Posted by: lylescott89 | October 31, 2012

When I Went to the 1981 Theatre Festival…

Hey kids,

Back in my high school days I was a theatre geek, as opposed to now when I am just a plain old everyday ordinary geek. Being a theatre geek I was often invited to festivals, shows and workshops. In the winter of 1981 I had the opportunity to attend the Illinois High School Theatre Festival at the University of Illinois and it was simultaneously one of the most miserable and the most fascinating weekends I ever had.  It epitomized the classic comedy/tragedy masks of the theatre.  

If I recall correctly the festival ran from Thursday through Saturday and it was bitterly cold. (Illinois in January? Bitterly cold? Who would have guessed?) I had signed up to attend not knowing who else was going and that was my first mistake. Besides our teacher the only attendees were three morons who will be known as Larry, Darryl and Darrel. I was not friends with any of these guys, but I did know them all from the theatre department. I was kind of shy at the time and did not speak my mind very often. Thus when they started making fun of me on the drive down I just kind of played along and let them have their fun. (One would think that a high school teacher would have said something to them, but he just laughed along. Nice guy.) When we arrived we were all assigned to a dorm room for our stay and I was set up with Darryl. To say that Darryl did not like me at all would be an understatement. He immediately groused when he learned that he was “stuck” with me for all of two nights. I was kind of hurt, but what could I do?

The first night of the festival all attendees were invited to see a performance by the Second City improvisational comedy troupe. I walked over to the auditorium with Larry, Darryl & Darrel and they were still ridiculing me. What I ever did to them I do not know, but they were relentless. Since I did not know anyone there I decided it was still best to stay with them. However, they thought otherwise and when we got into the crowded auditorium they gave me the slip and I was left all alone. I looked for them for a minute or two and then realized that I was better off and went to find an empty seat.

After an exhaustive search for a place to sit I sat down next to two girls and waited for the show to begin. Shockingly the girls started speaking to me (Real live girls speaking to me? A very rare occurrence indeed) and introduced themselves as Lisa & Mary. I knew they were not making that up as I could see the names on their jackets. Both girls were very attractive so I was prepared for the possibility that they too wanted to make fun of me. Instead they asked me where I was from and what I liked to do in the theatre. They told me that they were both in charge of make-up at their school. I had actually found friends. I was amazed as you are right now reading this. The show began and while I do not recall any specifics I can tell you that it was very funny and I had a wonderful evening. After the show I was ever the gentleman and asked the girls if I could escort them back to their dorm. They accepted and we began walking back to their place, which was nowhere near the dorm I was staying in. We stopped along the way for a snack as well. I asked them if I would see them on Friday and they made arrangements to meet the next morning at the ticket distribution center. (Every workshop and show was free to attend, but required a ticket for entry. Basically a crowd control issue)

I saw them safely into their dorm and began the walk in the bitter cold to my dorm. I wondered if the three stooges were back or not. I got back to my room and it was empty so I went across the hall to see if they were in Larry’s room. They were. They invited me in and asked what happened to me. I told them and they laughed. None of them believed me. Then they proceeded to make fun of me some more and this time it started getting harsh. They all accused me of being gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and were relentless in their abuse. I tried to tell them that I was not gay, but they would not hear it. After a few minutes I made my way to the door and asked Darryl if I needed to leave the door unlocked for him and he said no because he was not spending the night in the same room with anyone that was gay. I said fine and was thrilled that I had the room to myself. I had brought a book and stayed up late reading. Every once in a while I could hear Larry, Darryl & Darrel sneaking around outside my door. In the morning I discovered that they covered my door with shaving cream which at one time had apparently spelled out several not so nice words.

This was one of those dorms in which there was a big shower room and I went down there in the morning to get cleaned up prior to breakfast. Naturally the three goons were there and one of them immediately yelled out “Look out guys, here comes the f**”. What a wonderful way to start my day. After I showered I went to seek out our teacher and tell him what was going on and he said that I should not make such a big deal out of it.

I had breakfast alone and then went off to meet Mary & Lisa. We all got tickets for several of the same workshops and all of the same shows. The only things that they got tickets for that I did not were a couple of workshops on stage make-up. Other than that, we were inseparable the entire weekend.

Before lunch we attended a workshop together on stage combat and another one on another topic that I don’t remember, but after lunch I was on my own until the next show we were to see together at 4:00. I had a workshop of my own, but then had nothing to do at all so I figured I would walk back to my room and relax until it was time to meet up again. As I left my early afternoon workshop I stopped to get myself a Coke and sat down to drink. Two girls at an adjacent table immediately struck up a conversation with me. I was shocked. In less than 24 hours I had four girls willing to talk to me. They introduced themselves (I don’t remember their names and soon you’ll understand why) and we chatted for a little while. And while I cannot be sure I think they were both pretty, but not as attractive as Mary & Lisa.  For the record we’ll call them Teri & Kelli.

We sat there for a while and chatted when Kelli spoke up and asked if I wanted to go back to their room and listen to some music or something. I said that sounded like fun, but the rules of the festival were very clear: boys were not allowed in the girl’s dorm at any time and vice versa. Teri said that was not a problem as they had a way to sneak me in without anyone seeing. I was hesitant because I knew if caught I’d have been sent home immediately, but since I never did anything against the rules ever, I decided to go.


We made it up to the room without anyone noticing me. In retrospect this was not all that surprising since I was virtually invisible during my entire time in elementary, junior high and high school. When we arrived at their room I was kind of surprised that they had decorated. I asked why and Kelli said that they could not stand being in an empty room again (they had attended the previous year) and brought some posters for the walls. For two nights! I sat down and we talked a little and listened to music. I do remember thinking they had good taste in music so it was nice. Then Kelli said to me “do you want to do some lines?” I had no idea what that meant so I asked “Lines? What is that?” Kelli said “cocaine silly”. I was in shock and said “what?” Teri grabbed a bag out of a drawer and told me that cocaine was awesome and I would love it. Holy crap! Feet don’t fail me now! It was time to head for the hills. I made some excuse and was out the door in a flash. I wanted nothing to do with drugs. Never have, never will. As I ran out the door they told me to take the back stairs so I would not get caught. Thankfully I did not get caught and I made my way back to the festival. Lesson learned: do not accept invitations from strange young women that you have known for about five minutes.


I met up with Mary & Lisa and we enjoyed our afternoon show before heading off for dinner. There was another show in the evening that we watched and then it was back to the dorms for the night. Larry, Darryl & Darrel saw me and asked where I was all day. I told them I was with Mary & Lisa most of the day and then was trapped by two girls that wanted me to try cocaine. They told me I was wimpy for not partaking in the illegal drug. I attempted to go to bed, but was continually woken up by those idiots screaming and banging on my door.


Saturday was very similar to Friday, just without the cocaine girls. On Saturday night we had the finale of the festival, the big ticket event: a performance of West Side Story. Now most readers know that I consider WSS one of my least favorite musicals. I rank it somewhere between The Sound of Music and Annie. But since the girls wanted to go I had gotten a ticket as well. It was there that we ran into Larry, Darryl & Darrel. Darryl did not have a ticket, but had forged a ticket that he had gotten from an alternative show that was running that night. Truth be told I would have rather seen that, but the allure of attractive women was too much to overcome. Anyway earlier in the day Darryl had tried to take my ticket and switch it with his forged one to no avail.


As we were waiting to go into the auditorium I pointed out Larry, Darryl & Darrel to Mary & Lisa. I had told them how rude and obnoxious they were and how they did not believe it that I was hanging around two girls. This was the one moment of my life that seemed like a movie. As we approached the crowded theatre the girls got on each side of me and we linked arms. We said nothing, but when we walked past the guys they both kissed me on the cheeks. It was surreal. I could only imagine the looks on their faces as we walked into the theatre. I had finally showed them up.


After the show ended there was a party for all the attendees which we attended. After I while I was pretty tired and I said goodbye to the girls. The idiots left me alone that night and caused no trouble on the drive home.


When we returned to school I went back to ignoring Larry, Darryl & Darrel. However, when the fall semester started Darryl came up to me and asked if I had a minute. I said sure. Darryl apologized to me for the way he treated me at the festival and for all the rude things he said. He put out his hand and asked if I could forgive him and if we could be friends. I said yes and while it did not happen immediately, a few months later we did become friends. The other guys never apologized and I went on ignoring them.


A year later I saw Mary & Lisa again at the 1982 festival held at Illinois State University. We had fun again, except for when they convinced me to attend a performance of Medea.  Don’t ever try and sit through a performance of Medea.  Alas, I have not seen or heard from them since that time now over 30 years ago.  I hope they are doing well, have retained their youthful beauty and both have better jobs than I do.





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