1984 was another big year. At MSU, we did My Fair Lady. I played Freddy Eynsford-Hill, and really enjoyed it. This was somewhat of a "collaboration" between the theatre and music departments. The two departments were about 20 feet from each other, and shared a breezeway, but it usually felt like they were 20 miles apart. This frustrated me.
I think I went to SETC this year. Was it in Orlando? But I took a long bus ride with Ken Zimmerman. And from that audition, I'm thinking, I got cast in my first summer in Galveston. We did The Lone Star, a big dramatic spectacle about Texas' struggle for independence, and also Hello, Dolly!, starring Marilyn Maye. I made many new friends, and I would return here...a lot.
Before it was back-to-school time, we four Fotts took what I guess was our last "family vacation" together, to New York. I saw my first Broadway show, Sunday in the Park with George. Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters were still in the show, but I arrived at the Booth Theatre to find that it was Bernadette's week off. The actress in the role went up on the lyrics of "Children and Art". (I knew every word she was supposed to be singing from listening to the cast album, which had only come out earlier that year.) I was seated towards the back of the orchestra section, but I could clearly hear Paul Gemignani singing the correct lyrics up to her from the pit where he was conducting.
Broadway. My first Broadway show. And I saw something happen I had never seen even at the Clarksville Civic Theatre. I mean, Bernadette wasn't suddenly sick, and an ill-prepared understudy had to be rushed on. This was her week off! It was a planned absence! To be fair, I later saw the replacement actress in another show and she was very good. But it was a real eye-opening experience.
I went alone to Sunday, but the whole family saw La Cage aux Folles. George Hearn was phenomenal.
Time to turn 21, and enter my senior year. Eddie Powers directed me in a Lunchbox Theatre production of a shortened version of Talley's Folly, and that was quite a good experience. Then came Enter Laughing. Paul Bogart guest-directed, and John Dye and I both wanted the leading role of David Kolowitz very badly. John and I competed against each other a lot at MSU, and we had a pretty even share of wins and losses. But somehow it never affected our friendship, which I find truly remarkable. I remember very well that after the final Enter Laughing audition, without knowing who had won the part, John and I went to Garibaldi's together, sat down at a table, and together consumed five pitchers of beer. That's friendship.
Anyway, John ended up winning this "plum". I played his best friend, Marvin, and had a very nice time with it. I remember Paul wrote me a lovely note opening night, something to the effect of "Thanks for doing so much with so little. You're a gem." It was marvelous working with him. He treated that text like it was Shakespeare. Not that he didn't make a few changes, but he considered and respected every word, every punctuation mark that was written.
I also directed for the very first time. I directed Christopher Durang's 'dentity Crisis for directing class, on a double bill with John's Vanities. 'dentity Crisis went over terrifically well, people thought it was hilarious and weird. A very gratifying experience.