Spring, 1983. Fresh off my first school production (I’d played Bill Sykes in Oliver!), I had the ridiculous idea to produce another middle-school musical that same year. An audacious plan, not least because I was an eighth-grade student. The show they let me direct? You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. To reiterate, I was in eighth grade. My partner-in-crime was David Mihal, the funniest person I ever knew. Violating copyright law, we wrote an additional six characters into a dozen new scenes, based on Charles Schulz’s comic strips. Dave played Snoopy, the definitive incarnation as far as I’m concerned.
That was Fairport, NY public school in the 1980s. (Much later, John Baynes, speaking at Philip Seymour Hoffman’s memorial service, said “there was something in the water back then.”) Video cameras had only recently become household items, and we made countless short films, including Maggot, P.U., and dozens of clips that could be spliced right into today’s Stranger Things. We devised the Blair Witch Project aesthetic ten years before they did. Many in our group went on to careers in the performing arts and visual media. We’ve produced shows on Broadway and around the world, we’ve worked with everyone who’s anyone, and we’ve won awards (including Oscars, thanks to Phil and Andrea.)
One of our classmates said at graduation, “When I earn my money, I’m going to produce a show on Broadway and invite all of you to appear in it.” That individual hasn’t yet produced anything, but a few of our number started a company that’s produced on Broadway and on stages worldwide. Shortly after the FHS ’87 25-year class reunion, I contacted one of the founding producers of that company, Tina Fallon, and said “Let’s put on a show.”
The 24-Hour Plays: FHS Reunion will happen on Saturday, July 29, 2017. The process will commence the evening of Friday, July 28, with a meet and greet. Each participant will introduce themselves and offer a prop, costume, and/or an anecdote. That will give the writers and directors food for thought. At 10:00, the writers and directors will choose their teams – the group of 4-8 actors they will write for and direct. The writers will write all night, generating six new plays. At 8 AM the next morning, the entire team will reconvene and learn which play they’re on, get their scripts, and start rehearsing. At the same time, the tech crew will get the stage ready. Each group will have a period of time on the stage, otherwise they’ll rehearse in classrooms. The show will be at 7:00 PM, that night.
Doesn’t that sound like fun? Add the following: The 24-Hour Plays, FHS Reunion will be a collaboration with Fairport’s current, very active drama club. Student actors, designers and technicians will work alongside FHS alumni to present a show that celebrates the past, and looks to the future.
Think of it… Our class president was prohibited from speaking at graduation, because the administration was nervous about what he’d say. Tor is now an internationally known lawyer who defends computer hackers; what might a politically conscious playwright make of that, with Tor as a performer in the show? (Do we have such a playwright? Bet your ass we do.) Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future was released when we were in high school; now, we’re beyond the future imagined in that trilogy, and things are even stranger than Hollywood depicted. What better setting, and what better performers, to celebrate (and send up) what the world has become?
The show will be open to the public. Proceeds from tickets and ad sales will fund an arts scholarship in honor of Dave Mihal, Phil Hoffman, and all of the incredible Fairport talents that have since been lost to the world. With Fairport teachers John Baynes, Lonnie Arnold, Mark Northrup and others, we’re going to produce a show that’s every bit as good as You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Maybe even better. I’ll be there – I hope you will be, too.
UPDATE 6/28/2017: Unfortunately, we were unable to find a venue to support the show, and will be unable to present it in 2017. Fingers crossed for another year…