There was lots of excitement when we met after school in early October to start planning our Junior play. This meeting was to determine who would play what characters, etc. It never occurred to EJ and me that we would end up with the two leading male roles. Betty Osborne and front of the band pit; the big double doors slowly start to open at that exact instant. Out those doors step EJ and Nancy Harrison.
EJ stood there wondering what was so funny. He had expected a tongue lashing from you-know-who. You could see the puzzlement on his face ... along with all his “war-paint”! Big red lip prints covered his face. It was like Nancy had very precisely put her lip prints every half-inch all over his face. Finally, blushing, red-faced, Nancy stepped forward with a handkerchief and began wiping her lipstick off EJ’s face. Nancy was even laughing at the spectacle she had created.
You talk about red ... EJ’s face was brighter than a red fire engine, and the more scrubbing Nancy did, the redder it became ... and the harder we all laughed. I must admit, I had never seen perfect lip prints all over a guys’ face before. At that moment, all of us guys were probably wishing we could have been in EJ’s shoes because Nancy was a real beauty. Come to think about it, all the girls were probably thinking the same thing about Nancy.
Naturally, Miss Schafer made a speech about smooching being off-limits, and we all had to buckle down to the business of producing a play because there was only a short time before the big day, etc.
In the fourth week of practice, we were working on the third act when E J had this line to say .... “Is she dead?” Now that seems relatively simple, but for ol’ E J, the word “dead,” a one-syllable word, became a two syllable word “day-ud.”
I thought Miss Schafer was going to have a conniption fit We must have practiced that scene a hundred times, and just when you thought he had it conquered, out came the “day-ud.”
So, the opening night, we were all apprehensive and holding our breath, and EJ was off stage whispering, “dead, dead, dead.” Then, finally, the third act arrives, the scene comes, EJ makes his entrance, and every member of the cast and crew are holding their breath when it happens ... E J utters those famous words, “Is she ... well, is she day-ud?” Poor Betty, who is supposed to be unconscious on the couch, had to tum her head away from the audience so they couldn’t see her giggling.
Charlotte had the following line, and I thought she was about to burst out laughig, but she grabbed Betty’s hand like she was consoling her and was able to utter her lines. So, It was. now my turn. I was to move behind the couch and, with this concerned look, say my lines while directly looking into Betty’s face. However, I knew if I did, I would break out laughing, so I focused on a spot at the top of the couch and was able to keep my composure. Then on the second night, ol’ EJ actually said “dead,” and we all sighed with great relief.
Well, “Our Hearts Were Young and Gay” was a big success; we pulled it off without another hitch and thoroughly enjoyed doing it. We also realized Miss Schafer was a super nice “cool” person to be around and really knew what she was doing. So, the cast and crew presented her with two-dozen red roses to show our appreciation.
EJ, Cro and I finished out the year in that class and even made the “A” we were after.
As it turned out, it was one of the most enjoyable courses I had the opportunity of taking. Thanks to Miss Schafer for that great experience and the continued friendship over these many years. And, by the way, Cro’s voice still goes wacky every time he gets excited ... and that was over 50 years ago! Oh, and E.l kept practicing and can now say “dead.”
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