So a number of folks have already asked me how last night's reading went. To be honest? Kind of a blur, which is odd considering my penchant for rigorous post-performance post-mortems ("it took three bars for me to be entirely comfortable." "I didn't hold that note long enough." "My shoulders and back REALLY REALLY hurt.") But I know I got a few laughs in appropriate places, and the ending applause seemed reasonably enthusiastic, so I can't complain.
And it was a great show all round, what with stories of heated love triangles at bible camp, traumatizing encounters with pillows (among other things) why it's not necessarily the best idea to cook a deer skull*, how Albert Camus relates to summer camp, and how a mother's idea of "special needs camp" differs very, very much from the reality of the situation.
Since I believe the protocol is to post the text of the reading, I shall do so after the jump.
*While the audience flinched and groaned, I thought this story was hilarious. But interning in a morgue will cure you of some things...
Ah, summer camp. For some people, it brings back fond memories of forged friendships, unbreakable bonds and unforgettable moments. For others, it’s something to gloss over completely, to put away in the darkest, dankest corners of the mind, never to be accessed again unless Chinese water torture, high-pitched whines and scalding hot pokers are involved.
For me, it fell somewhere in between.
Now, I bet when you think of summer camp – horror-filled memories or not – you usually think of the sleepaway kind. Being a teenager, getting harassed by Montreal-based Jewish American princesses, whining so much about the possibility of a canoe trip that you never actually end up going on one, wondering why everyone seems to have a summer boyfriend but you…OK, well, maybe those experiences are a little more me-specific.
But the point is, I’d rather cast my gaze a little further backward. To the time when I didn’t have to worry if I’d get bitten by mosquitos in my sleep. To when it didn’t matter if I had a camp boyfriend because ew, boys were gross, or at least a non-entity.
In short, we’re in kiddieland territory now.
Like every dutiful little Jewish girl, I did my time at all varieties of JCC camps (that’s Jewish Community Center for those of the goyish persuasion): day camp, where the highlight of each day was putting on some grotesque approximation of a bathing suit and splashing myself silly during the afternoon “free swim”; sports camp, which is only notable in my mind because one time our counselor asked us what tape we wanted to listen to: Madonna or Corey Hart?
“Corey Hart,” we answered back in unison.
This was 1986. We really didn’t know any better.
And then, there was Theater Arts Camp. An amusing experience on so, so many levels.
First, imagine the nine-year old version of me -- a fat little kid with absurdly curly hair cut boy-short -- practicing plies every day alongside far thinner campers. None of whom, incidentally, had any hope of becoming a ballet dancer. We were taught by the wondrously cerebral Dina Migoel, a former dancer with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet who had the freakiest looking legs I’d ever seen. And thanks to her, I will never get the phrase “no 401!!” out of my head again.
Then there was jazz, which involved wearing shiny spandex pants and learning all sorts of funky dance moves to “Smooth Criminal.” I remember sliding around a lot. And doing a terrible approximation of the Moonwalk. It was not pretty.
Over in art class, there was a weirdly dippy teacher named Bonnie who spoke in dulcet tones and spent the entire eight weeks teaching us how to turn straw into gold…or at least, clay molds into bizarre looking cats. The result of my efforts still lives at my parents’ house. To this day, I’m not sure why the damn thing’s so crooked. It kind of leans to the left, like it’s about to fall off. But then again, alchemy – turning ordinary campers into artistes – only goes so far.
Then there was Brett, the theater teacher. I remember one camper, Naomi, had the biggest crush on this guy. Even worked up the nerve to kiss him. Literally jumping up to do so because he was so much taller than she was. The rest of us couldn’t understand this at all – he was OLD! Like, 19 or 20! And of course, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I realize that even if Naomi had been of age he still wouldn’t have been interested in her. Or any other female, for that matter. But cluelessness was a regular staple of theater arts camp life.
It might explain what happened to me the night of our big production, which as always, was held on the second-last evening of the second session of camp. The year before, we’d done some weird hybrid of Cats and Jewish community melodrama to produce…J.C. Cats. Luckily I’ve blocked out almost everything except for having to wear a black leotard.
But this particular year, for some reason that now escapes me – thank god – we were doing some ultra-hip, dance-saturated version of Christopher Columbus’s landing on the shores of America. I played Columbus (because no self-respecting boy was enrolled in this camp, of course) and had to learn about a billion pages of lines. But I knew them cold. I was ready. I would perform this spectacle in front of an adoring public. Nothing would go wrong, right?
Well, not exactly. See, there was one point, maybe a third of the way into the play where I was supposed to look around for my crew, and they wouldn’t be there. I’d shout, “WHERE ARE THE MEN?” and my first mate – as played by my friend Sabrina – would rush out to reply.
So I looked around. I shouted the line. And nothing happened.
Sabrina wasn’t there.
“WHERE ARE THE MEN?” this time I added hand gestures. Looked out at the audience. Even got a few titters.
All my readiness went down the toilet. I panicked, and like a bird stricken down in mid-air, I kept bleating the same damn line over and over again. A part of me desperately wanted to do something, anything else – stand-up comedy would have been nice – but I was stuck in a holding pattern.
WHERE ARE THE MEN? MEN? MEN??
One last shout: “WHERE ARE THE MEN???”
And then, finally, at last! Sabrina emerged. She said the line – whatever the hell it was -- and we went on.
She’d been stuck in the bathroom. For almost five minutes.
My acting career ended that night. Because after that, I figured it was a wise idea to stick to singing and writing.