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 MORE HAMS THAN A SUPERMARKET

An arrested stage of development






One way to get out of your comfort zone is getting up on stage. Go to your local community theatre and risk embarrassing yourself by auditioning.

By the time you’re finished, the fear will be gone and relief will replace it. You’ll be relieved because your dentist and the town veterinarian are there as well. It’s amazing to find that everyone where you live thinks they can act.

It’s true! Some are born comedians, even though they don’t mean to be. Others are trying to be funny, but play out as dull as standing in line. Everyone has a role!

The shows that I have been in have set the theatre back 100 years, in that they would’ve played well a hundred years ago. They were melodramas placed back when the city I lived in, San Juan Capistrano, was a sleepy village established by a catholic mission that had a vineyard to keep the villagers happy.

A friend of mine, Leonard Wigmore, wrote and directed the show.
Wiggy was the local ham. He wore a top-hat, monocle and an ascot as he strode about town with his golden retriever named Cecil.

The characters in the production had names like Paige Turner and Des Parado. Sue Flay and Drew Blood. Natalie Drest and Owen Money. The corn was plentiful, as the jokes were corny.

There were foam rubber rocks strewn about the stage and in the theatre seats and it encouraged the audience to throw them at the villain as he plotted and tortured the damsel in distress and the assorted dim-witted townspeople.

There were production numbers with song and dance featuring the entire cast of around twenty, give or take. There was limited space on stage for the throng as they tried to coordinate the dance routines that had begun rehearsals, looking like someone had pulled a fire alarm at a lunatic asylum. Afterwards, the well meaning and then overly frustrated choreographer collapsed in exhaustion.

By the time the show premiered, 75% of the steps were removed so that the show could begin on time as scheduled. They were all dancing to the most basic of steps, except me and the villain. We stayed at the back and just moved our hands to the rhythm.

The songs were less complicated than the dance numbers. The lyrics paid homage to the history of the once small town. That way we amateurs could warble our way through without having to fake having talent. There were singers that were ringers brought in to give the resemblance of a production that was worth recommending, so that word-of-mouth would drive ticket sales.

Every town has talent.

The denizens had a regular group of actors that would show up for each audition. They were comprised of city leaders, business owners, college students, educators, grocery baggers and various descendants of inveterate gamblers and horse thieves.

They would voluntarily ply their talents for weeks to rehearse and perform their appointed roles. As a study on the various array of skills that the actors possessed, the observer would have to exercise patience. They would run the gamut of levels from astonishingly competent to was this person given a role by just wandering in off the street, which, sometimes, they did.

There was one fortuitous feature in that because the show was a complete farce from beginning to end, when the two local newspapers reviewed it, they treated the show like it was one step up from an elementary school recital.

If it had been written up by a renowned and serious theater scribe, it would’ve been a massacre not seen since Little Big Horn. They’d have likened Wiggy to General Custer.

That the melodrama sold out its run and was the most profitable show of the year had to rankle the more serious productions. At the annual award presentations, the show wouldn’t win anything. As a consolation, the cast would perform badly during the yearly parade that was put on to celebrate Swallows Day.




In the end, everyone was exhausted. They vowed never to do another one of these shows. And then the next show, there they would be again. It takes a special person to get up and put up a show. Special indeed, depending on your definition of special.


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