The Play at Pooh Corner

WinniePooh3God knows I’m no actor. Nor have I ever had a burning desire to be one.

But Mom knew I was interested in the arts, so she took me to readings and lectures. (In February 1975 we went to a talk at the University of Minnesota on “Romanticism in Literature.” Go figure. I wouldn’t have remembered that without rereading my diaries.)

She also introduced me to the theater.

In the fall of 1978, we saw a performance of Hamlet at the Guthrie, with Randall Duk Kim as the Dane. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the Guthrie’s stage manager, Bob Bye, would five years later direct me in the role of Dr. Sanderson in a Westonka community theater production of Mary Chase’s Harvey. After that we did Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, where I had the part of the catalyst, George Deever.

At one point Bye pulled me aside and took a deep breath.

“Uh, your acting?” he said. “Don’t.

It probably stung at the time, but, as mentioned, because I didn’t have to be an actor, I got over it fairly quickly.

Still, actors, acting, and the theater fascinated me. Back in Maryland, Mitch Millison and I competed by writing plays. After moving to Minnesota, I started a new play called Caesar’s Rome, then ditched it, getting bogged down with questions about stage directions and scene building.

In the end, I may have translated all of the playwriting attempts into sharper character dialogue in my short stories. I don’t know for sure.

During the winter of 1975, my last year at Grandview Junior High, our drama teacher, Brad Aamodt, announced tryouts for a theatrical production of A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh.

My new buddy Jeff Taylor goaded me into auditioning, which I agreed to do only if he would, too. Of course everyone wanted to be the willy-nilly, silly ol’ bear.

On Wednesday, Feb. 5, 1975, I wrote in my diary: “In musical play Winnie the Pooh … got the part of … Piglet.” The second the news broke, I was the butt of every possible pig-related joke my classmates could dream up.

Jeff landed the relatively innocuous role as “The Narrator” and Pooh went to a kid named Dan Barret, who actually did resemble a small brown bear.

Through that February and March, at 4:00 every Tuesday and Thursday, the cast of Winnie-the-Pooh met for play practice. We continued until April, when Mr. Aamodt added a Monday night rehearsal.

I recall how taxing it was to memorize my lines, to work up the nerve to sing aloud in my own voice, and to stand on the stage in the cafeteria, realizing that in a scant few weeks I’d be dead center in the crosshairs of the entire school.

When I learned that my costume included pink nylon tights, I was horrified beyond belief. That news, too, rippled through the halls—kids couldn’t wait to see me as Piglet, onstage in a spotlight, wearing women’s clothing.

Well, at least that’s how it seemed to me. I’d never—ever—live it down.

Four performances of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Musical Comedy in Two Acts ran from Monday, May 12, in the morning to all Kindergarten through 3rd graders, then May 13 and 14 for grades 7 through 9 at Mound Junior High and our school, Grandview, in the afternoon. The run ended on the 15th with an evening performance for all schools, our parents and the general public.

Standing in the wings, I watched for my cue as Pooh struggled to shake the bee’s nest free from the cardboard stage tree.

Mind-numbingly terrified, I mumbled my walk-on line like a mantra: “There you are, Pooh!”

The nylon tights were crawling up the crack of my ass, and I was dissolving into a Nixon-sized flop sweat.

Since I was supposed to enter in a nervous and agitated state, I discovered the role allowed me to just feel what I was already feeling.

When the audience’s laughter and applause washed over the stage, it carried me through all the way to curtain close.

Time passed, the pink tights were forgotten, and the humiliation and taunting gave way to a tacit respect from my fellow 9th graders—Piglet had survived the play at Pooh Corner.

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~ by completelyinthedark on May 15, 2011.

6 Responses to “The Play at Pooh Corner”

  1. Good story. Years later, you’re cool for having been Piglet, not for having avoided the embarrassment.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Do you still have the tights?! Fun post Michael.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Uh, not particularly an item of sentimental value for me. Also, no extant photos in costume, sadly. I wonder what my parents’ reaction was at the time, but seriously can’t recall. Mom probably bought the tights and told me not to worry about being taunted. 🙂

      Like

  3. Fantastic recall Mike! I’m so glad you 1) created your diaries 2) kept the diaries 3) filled in the details frm memory with such humor and grace. It was fun to see the photo of my “autograph” too. Remeber there IS a picture of you, me and Baibi during a dress rehearsal in the school newspaper. You’re in a small wash tub! Of course, when you look at the photo, I’m looking at Baibi!

    Great work, I will read some more of your posts, they’re fun and insightful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jon Berglund and I tried out for the play as a goof. Walking out onstage at the beginning of the production in green knickers was the most embarrassing moment of my youth.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on Completely in the Dark and commented:

    Rewriting an all-new post for next Friday, somewhat related to this oldie. Enjoy!

    Like

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