1981: Another big year. High school came to an end. I was a member of the National Honor Society. More importantly, I also won the John Henry Winters award given for outstanding drama student; the award is given by the massive Winters family, several of whom I'm still friends with.
In the summer, the Hilldale Kiwanis Summer Theatre did Anything Goes. A letdown to be back in the chorus after Fiddler, but still fun.
And so I started college at Memphis State (now the University of Memphis), and I turned 18. Why did I go to Memphis State? At some point in my senior high school year, there was a Thespian convention that we went to. I remember Josie Helming making a strong and positive impression, and also Jeff Posson doing a humorous monologue for us, perhaps from Chekhov. Seeing that they had incredible actors like Jeff Posson there was all the encouragement I needed.
One has to wonder why no effort was made for me to go to a more nationally-recognized school. My GPA was respectable enough. I tested well on the ACT and especially the SAT, the latter well enough to qualify me for MENSA membership! I remember feeling pretty set on MSU. The department was strong, it wasn't that far away from home, and many of my friends were going there too, including Jerry Hunt and perhaps my oldest friend, Terry Fluker. I have absolutely no regrets about MSU, and I think I got a terrific education. But what would have happened if I had been pushed to go to Carnegie Mellon, or CCM, or Yale? Who knows?
But MSU it was, and it was a wonderful, enriching place to be. Three shows in the first half of my freshman year! Josie directed a children's show, Ring Around the Rainbow. Then Inherit the Wind, directed by Jeff Posson. And then She Stoops to Conquer! I made many new friends, and had a great time.
The year ended excitingly: I was cast as the lead, title role in The Playboy of the Western World, to begin rehearsals at the beginning of 1982. I remember going home for the holidays with a lot of lines to learn. And I also remember wanting and receiving The Illusion of Life for Christmas. It was a rather extravagant present for someone whose career seemed headed away from animation. I read it cover to cover.