Is it true that in the second half of my senior year at MSU, I only did one show? Quite a falloff from doing six in my freshman year. I feel like I'm forgetting some shows...
But that show, the final show of the year, was The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. I played the Bandleader, and actually did play in the band too. It was neat to open the show all alone, just me and my guitar. I was the narrator again. Was I onstage for the final moment too? I hope so.
And...that was that. School was out. Goodbye to friends. I was pretty much entirely out of the nest. And I did flutter away...although I fluttered back to Memphis for a spell.
But first: Timber Lake Playhouse in Mt. Carroll, Illinois. I drove up to the city and the sign said "Mt. Carroll — 1900". No, that's not the date the town was founded; that's the population. Right in the middle of The Corn, there was Timber Lake Playhouse. This was two-week summer stock. I was in Promises, Promises, Monday After the Miracle, Annie, Bleacher Bums, and finally the prize: Talley's Folly. This was an overall good experience, particularly getting to do the last show.
In the first part of 1985, John Dye and I were called in to audition for Rhodes College's production of the 8.5 hour Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. We auditioned for the title role, along with a guy from Rhodes named Brian Maffitt. It began rehearsals in the summer. I think I already had the Timber Lake Playhouse gig, but I'd seen the RSC version of Nicholas, and loved it, and thought it might be worth turning down paying work in order to get to be Nicholas. I didn't get the part — John did — and so that was that. But while I was in Mt. Carroll, I was contacted by Jerry Chipman and told there had been a lot of reshuffling of the Nicholas cast. John had dropped out, Brian had been given Nicholas, and I was asked if I would come back after the summer and take the roles of John Browdie and Sir Mulberry Hawk. They were both wonderful roles, and although I was now a Professional Actor and Nicholas was NOT a paying gig, I accepted.
In retrospect, I'm glad I did. It was a wonderful experience, and I established a strong friendship with Brian, which continues to this day.
I turned 22.
I should perhaps note here that concurrently with Nicholas, I was playing Goldie the Gender-Confused Reindeer for Goldsmith's department stores. Imagine me, dressing up in an animal suit, and walking around entertaining kids. It wouldn't be the last time.