The Mad Hatter and Pinocchio

I was in two children's theater productions in the mid seventies while growing up in Fort Collins, Colorado. Alice in Wonderland where I played the Mad Hatter and Pinocchio where I played Pinocchio. My good friends Phoebe and Chris were also in these productions. One of the funniest stories was when I was forced to where a wax nose that the makeup person insisted wouldn't fall off. Not only did it fall off within minutes of my first big scene at the tea table, but it traveled to places all over the stage before I was finally able to rid myself of it completely. When it first detached itself at the bottom, close to my upper lip, I knew I was going to have to remove it all together, so I quickly took a swipe at it and knocked it to the floor with the intention of discarding it later, when I knew I was going to slam into the March Hare and disappear behind the table. Meanwhile I spent a good portion of the scene trying to rub the spirit gum off of my real nose and blend my makeup so that I didn't look too ridiculous. Soon I was able to retrieve the thing and I deposited it into my front pocket where my fan was. When Alice arrived and the party needed to prepare her for the Queens court, it unfortunately reappeared stuck to the fan when I presented it to the Doormouse who in turn passed it to the March Hare who handed it to the White Rabbit and then whipped around to give it to Alice. At that point it flew across the stage and hit a painted canvas wall with a thud. I swear the entire audience wondered what it was that flew across the stage. Then it fell to the floor and laid there until a big set piece was moved onto the stage that smeared the thing all over the floor. Needless to say, I didn't have to build up my nose after that. 

When I played Pinocchio I had a couple of other mishaps to memorialize here. One involved an over stuffed gun powder contraption commonly know as a flash pot. When Pinocchio turns from a log into a fully carved boy puppet, I was supposed to roll out of a trap door under a bench that was placed on stage.  The log was to disappear in the dark And the flash pot blew up as planned but the hot ashes fell down between the cracks of the bench and landed on my face. I thought I was on fire so I started to yell and got out from under that bench really fast. 

At the end of the run someone decided to pull a prank on me by placing a jock strap among the clothing that I was supposed to put on in front of the audience as a sort of learning experience for the little kids. "This is a sock, it goes on your foot. This is a hat it goes on your head". So when it came to the jockstrap I turned to Gepetto and said "this must be yours dad" and just handed it to him.  

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

My first, and last, summer stock experience was in Jackson Hole Wyoming at the Pink Garter Theater. It was a really bad version of a really bad production of Wildcat which evidently bombed on Broadway. Anyway it was a shortened version followed by a musical review for the second act. I played the part of Hank the 2nd lead of the show, the side kick to a sort of John Wayne character, a Mexican. I had to wear a wig and put body makeup on every night. And this show played every night for 4 months straight. Needless to say, it was not fun. The show was bad, I was bad. The audience was predominately seniors they bussed in each night. Most of the cast got along fairly well, but the lead actor Steven from LA was a piece of work! Complete with a diamond embedded his front tooth. I guess it was so when he smiled it would sparkle. Every night his character would slap my character and we would rehearse over and over again a stage slap but he would purposely hit me for real to aggravate me. Finally having had it, I told him if he did this one more time I would slap him back. That night he seemed to put even extra force into his slap. Hank, in the show, would normally just raise his hand as if he was going to retaliate. So lucky for me, Steven was absolutely blindsided when I turned back around and walloped him one. Hank then makes an exit. Steven stumbled around on stage for what seemed like 5 minutes that evening. And boy did that feel good. Suddenly Steven knew how to deliver a "real" stage slap for the rest of the run. 

On another occasion the bouncer from the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar across the street came to the show with a buddy and their girlfriends totally smashed. They sat in the front row in the center of the audience and heckled us all through the the first half of the show. During intermission I told everyone that I would take care of him and sing Beauty School Dropout right in his face. I don't know why I thought that would shut him up. When I first approached him he proceeded to try to trip me and take my microphone away from me, so I just gave him a little pop on his head which he played along with. But then, having just noticed that he passed a full bottle of wine to his girlfriend I quickly swiped it out of her hands and on the last high note of the song I proceeded to pour the bottle of wine over his head. Not surprisingly he started to climb up onto the lip of the stage where I was standing but lucky for me several other audience members were able to grab and hold him off as I made a quick exit. Unfortunately, he did manage to throw a glass at me which hit me right between my shoulder blades and it really hurt. But it was worth it. He was a real creep and I and the cast and even most of the audience was happy to see him drenched head to toe. The rest of the summer I had to put on a disguise so that he wouldn't recognize me. I wore black hard rimmed nerd glasses and was constantly on the look out for him all day and of course after the show, but he never did showed up. Perhaps he didn't even remember the incident, but I sure do.