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Chuck Brooks' column: Summer is the perfect time to get on stage

I’m sure each of us has our own personal signs that summer has arrived. Weather aside, I tend to mark times in the year by certain external cues. One of the signs of summer for me is the Eagan Community Theater signs going up each June, advertising the show to be performed mid to late July. When the signs disappear, I know summer is waning and I sigh.

In any case, the topic is summer theater. It holds a place in my heart, and I’d recommend anyone who has a yen for being on the stage try out for it each year. It provides lasting memories filled with great experiences. It’ll stay with you for as long as you live.

When I graduated from high school, I tried out for the summer show, Hello Dolly, in my hometown. I knew several people who were trying out, and when the cast was chosen, I discovered I had been picked as part of the chorus. I met two dear friends who would be in my life for many years to come. The experience was enriching. To this day, I still dream from time to time about being in that summer show back home.

The following year, I didn’t get involved in the show as I was asked to direct the Children’s Theater production for the community, and because that went well, I was asked to do it again the next year. I didn’t go to college for three and a half years after high school, so more opportunities continued for me with our summer community theater. No regrets.

I arrived in Minnesota in 1982. I don’t exactly remember when, but it was not too many summers after my first year of teaching when I was encouraged to try out for The Music Man in the Apple Valley Summer Theater. The musical itself was one of my favorites, and I thought it would be fun to audition. When they posted the cast list, I was given the role of Marcellus. In the movie version, Buddy Hackett played Marcellus. Hackett was a popular comedian in the 60s and 70s. My big moment in the show came when I had to sing “Shipoopi!” Talk about type-casting. The song was made for me as well as the role. I had to also do a little choreography with the song. Tons of fun.

Jump ahead to 1991 when I was asked to audition for Annie. At this point, Eagan High School had been built and the Summer Theater had moved there. The directors were concerned because the role of Daddy Warbucks had remained unfilled. They hadn’t had the right male audition for the role. The directors felt I would make a good Daddy Warbucks. This was a difficult decision. Daddy Warbucks was bald, for starters. I had no desire to shave my head. I was told, however, I wouldn’t have to. They planned to bring in special effects people to teach a cast member how to fit a skull cap on the person who played this role. Ok.

Second issue. By this time, I had taught 10 years and my nine months of the career provided me with a fairly rigid schedule beyond the teaching day with involvement in all sorts of co-curriculars. I enjoyed my summers because I had no schedule. I really could recharge the battery, so I could hit the ground running each late August. On the other hand, most of you know the “ham” component of my being. And therein was my struggle. Do I want a free summer of no commitments? Or do I want the role of my lifetime playing Daddy Warbucks for the community? Freedom or the spotlight? Balancing the two options, I caved. Yes! Of course I wanted to be Daddy Warbucks!

It was a great experience! I did have a couple of tense moments, though. The skull cap took 45 minutes to apply. Wet my hair, gel my hair and then spray my hair with hairspray. A ton of it. Then glue my forehead and apply the front of the cap first, then stretch it to my neckline and glue it there. Then glue down the sides. During the performances, major sweat built up and a couple of nights, I could feel it loosening in the back of my neck. I feared it would shoot off my head like a large rubber band, into the front rows of the theater. It didn’t, but it came close.

I suspect Shrek The Musical will likely be advertised in next week’s Leprechaun Days’ Parade. Can you guess what I’ll be writing about next week?

By the way. If it’s raining today, trust me. The sun will come out tomorrow. Ta ta!