Monday, June 14, 2010

Still ANGRY After All These Years

Before they became DESPERATE, these HOUSEWIVES were ANGRY!

Not like I'm bucking to be the Grand Marshall of the Memory Parade, I still have to mark this anniversary (the last. for like forever, I swear to Buddha) since it was significant to me and should be noted for posterity if nothing else. Besides, who else is going to do it?

Twenty years ago, Stockton Civic Theater's 1990 summer production was the "edgy" (for Stockton at that time) musical comedy ANGRY HOUSEWIVES, the tale of four suburbanites who form an all-female punk rock band singing songs like "Eat Your Fucking Cornflakes".

Directed by Rocky Rhodes with musical direction by Jon Robinson, Housewives featured an extraordinary cast of talented women in the lead roles-Barbara Ann Cecchetti, Debbie Robinson, Rebecca Hatton and Shelley Leland-Webb. Supporting them as their male counterparts were myself, Dennis Morgan, Garlyn Punao and Jeffrey French as Lewd Fingers. These sensational. talented actors made this show so memorable for me. We were definitely a close-knit group to be sure, our chemistry forming an indelible bond that transformed into a tight ensemble on and off stage.

Other than my years at the Palace Showboat Theater, that Angry Housewives summer was the closest I ever got to working in the legitimate theater. We ran (what I believe to be a record)
2 1/2 months on that stage and many return audiences which would had justified extending the show even further. At one point, SCT-for reasons I don't recall-even paid the cast, unheard of in community theater.

Housewives was a show for its time, pretty much dated by now. These days, it might even be considered a period piece, though themes like struggling to make ends meet and dreams of stardom are still universal. Several of its elements even resonated with me. I enjoyed watching this show every single night whether it be from the wings and even from the audience on nights I had an understudy I didn't want or need. Any scene with all four girls gave me a kick because they worked so well together. I particularly loved Becky and Jeff's duet "Love-O-Meter". What a pair they made. But when Shelley sang her ode to a loveless marriage, "Not At Home", it would tear me up every time, maybe because of what was happening in my personal life at the time. On the other end of the spectrum, Dennis and I managed to double moon Debbie from off stage left as she tried to maintain a straight face while playing the drums.

As for my role, Rocky managed to cast me as Larry, the unsympathetic husband, not the part I desired, that's for sure. But as it turned out, it was the right decision to make. This was a character where I could shine and managed to do so after weeks of struggling to find the humanity in this despicably unlikeable yuppie asshole. I found it in the love he had for his child and in his solo number, a lament to a persecution complex entitled "Nobody Loves Me". This song was the leaping off point I found for Larry and I turned into a summer-long swan dive. I never would have been able to pull off that solo without the help and guidance of Jon Robinson. Boy, did he save my ass. Rocky would reel me in when I started to go too far off the boards, but was always my best audience when I got it right. This was also the show when I finally caved in and wore a dress for comedic effect. Yeah, after all those years at Pollardville, resisting the vaudeville girly drag numbers because I thought it was low base, I turned into a hypocrite with a capital H. Then again, maybe it was the lure of a nicer wardrobe. In Housewives, I got to wear a lovely burgundy cocktail gown courtesy of SCT Board President Helen Kastner. I was a pretty girl.

Housewives paid off in several dividends for me, not the least of which were my nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a musical at the Sacramento Area Regional Theater Association (SARTA) awards, not bad for a Stockton show, and a win at SCT's Willie Awards the following year 9 with the longesta cceptance speech ever, thanking anyone and everyone under the sun that worked on the show What a blowhard.) I was also asked to speak in front of a bunch of summer school theater kids as a result of that show and, thanks to Helen Kastner, hosted my own sketch comedy show on the SCT stage during the run of Housewives. In that show, I performed some stand-up and gathered together some Pollardville friends for some of my own sketches and classic bits we did at the Ville like "The Doctor Sketch".

Angry Housewives really helped establish me in the theater scene after I left the Ville, giving me the confidence to continue on for the rest my time in Stockton. I could have stayed with that show as long as a Ville show, six months or even longer. I had the opportunity to recreate my role almost immediately after our run in Old Sacramento with Jeff and Dennis, but I had to back out due to travel restrictions and job commitments. I also really didn't want to do it without the Angry Housewives that I worked with since none of them would be making the trip either. It would have felt like I was cheating on them. So, on the first weekend of August 1990, we closed and went back to our lives, leaving that glorious summer of love behind us.

Twenty years later, I'm still in love with my Angry Housewives. Happy anniversary to the cast and crew and thanks for all the sweet memories of my favorite show in my time spent in Stockton's community theater scene.

Now go eat your fucking corn flakes.

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