1983, and back for the second half of my sophomore year at MSU, to play the title role in The Wanderer. An adaptation of Alain-Fournier's Le Grand Meaulnes, this was a beautiful production directed by Gloria Baxter. It was a challenging script, and I don't think my acting skills were quite up to the challenge. But it was one of those life-changing experiences that only live theatre can bring about.
It seems like there was some other, smaller show in here...is this when I was in a production of The Twin Menaechmi? But the school year ended with a production of As You Like It, in which I played the old shepherd Corin.
It was in this summer that I became a Professional Actor. Josie hired me to be in The Red Balloon Players, a troupe that went around to various parks in the Memphis area and performed three different, self-created shows. I'm sure my guitar-playing skills, modest though they may be, helped get me the gig. I stayed in the beautiful apartment of my new friend John Dye, while John went back home to Tupelo. I had to have a car! So my wonderfully generous parents got me a nice blue Toyota Corolla.
My junior year began, as I turned 20. I moved out of the dorms and shared an apartment with old friend Eddie Powers (see 1976). This was a great year for life-changing theatrical experiences, because this is the year that Keith Kennedy directed Strider. I believe there was exactly one month's time between the first day of auditions and opening night. I am reminded of the great quote attributed to Leonard Bernstein: "To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time." With Strider, we captured some sort of theatrical magic that can only have happened due to the pressures of time. It was a real breakthrough for me; I got to sing, play an actual grown-up man, and also play a wonderful, drunken, sad final scene. Keith is reported to have said that this was his favorite show he ever worked on. That makes me proud.
And to end the year, I ventured out into the larger Memphis theatrical community by playing Fred in A Christmas Carol at Theatre Memphis. This was the year the role of Scrooge was split between Sherwood Lohrey and Barry Fuller, two very different actors who both gave strong performances.