It's just a three-paragraph notice on a mimeographed sheet outlining Bountiful High Community School classes for the summer of 1989. And yet I've been feeling a little giddy - and more than a little nostalgic - ever since I saw it.
"For over 15 years," the notice reads, "Bountiful High School was home for an active summer drama program. Hundreds of young Bountiful citizens participated in an exhausting schedule of one-act plays. This year the summer drama program will be renewed."I was one of those "young Bountiful citizens" who cut his dramatic teeth on youth-oriented one-act plays like "The Lost Elevator," "So Wonderful in White," "Quiet Home Wedding!" "I'm a Fool!" and "The Marvelous Playbill." In fact, I still remember one of my lines from that last play. It's come to mean a lot to me during the past few years.
"That's the trouble with the world today," I used to say with great gusto and a not-so-great Spanish accent. "Too many critics."
Summer drama was to me and other aspiring thespians what Little League baseball has been to countless boys of summer. Don't get me wrong: I tried Little League. I even gave my father a first baseman's mitt for his birthday the year I happened to be playing first base for the Phillies (somehow I think I got more use out of that present than he ever did).
But for me baseball was pressure. I worried about not getting in the game, and then I worried when I did. I was afraid of being hit by the ball, and yet I understood at a very early age that that was the only kind of hit that would ever get me on base. I was your classic good field, no-hit player, and I had a tendency to cry whenever I struck out.
I cried often.
Summer drama, on the other hand, was an absolute pleasure. Maybe it's because of the fast friendships theater fosters - friendships that don't have to be sealed with spit and sweat. Maybe it's because I discovered that it was something I could do with some degree of proficiency for a change. Or maybe it's just because there wasn't some future Hall of Famer standing 30-feet away from me trying to hit me with a rock-hard spheroid. I'm not sure.
I just know that I loved it, and for many of the same reasons that my peers loved Little League. They talked about the smell of freshly cut grass or a well-oiled glove; I talked about the smell of pancake makeup and just-painted scenery. They reveled in the sound of bat-meets-ball and "Hey-batta, hey-batta, hey-batta, SWING!"; I reveled in the sound of a curtain being pulled and "Break a leg!" They told stories about pats on the behind from teammates and cheers from the crowd; I told stories about hugs from the rest of the cast (especially the girls!) and applause.
It's the same song, just a different verse.
And summer drama taught me many of the same lessons my friends were learning from Little League - maybe even better. I learned about the discipline that real art requires. I learned about commitment. I learned about cooperation and pulling together with others to accomplish something special. And I learned about myself - that I could memorize, that I could work hard, that I could create with my voice and my body and that I could come through under the pressure of performance.
Summer drama isn't the sum total of my dramatic experience - there are also a number of musicals, full-length plays, college classes and even a bit part in a movie or two that have come along since then. But it clearly marks the beginning of my aesthetic journey, as it does for those other "hundreds of young Bountiful citizens" who participated in the program.
Which is why I was so pleased to discover that it is coming back - $40 tuition fee notwithstanding. And it made me think about the communities around the state that don't have similar summer drama programs for youth. You just know they all have Little League. Why not something for the rest of the kids - the ones who might be more interested in striking sets than striking out?