The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical version of the Cinderella story was the current production of YTU, in rehearsal for a January curtain. It was the first time since I met Angie and Lane three years ago that none of the three of us were in one of our theater company’s big musical productions. We were like alumnae now, moved on to other venues to pursue our continuing interests in theater. And with the departure of Robert this past fall, the theater company’s founder, and the recent untimely death of its musical director Tara, our youth theater group had acquired new adult leadership. YTU was now affiliated with the new Community High School, and CHS teachers Steve and Betsy, were playing the Robert and Tara roles. Beyond these two new adult overlords, most of the youth currently in the company were our friends and comrades.
The last week of summer finally arrived as it always did, and with some reluctance but also some excitement I left my hometown of Ann Arbor, the place where most of the developmental events of my life had occurred, the Tuesday after Labor Day in September of 1972 to head off to college. The Munich Olympics were underway and the initial killing of two members of the Israeli Olympic team and kidnapping of nine others by PLO gunmen, the beginning of the “Munich Massacre” had just occurred, though we were not aware of that yet!
I still was feeling a great deal of ambivalence about my choice to go off to school ninety miles west at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo rather than at my hometown University of Michigan, in whose university medical center I had been born, where my parents were both Alumni, and my little family had been part of the extended University academic community for as long as I could remember. My stated reason for choosing WMU was that I was planning on being a theater major and I had been told they had a better theater program than UofM. But at some deeper level that I don’t know if I could really articulate I had a strong sense that I had to leave my Ann Arbor nest to best proceed with my further development. The thought of leaving my hometown did give me a discomforting sense of aloneness, but also a more positive sense that I was somehow doing at least something (if not perhaps the best thing) to push forward developmentally with my life.
At the end of each previous school year, I was jubilant to have survived another “tour of duty” and be liberated, at least for the summer, from society’s schooling requirement imposed on my developmental path. Finally finishing my senior year, there was a measure of that usual relief, along with a sense that somehow the ball was now finally in my court. What to do next was no longer mandated, but up to me. As I walked that big impersonal marble hallway of Pioneer High School for my last time as a student, the nihilism (an ideology that I had learned in my Modern Russian History Class was very different than anarchism) of Alice Cooper’s hit song, “School’s Out”, resonated with every fibre of my being…
Well we got no choice
All the girls and boys
Makin all that noise
Cuz they found new toys
Well we can’t salute ya
Can’t find a flag
If that don’t suit ya
That’s a drag
School’s out for summer
School’s out forever
School’s been blown to pieces
No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher’s dirty looks
Well we got no class
And we got no principles
And we got no innocence
We can’t even think of a word that rhymes
Out for summer
Out till fall
We might not go back at all
School’s out forever
School’s out for summer
School’s out with fever
School’s out completely
And the time will come when you see
we’re all one, and life flows on
within you and without you.
The story picks up in November 1970 almost halfway through three years of high school, still recovering from having jilted my first girlfriend (and being too shy to even face her after that), and Smokey Robinson part of my current Greek chorus on the AM radio with his “Tears of a Clown”…
Now if there’s a smile on my face
It’s only there trying to fool the public
But when it comes down to fooling you
Now honey that’s quite a different subject
But don’t let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression
It reminded me that the persona I was putting out in the world was still mostly smoke and mirrors as well. That admitted, my Junior Light Opera youth theater group was opening up a new world of possibilities for me to define myself as a talented technician rather than just a lovelorn loser.
Just a quick note before we get into this segment… I’ve changed all the names of my friends to protect their privacy.
I returned from my summer in England just a week before school was to start for my junior year of high school, having missed my normal summer activities and been disconnected from my neighborhood friends for those ten weeks I had been gone, but also having undergone a personal transformation from my summer odyssey. I was still a shy kid, but I had a heightened sense of agency from partnering with my mom on our summer adventure in England. I was ready in this school year ahead to play a more active role charting my own course rather than just going with the flow of my school classes and current neighborhood social circle.