Lee Chapman reciting “Antic Spring”

April 2020

I’m one of six “teenagers” going on a “picnic.” How droll. We six did the exact same thing yesterday. Well, not the exact same thing.

Yesterday we piled into Ginger’s parents’ car and drove to the park with our so-suburban “picnic” baskets and a styrofoam cooler filled with—pop. I tried to elevate the event by reciting a few lines of poetry—“Under a spreading chestnut- tree…”—but, alas, the other five “teens” would rather discuss high school and their myriad friends. (Why was I with these people?) The lowlight was me being attacked not only verbally, by five “teenagers,” but also physically, by five hundred hungry ants. In my pants. Disgusting beyond belief. Even more disgusting: my companions’ amusement at my predicament.

All in all, however, despite an automobile comprising nothing more than six folding chairs, the audience loved it. Many giggles, even a few guffaws. Opening- night curtain calls. A triumph.

Today: the second-night curse. Makeup is disgusting as usual: some whiney beauty shop hopeful trying to cover my unfortunate blemishes with odoriferous sticky greasepaint. Costuming, moreover, is a complete disaster: my beret has vanished. How is a poet supposed to recite Henry Wadsworth Longfellow without a beret?

The ultimate catastrophe, however, is when, even though our six-folding- chair vehicle is cruising along at, presumably, 60 miles per hour, Blossom, “barely fourteen and idiotic,” opens her door—and hops out. Apparently she lost her place and jumped ahead several pages in the script.

The rest of us look at each other and then at the audience. Ginger, sensibly I suppose, hits the brakes, puts the vehicle in park, and turns off the ignition. Those still in the car exit, with baskets, with cooler, sans beret, and try to engage in writerly badinage. And imaginary ants. From the audience: not another titter. Hours later: polite parental applause.

Joliet Township High School West Campus’s production of Robert Nail’s one-act—“comedy”—Antic Spring, in which I was cast, of course, as “Robert, seventeen and stricken with himself, careful to speak correctly, a poet,” was my first, and last, thespian endeavor.

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