DECADE FIVE: 1983-1993
“And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances…”
I credit (blame) my brother’s wife for everything that follows.
She hooks me up with the corporate world,
and after eighteen years bouncing around the world
(the army, Paris, grad school, teaching, playing),
we move to Charlotte, buy a house, begin a whole new life.
In high school I precociously dub this big small town
“The City Without a Soul.”
It’s much, much bigger now, and growing too fast,
with big banks and NASCAR (Panthers, Hornets, Checkers, Knights),
but no professional theatre.
World Class, My Ass!
We rent, then buy and renovate, enlarge
the oldest house in the historic Dilworth ghetto
and settle down among octogenarian widows,
a preponderance of the city’s wretched mixed-race poor,
with a sprinkling of ex-hippies with an eye to the future.
This is where the kids grow up and (probably) where we pass away.
For seven biblical years we live high on the hog
while I slave 7-to-3 in my gray cubicle
translating Geek to User-Friendly User Guides.
I’m very good at what I do, and soon become a Senior Analyst,
but my smoking becomes an issue, so before they lay me off, I volunteer.
(An irony: within three months, all but four of 30 writers lose their jobs.)
From the start I with JTA
and landing the occasional plum
(Folger Buick, Bilo)—I’m the office celebrity.
Now and then, and with increasing frequency,
I play a role (Jacques Brel), direct (The Rose Tattoo).
By the time I volunteer for layoff, I’m nearly always
acting, directing, designing, building, teaching somewhere.
Just a few blocks from our house
is the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte,
where we take the kids, then volunteer,
then work as independent contractors for the rest of Decade Five.
I’m cast out in ’92, but Sandra paints sets and designs into the next century.
The Drama Guild no longer occupies
the Golden Circle at the Mint Museum,
but the core survives and I reach out,
acting and directing in what’s now the Matthews Playhouse,
then directing and constructing Sandra’s set designs at the JCC,
until Keith takes control and merges with Charlotte Rep.
Just before my severance pay runs out,
the local Mental Health Authority hires me part time
to coach and front the People First Players,
a Stigma Buster improv troupe composed exclusively of
depressed, bi-polar, and/or schizophrenic actors,
most of whom have never been on stage.
The story that unfolds over the next two years belongs on the
Hallmark Hall of Fame.