Very few people know this about me.
I graduated from my liberal arts college with my drama degree and no true direction in my life. All I had was my actor’s makeup kit and a dream to be on daytime television, be it a soap opera or a talk show. Sadly, doors were closed left and right.
Apparently the soap opera world cares not for the erudite excellence of a bachelor of arts carrying, classically trained actor from rural, northeast Georgia. Eff you, Passions. Eff you.
So after “no thank yous” from Montel, Maury and, again, effing Passions, I took to traveling the rails between New York and Georgia disguised as a dancing and singing hobo.
A classically trained hobo, that is.
I took the nom-du-hobo of Saggy Britches Sammy, and with my hobo sack full of Ben Nye Makeup (for my fake stubble beard), I became one of the most celebrated hobos to ride the tracks during that winter and spring of 1997.
Night after night, my hobo pals would cram into boxcar eight for my performances.
Boxcar Eight was MY BOXCAR. Don’t you let that crap-head hobo Chuckles O’Leary tell you none different. He sold me that box car for three cans of beans and a mighty nice comb and full square of wax paper. Those beans were awful good and had a full chunk of pork fat in every one! So you tell Chuckles to back off or I swear to God I’ll string up his cat, Eisenhower, like a goddamn mandolin!
Sorry. That ass Chuckles O’Leary sure used to get my goat … I’d given him my heart too, if only he wanted it…
Where was I?
Back in the day all the finest hobos would cram into Boxcar Eight for my nightly show. I’d light a cozy fire in my trashcan with some gasoline and whatever dirty newspaper was left over from my morning squats. The hobos would form a semi circle around me. And right there in the crudest of settings I’d bring the characters of the Bard to life. I treated these modern day groundlings (and their pets) to the most classical of the classic characters studied by this classically trained actor turned louse ridden hobo. (Whew, did I have lice? Thousands.)
I usually started the show as … Ophelia!
Her descent into madness upon learning the death of her father, Polonius, served as a fantastic opener for my show. My whooping and hollering and singing never failed to hook their attention. The several mentally unstable hobos, Talks-To-Himself-Jonesy in particular, loved the Ophelia bits.
From Ophelia’s suicide, I’d follow the dark path into the vengeance and jealousy of Shakespeare’s finest villain, Iago from Othello.
Ah, Iago: so angry, so envious, so manipulative, so desiring to get up on a hunky, straight, black man. I’ve always felt a special kinship with that infamous role.
Then I’d lighten the mood with a back-to-back helping of two fools: Bottom from A Midsummer Night's Dream and Cathness from Macbeth.
Cathness isn’t really a “fool” role. In fact he only has one line in Macbeth, but that’s the only role I got that year in my classically trained education, so I built an elaborate back story for Cathness in which he was a court jester, but through a series of elaborate pranks (and his lust for a hunky, straight, black man) he managed to assume a position of influence among Macbeth’s royal court.
Most theatre goers fail to realize the immense preparation that the classically trained actor pours into every role, regardless of whether it's one line or a million-billion lines.
Of course my monologue as Cathness was rather short. It was only one line; three words I think.
Next, I’d do a variety of modern interpretations of Hamlet from Hamlet: Hamlet as Rocky Balboa, Hamlet as Ronald Regan, Hamlet as Dolly Parton and (my favorite) Hamlet as Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard in a Holosuite aboard the USS Enterprise as Hamlet. <-- that’s what we classically trained types call “levels”.
Please understand that’s the beauty of Shakespeare: the various themes (incest, assassination, shipwrecks, ghosts) are so very universal that anyone, be it a hobo or a delusional undergraduate actor with no real future prospects, can parlay an experience through the Bard’s words that any audience will appreciate and relate to.
And how those crazy, stinky hobos loved my Shakespeare. They loved it! They loved me, and I tolerated them so long as they loved me. I sure miss acting.
Those were some good times.