Friday, September 17, 2010

A Psychologist in the Theatre Department

At noon today, I'll talk about my search for my friends from screenwriting class at Western Washington University, from the early 80s. I've been looking for these people ever since. After college I went through a rough period, the most difficult in my life. When I started "paying attention" again, everyone had graduated and were out in the world and I never could find them. But this, is about how I met that group of seven (eight, if you include our instructor, Bob).

In my third year of college, I realized I had more credits than I needed. Because the VA was paying for college, I went summer quarters too. I was in the Air Force, went in Viet Nam Era, what they now call, for some reason, Post Viet Nam Era; but either way, I got full Viet Nam Era benefits. So, I decided with all those extra credits, I could go for a second major (I was a Psych Major). I thought maybe, writing, or Lit, but decided I would just get a Minor in Creative Writing. What the Hell. And so it is that officially, I have a Bachelor of Arts and Letters in Psychology, Awareness and Reasoning Division, and a Minor in Creative Writing.

My first class toward my Minor, was Fiction Writing. I wrote three short stories that quarter. We were each to write two. They we voted on two people to write an extra story each for Finals Day, as this class had no final. I was voted along with another person, a talented female writer. Mostly we had "house wife" types (They weren't married, it was more of an attitude), females writing bad romantic stories that made you want to leap from the window. But, everyone was very nice and it was a fun, if stressful (when it was your time), class.

We would have to write a story, submit it in copies. Then everyone got one and had to read it the night before class when it was your turn. That day, you'd read your story in class, then everyone would critique it, finally the Professor would and we went to the next person. You got the notes from everyone. My first story, was Andrew, about a boy who witnessed his parents death in a car accident and he became autistic. From there it got weird. I'm currently putting that story into an anthology of horror stories.

The class loved it. The Prof. hated it. For my second story, I told my girlfriend, Monica, whom I lived with (Monie, for short, Mon eee, not money, her mom was Monica, so she wasn't, just to keep them separate in conversations), that I was going to write a story the Prof. would love. So I did. Sarah, was the story, about an old woman with Alzheimer's. He was charmed. I had won him over. Then came time for the two extra stories on Final's Day. I was surprised and pleased I was one of those chosen. I had my grade by that time, so I told Monie, I was going to write a story that would spin his (The Prof.'s) head off. And I did.

He said, "I just don't know what to make of you, or your writings. You'll either do very well, or not very well at all." But he told me, that I didn't use dialog that well, or practically, at all, and so, he was sending me to the Theatre department for work in playwriting, because that, was all dialog and I would learn something. And so, I ended up in the Theatre Department.

And so...I showed up at the PAC at WWU campus with great anxiety and trepidation. We met in a small stage area downstairs. A few days into the class, I was there early, waiting in the main offices hallway, where the Professors have their offices. It was a busy day. There were students all over. I was standing there, watching some very strange happenings. I had to go to the rest room, so I headed in there, not a little concerned about what I might run into in there.

Sure enough, there was a guy at the mirror, talking to himself very passionately. I assumed he was practicing a speech, or some dialog or something. I went about my business, then back into the hallway. I sat on a bench. Another guy was there, as it turned out, it was Chris, whom I got to know well over that next year. We sat there, taking everything in. There were maybe ten students up and down the hall, doing their lines, reading their lines, whatever.

Then one guy, on my left, near the end of the hall, started saying: "I will take my power glove, and I will kill you." And he aimed it down the hallway. No one paid him any attention, except, one guy at the far end of the hallway who, reacted with his own fear and trepidation. The guy by me, aimed his fist at the guy down the hall and made sound effects as if he were shooting a power beam. I had to look at the other guy, as did Chris sitting next to me. The guy at the end of the hallway, reacted as if a power beam had indeed hit him, he flew up against the wall, in obvious pain, and started slipping down, muttering in pain and obvious dismay.

Chris turned and looked at me. We had spoken before and he knew I was from the Psych department, there to get a minor in writing. He smiled and said:

"So. We're pretty much the types you study about over in the Psych department, aren't we."

Not knowing what to say, and not really wanting to be rude, I said:

"Pretty much. But, I think, I like it!" Chris smiled. It was at that moment, that I felt a part of this department. My cousin Sheryl, had been into theatre in High School and her friends were great fun, though a little intimidating as they tended to be extroverts to my more introverted nature (which I've since kind of gotten over, mostly).

Eventually, my playwriting class turned into a special, year long screenwriting class I was chosen for, along with Chris who was sitting next to me, Mike who was shooting off his power glove, and the guy at the other end of the hallway. I'll talk about that at the noon blog today. All I can say, was that at that moment, sitting there with Chris, I was starting to wish I had been a theatre major.

Except, as was later exhibited in the playwriting class, I was a horrible actor.

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