Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My First Starring Role? -- A "Theme Thursday" Post

This is the book that introduced me to the fairy tale, if memory serves.
And the elf on the left is a male,I believe! (Note the subtle differences in his eyes,
lips, and "skirt.") Effeminate-looking cuss, isn't he?

This week's Theme Thursday topic is "SHOE."

I'm not going to relate the actual story of "The Elves and the Shoemaker." (If you're unfamiliar with the old Grimm Brothers fairy tale, and want to read it, here it is. It's shorter than almost everything I've ever written!) Instead, I'm going to tell you about my being in a play based on that story, a play in which I starred -- well, okay, co-starred -- in fourth (or maybe fifth) grade.

This was either my first or second real performance before an audience. This was long before any public speeches I've had to make. This was years before I ever sang lead for various rock'n'roll bands. This was before I'd ever appeared in any of my high school's annual "Dippy Day" skits on April first. This was four or five years before I ever appeared in any of my high school drama club productions, and four or five years before a play I was in at summer camp one year. This was before I ever sang a solo in my church choir. This was even before I ever performed in my grammar school glee club!

Members of my fourth-grade class -- there were two others in my grammar school, IIRC -- rehearsed it for a few weeks, and then performed the play for the two other fourth-grade classes. All of this occurred during school hours. But it was still a "performance," as it were, albeit a severely limited engagement.

And I was one of the elves.

* * * * *

A brief -- for me, anyway -- digression: I said that this was either my first or second time before an actual audience. The other occasion vying for the coveted role of "my first time" -- and get your mind out of the gutter! -- would have been the time I stood next to three other Cub Scouts from my "den" at our monthly "pack meeting" and read aloud from a comic book called The True Story of Smokey Bear.

This comic has been reprinted several times over the years.
Notice how the title kinda looks like a paste-over? It is!
Earlier editions are entitled The True Story of Smokey the Bear,
which,technically, is the wrong name for the little critter!

people -- adults and children -- told me that during the section I read, everyone in the crowd paid very close attention to me, captivated by my voice! (And keep in mind, Cub Scouts were comprised of boys from eight to ten years old, a fidgety group under the best of circumstances!)

That was the night, moreso than the day I performed in "The Elves and the Shoemaker," upon which I truly became hooked on the whole "performance" thing.

* * * * *

So, why am I focusing instead on "The Elves and the Shoemaker" (besides the fact that "SHOE" is this week's theme)?

Actually, it's because I want to share with you how supportive my mother was of my schoolwork and extra-curricular activities.

There wasn't a heck of a lot of thought given to the play's costuming... at least, not until I went home and told my mother about my class' upcoming production.

This was hardly the first occasion I recall where she went "all out" for me -- I remember her scurrying about to whip up the proper German boy's outfit for a song I had to sing, and the little touches she added to my costume when I had to play a bartender at a Cub Scout function -- nor would it be the last.

In short order, she'd stripped the white cottony trim off of a Santa Claus hat, and removed the big white cottony ball from its end. She removed the collar from a red shirt I owned -- or more probably, just folded it inward to hide it, I don't recall which -- and replaced it with a green collar that looked sufficiently... elfin? Elfish? Whatever.

The masterstroke was what she did with the hat. She had me pull it down to cover my ears, after having sewn on two pink pieces of felt, cut to look like pointy elf ears. (If she'd been working on the original Star Trek, she could have saved Paramount's make-up department a fortune.)

Then, realizing that my costume was going to totally eclipse that of the other elf, played by a kid named Steve, she sewed together a matching green hat for him, and created a red collar as counterpoint to my green collar. (She didn't make a shirt for him. She just had me tell Steve to wear a crew-necked green shirt when he got dressed for school that day.)

The teacher took a photo of the play's cast, in costume. My copy disappeared years ago (damnit). In it, Steve adopted a flashy pose... feet splayed, hands on hips, big grin. I stood there like a serious little soldier. He was the "ham," while I almost looked like I wanted to be somewhere else.

Hm. I guess this was before the "Smokey Bear" incident.

Anyway, with all the crap going on in my personal life lately that involves my mother's various health issues -- friends and certain other Blogger-bloggers know the "issues" to which I refer -- I wanted to take this time to give credit where credit was/is due... even if it's more than forty years overdue.

A little sentimental for me, perhaps, but... there it is.

Thanks for your time.


  1. Pssst, David? It's only Wednesday. ;)

  2. I usually make wisecracks about people who post their TT entries early, but I have my reasons this week! See my recent comment on the Theme Thursday blog.

  3. Oh-oh-oh. I had this EXACT "The Elves and the Shoemaker" book. I absolutely adored it. Haven't seen or thought of it in a hundred years.

    I would have loved to see you as an elf.

  4. wonderful tribute to one you love..i am sure your mother is proud of you even to today. hope all goes well with her.

    smokey bear eh? i think i remember this one...

    have a wonderful wednesday, bleeding into thursday!

  5. A bit more than you alluded to on Sunday, yes? And sorry I gave you the brush off like that but had to get Mom home ASAP! She's okay tho'! Besides, it nver fails when I come in, that you get busy with custom; HA!

  6. Good tribute to your mother, David. I think I still have that book somewhere in the loft. If only I could climb up there to find it......

  7. Did this make you one of Santa's Little Helpers for life?

  8. Willow & Valerie: I bought the book a year or two ago, although it's somewhere in a box or stack of books, so I grabbed the scan from the 'net.

    Jinksy: Heck, no! Although nowadays, with my white hair & beard, I'm often told I'd make a great Santa... which is why I always trim the beard fairly short when I get a haircut. I'd be a better Scrooge!

  9. Your post took me back more years than I care to remember to when I too played an elf in a Junior School Play. I was pretty hopeless and was just given a walk-on part - but walk-on should qualify for the shoe theme.

  10. good mom-shoe story...there's a connection there somewhere.

  11. That's a nice memory and well told. Isn't it funny how certain events in our childhood stick out and others cannot be recalled?

  12. Well, Willow beat me to it...yes, we had that book when we were young. I'm sure it was hers and mine only has a hand-me-down! So fun to see the cover and be reminded again!

    And it's Thursday already...on the other side on the earth! :)

  13. And now I have the picture of Cary Grant in an elfe costume in my mind!lol

    Nice memories david and nice post.Shame we can't see the picture though.

  14. Always nice to tribute your mom, I think that I had that book when I was a kid, It was so long ago, it is hard to remember!

  15. Thanks for your musing... my kids are now on that little stage making their own memories. -Jayne

  16. I so love to see little children dressed up for a performance! You can always tell the ones who have the "performance bug" and will continue on in their need to display their unique stage presence! I am sad that your group photograph has been lost over the years!

    So sorry to hear of your Mom's troubles...

  17. We have that in common then. I've been an elf too, although it was a Christmas elf at a Santa display.


  18. What? They removed the "THE" from Smokey? I suppose Porky the Pig is now Porky Pig too. What's the world coming to?

  19. Such a touching post...and you are far too dashing to be Santa.

  20. Wow did this bring me back. In kindergarten I played the carrot that Peter Rabbit hid behind in our class play. I was instantly hooked on theater. Hope all goes well with mom--it was such a nice tribute to her.

  21. I'm learning some interesting things today.

    1. There are a lot of us ex-elves out there.

    2. That book must have been a best-seller.

    3. People believe I really look like Cary Grant.

    @VE: Who knows where this disturbing trend will stop. The other day, I was with Jabba Hutt and Rudolph Red-Nosed Reindeer, discussing Bobby Darin's classic, "Mack Knife," and...

  22. S.F., I was just watching some Mott Hoople vids on youtube...also some K.C. and Sunshine Band...

  23. That was an awesome story...your Mom is much like my Mom when we were growing up. She made all of our clothes and what not.

    I hope all is well....

  24. Heh, heh! Ah yes, I well remember early theatrical days! I think my first role was in third grade, as a snake who wiggled up out of a basket during "Anitra's Dance" at a performance of Peer Gynt for the annual May Day Festival. I don't think there are any elves on my resumé, though.

    As for the Santa Claus thing, yeah, I get that, too, around Christmas time. So I launch a preemptive strike and always make sure this picture of me as The Winter King is out and about. It might get me roles as the Ghost of Christmas Present in a production of A Christmas Carol, but believers in a "traditional" Christmas tend not to like to be reminded of the pre-Christian nature of their celebrations, so I get left alone.

    However, if anyone should need a Ghost of Christmas Present, call me.

  25. great story! I remember doing the same kinds of things for my children.

  26. I loved your post! and look at all the memories you stirred. Fab

  27. I've always held the omission of "the" in Smokey the Bear in high disdain. :D

  28. Roy: Great idea... and anything related to Dickens meets with my approval!

    Subby & JeffScape: Yeah, the poor bear gets no respect! And he was around even before rock'n'roll groups like Dion and Belmonts, Bill Haley and Comets, and Buddy Holly and Crickets!

  29. The Elves and the Shoemaker- what a magical story- it was my favourite fairytale!

    What a shame you lost the photo of you in your costume, but you have painted a wonderful word picture in tribute to your mum's efforts.

    I'll be back to listen to your embedded music :)

  30. S.F. HA! Okay, my last one: Tommy James and Shondells....I'll leave you alone, for now!

  31. I greatly enjoyed the story. Got to love the Moms who go all out for their kids. I'll keep her in my prayers.

    Please don't report me to the rhyming police again. I had a heck of a time convincing them what "poetic license" was. Then they asked to see mine.

  32. nice tribute to mom. we did the elves and the shoemaker in school too

  33. Sorry I'm so late! My mother was also adept at adapting and I adopted her adeptness with my own!

  34. Thanks for the visit and the nice comment.

    Also found your post very interesting, but the comments are even better.

    have a good day.

  35. :-)

    your mother sounds just great.

  36. it's never to sentimental to remember childhood, esp. when giving a nod to one's mom, for those at elast who had good mothers. enjoy that memory for many more years to come.


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