade, but after all the awards had been distributed a man went up on stage and went into this spiel about this one special essay that had placed third in Group I, representing some five Western states.

Before he could announce the awardee, classmate Sergio Botta turned to me and whispered, “It’s you.” And then I heard my name come out of the sound system and the next thing I knew I was standing on stage next to the podium listening to this man read my essay; I was stiff as a board and kept clutching at my pants legs with my hands in a nervous release. Then I looked at my dad and he gave me a look and a small gesture that conveyed the message to “just relax.” And I did. I can still recall looking out on all those faces and being the object of their attention and that was when it hit me: this is the place to be. I still have the awards from that day, and I still prefer the stage over a seat in the audience.

After that, like all Rats stricken with the theater bug, I have spent years developing that aspect of my life. With enough experience one gets to a place where there are certain things you know just because you know them. Here’s a couple examples: I once took in a Broadway show where a young actor named Keifer Sutherland played one of the roles, and when I left the theater I knew I could have done the role as well as he did, probably better. I just knew it. A couple years later I spent eight hours on set playing a bartender in a movie alongside actor Tom Sizemore. After watching him for hours I came away knowing that I could not do what he was doing. I just knew it. You see vanity works both ways.

I would like to think I’ll someday again “trod the boards” as the saying goes, but that depends upon the role and the show and given my transportation restrictions will have to be produced here in town. We’ll see.

***

Back to Facebook. It is obvious to anyone who seeks to use the site for the purpose of keeping up with family, friends and associates that many use their access for purely political comment. And many of those posts are just downright vicious and promote divisiveness among the users. There are people I know on the site, people I am fond of for one reason or other, whose posts I just scroll by because I know it is a hard stance on one side of the political divide or the other and usually are just regurgitations of some far-fetched position posed by so-called experts. The rhetoric can get ugly.

One of the more recent additions to Facebook is a page labeled King City High School Reunion 1970-1979, an event scheduled for August of 2022. That is the potential for a lot of people to come together with a common cause: to remember and reconnect with former classmates. The question is whether or not the evening can progress amicably or if extreme political positions will create an atmosphere more hostile than friendly. Again, we’ll see.

Take care. Peace.

Steve Wilson
King City and Greenfield Columnist

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