Monday, April 24, 2006

Why Mee?

Julia Roberts has been getting some bad reviews lately. Sure, she probably deserves them. I know that it made me smile to hear about the pans. But that’s just because I’m jealous. I’ll admit it. I love to do theatre. I would love to be on Broadway. And hell, if you asked me, I’d tell you that I have paid my dues. I’ve done summer stock and regional plays and countless community and university productions. Some of them were even good. So when a movie star hits the Broadway boards in an attempt to legitimize themself as an artist, it gets the blood up a little.

But I’ll be the first to tell you that I would do exactly the same thing if given the opportunity. Paying your dues may be a requirement for great art, but it sure is a pain in the ass. If I was offered an occasion to get to the top without paying any dues, I would take it in a heartbeat. And I wouldn’t even feel very guilty about it, to be honest.

But I’m not here to talk about how Julia used her fame and money to circumvent propriety. I feel for her. I really do. I know what it’s like to get bad reviews. A lot of them. Granted, all of my bad reviews were written by the same man, but…

As you might already know, I went to college for eight years. No, I am not a doctor. I’m a theatre major (enough said). But I do have a little bit of an excuse. I used to be a music major, but I switched when I went from community college to the university. So why was I in community college for four years?! Well, because I was a music major.

I started doing theatre when I got to community college. I tried out for a couple High School plays, but I was never cast. I wouldn’t cut my hair just to be in “Ordinary People” so my illustrious theatre career was put on hold until I was 18 (I had a really long ponytail, I was super-cool in 1990).

I was cast in my first play as the lead in Sam Shepard’s drama “A Lie of the Mind” (coincidentally, the same college is putting that show up again soon, I just got a flyer for it in the mail). I was horrible, but the reviewers were kind. Too kind. I have a videotape of that show. I was really, really hideous. But it was first play so get off my back!

I went on to do quite a few more plays while at that school, culminating in a great role as Nathan Detroit in the summer theatre production of Guys and Dolls (that was one of the good ones, I think). I did about 14 or so shows while I went to community college, sometimes I was in two shows at once, and I never got a bad review. Sure, sometimes I was hardly mentioned, but for the most part, I was well-treated.

And I got used to it.

I got really used to it.

Then I went to a university. I won’t mention which one but it was Centrally located in Washington State in a small Burg named for the founding father’s wife Ellen. I switched to theatre full time and got cast in my first show “Dracula” (terrible script, great production). I didn’t worry too much about the review because my part was practically non-existent (but it was my first show and I was paying my dues. Didn’t that university know who I was?! I played Nathan Detroit in “Guys and Dolls!”).

I also didn’t worry too much about the reviews because, well, I was never really too worried about the reviews. My biggest concern up to that point in my career was that they would spell my name wrong or use some antiquated adjective to describe by brilliant performance. Let me tell you, there’s nothing more annoying than having to go to the dictionary just to see if someone liked your performance.

So “Dracula” came and went without too much fanfare for me. There wasn’t too much fanfare for my other roles that first year at the university either. Friar Laurence in “Romeo and Juliet” and Little John in a children’s theatre tour of “Robin Hood.”

As you can tell, those last two are kind of “fat guy” parts. Well, I was kind of a fat guy. So, I took advantage of the children’s theatre tour (on which I played a lot of basketball) and a regional theatre production of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” (in which I was cast as an Aggie. I was cast for my singing, but the Aggie’s have a lot of dancing. A lot. 10-hour dance rehearsals for a week and a half) to lose some weight. And I did. I lost 100 pounds.

Yeah me!

My second year at the university was full of new promise. No more fat guy roles. A chance to make my mark. And roles I got.

The local paper had a theatre reviewer. His name was Dewey Mee. He had seen some Broadway shows, had a basic understanding of theatre history and the willingness to sit through numerous regional community theatre productions, so naturally he was the top candidate for the job. He was also confined to a wheelchair. I don’t really know why. I never met the man. And to tell the truth, after a while, he’s probably lucky that we never crossed paths.

It was after my first show the second year that I knew something was up between Dewey and I. It was show called “Down the Road.” A thriller. There were only three roles in it. In Dewey’s review, I was only ever even mentioned as the set designer (which was true, I was the set designer for that show). It was like I wasn’t even in the show. It was insulting, but I was able to brush it off.

But then it was the same story with the next show. And then things got worse. Instead of just being ignored, I was reviled. And hard too. It became a joke. I used to predict my reviews. People would tell me that I was just being paranoid, but I’m not one to get paranoid. And how can you be paranoid when you’re right every single time?

Pretty soon, it became obvious to everyone that Dewey had it out for me. When I was only mentioned in a parenthetical for my role as Seymour in “Little Shop of Horrors” it was clenched.

Hey, here’s a picture from that show (thanks Eric):

That’s me as Seymour and Kevin Salcedo as Mr. Mushnik.

Now pretty much everyone knew that I had somehow gotten myself on Dewey’s shit list.

The last show I did at the University was “True West” (also by Sam Shepard, my college theatre life had come full circle). The other person in the show with me was a very nice man named Toby Dykus. I got a terrible review for that performance. Toby got a rave. He was pissed. So when Toby happened to get cast in a show that summer with Dewey himself, he asked me if there was anything that I wanted him to say to the jerk ass reviewer.

I just asked Toby to ask Dewey why he always had it out for me. So he did.

And Dewey admitted something to him. He said that he had deliberately given me bad reviews because he didn’t like me. Why? Well, as Dewey said, there was one early audition that first year at college where Dewey was auditioning. Evidently, it was some kind of musical (Dewey often auditioned for musicals and I still never met him). He had his music spread out around his wheelchair, trying to get it down when I walked up. Since he was blocking my way, he said that I stepped across (and on) his music with a sarcastic “excuse me” before striding off to my audition.

That was it. That’s why he gave me over 10 bad reviews. It had nothing to do with my performances, it was simply a grudge. And, you know, I could appreciate that. I can appreciate holding a grudge against me because I was such a jerk to a poor handicapped man. Except…

I never did that. It wasn’t me.

He confused me with someone else and held it against me for 4 years.

What a dickhead.

So, in conclusion, maybe Julia Roberts doesn’t deserve the reviews she got. Maybe all those reviewers are mad at her because of something that Nicole Kidman did.

Who knows?

Fun Fact: Administrative Professionals day is Wednesday. Don’t forget!

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