… Possibly Exceeded the ‘Curricular’ Ones
By Jeff Salter
Somebody may cry ‘foul’ over this, but to explain what EXTRAs I enjoyed outside of the high school CURRICULUM … I’m pulling some tidbits from a previous post. Of course, I’ll expand on them a bit.
In 10th grade, as a virtual stranger in SE Iowa (many hundreds of miles away from LA), my most extensive extracurricular attention focused on track – the only season I participated in a school ‘sport’. I was mediocre in the half-mile run (880 yards) but that’s where they lumped guys who didn’t have any particular talent (like sprints, hurdles, or field events). What I wanted to do was learn to pole vault, but that team already had a vaulter and they weren’t willing to let anybody try who didn’t already excel at it. That’s always troubled me, because I really wanted to do it. Possibly I would’ve been awful … but what would it have hurt to let me TRY?
My other endeavor that year was co-ed volleyball … which was more of a cheap, group ‘date’ than it was a ‘sport’. I didn’t have a driver’s license yet and hadn’t started dating, so this was great ‘exposure’ — ha.
For the next two years, I was back in LA in the same school I’d left after my freshman year. Long story. My extracurricular outlet – surprisingly – became ACTING. [I don’t recall if it was called Speech Club or Drama Club or Thespians — or maybe I was in all three. Whatever. Except for a few hard-core debaters (who did nothing else), it was basically the same group of kids in all three groups.]
When a teacher (whom I liked) solicited volunteers to be in a one-act play, I reluctantly agreed … and was given one of the leading roles! “School Bus Romance” was a hokey and completely un-memorable play (probably written in the early 1950s). We performed it on risers in the ‘old’ gym … with no backdrop or ‘set’ other than chairs arrayed to resemble a bus interior. My performance was only adequate, but – for reasons I can’t explain – I was hooked.
In my senior year, I was in three productions. [Hard for me to believe now, because I also dated a lot, took college board exams, carried a full load of course-work … plus worked a Saturday job. Oh, and I was grounded for a total of six or seven weeks … for various offenses.]
Mimsy Were the Borogroves
The first was a one-act play we performed at a community venue for competition. My play, with a cast of four and directed by a student, was “Mimsy Were the Borogroves.” I played the father. Not yet 17 and I played a middle-aged man. Don’t laugh yet — one of the contest judges, a Thespian himself and a community leader I greatly respected, later told me that I showed a “bit of Bogart” in my rendering.
Beauty and the Beast
That play was hardly done when I took the dual roles of beast and prince in “Beauty and the Beast,” also directed by a student. Don’t recall how many acts it was. But we performed it not only at our own school … we took it to a few other schools in the parish [county]. The most fun audiences were the younger grades, because I was actually able to SCARE the little kids with my ‘Beast’ performance.
That play was not quite finished when we began rehearsals for a musical … “The Boyfriend”. If you’ve seen the movie with Twiggy, forget it: the real play ‘Boyfriend’ is the play which only appears as snippets IN that movie. Never mind.
When I showed up for tryouts, I had no idea of any particular role. In fact, the odds were against me even getting a role, because three or four times as many kids tried-out as there were spots to fill. Tryouts were complex and exhaustive, with several stages over many days. The group got smaller at each level. Imagine my surprise to find I had a leading role! A SINGING role … and I was supposed to dance! Ha. Imagine shy ole Jeff singing and dancing on stage!
I had two duets with my leading lady and we were supposed to dance a soft-shoe. I could never get the hang of the dance steps and it looked awkward as heck. But ?fate? intervened: I was in an accident – a horse fell on me (literally) – and I was banged up sufficiently that it was painful even to walk — no way I could continue the dance practice. But the show had to go on, so the student director and our wonderful faculty advisor just re-wrote the blocking of that scene and I sat while my ‘girlfriend’ danced. I think it worked better anyway, because if I HAD performed the dance, it would have flopped horribly.
Looking back on it, I don’t think I did such a great job in my role. But the entire production was very well received. It had a large, talented cast and a lot of raw energy and enthusiasm. We had four or five regular performances and I think we took ‘pieces’ of it elsewhere [this is fuzzy now].
In addition to these three plays in a single school year, I was also talked into taking an ‘oral interpretation’ to a regional speech convention. That convention was a blast and I will forever have wonderful memories of those experiences.
Oh, yeah, I voluntarily (though unofficially) ‘audited’ our faculty advisor’s speech class for an entire semester. Even did the assignments and projects.
When I think of my high school years — the images which encapsulate the most exciting (and beneficial) extra-curricular experiences … were those centered on performing. Pretty weird … for a guy who’s very shy.
Which extra-curricular activity did YOU enjoy most? Was it a one-shot thing … or something you worked on for many of your school years?