Monday, February 21, 2011

The Sassy Street Urchin

On Saturday, my dear friend Owen held a ten-year reunion for the cast of a musical I was in during the winter of my junior year of college.

The musical was Runaways. You probably don’t know it, because after a well-received eight-month run on Broadway in 1978, it never returned. A good way to describe it would be like A Chorus Line, but with emotionally disturbed, racially diverse, drug-abusing homeless children instead of dancers (and not the cute emotionally disturbed homeless children of Annie. Runaways makes Pepper and Duffy look like the Bloomberg daughters). The orchestra for Runaways included a toy piano and a triangle. It wasn’t what you might call an easy sell.

When I told my friend Kerry about the reunion, she looked confused.

“Is that the one where you played a lesbian?” she asked.

“No, this is the one where I played a sexually ambiguous street urchin,” I corrected her. In my college career, my three biggest theatrical roles were as a lesbian, a wall (yes, really--a tale for another post), and my Runaways character, “A.J.”

“A.J.” was not identified as having any specific type of genitalia. To that end, I stuffed my hair beneath a knit cap, dirtied my face with eyeshadow, and wore an outfit that might have looked appropriate on a slightly effeminate male child of the 1970s: flared jeans, neon green sneakers, a vintage New York Civil Liberties Union tee shirt, and a hoodie with a multicolored horizontal stripe across my non-breasts.

Emoting, y'all: Watch and learn.
Runaways didn't really have a plot. It was more like a series of weird, depressing monologues about abuse mixed in with suspiciously up-tempo songs about child prostitution. Owen, bless his heart, choreographed most of it himself, which resulted in a combination of moves culled from Bob Fosse numbers, Britney Spears videos, and, when all else failed, running around in a circle. We ran in a circle so often that on Saturday we considered making it part of a drinking game, ultimately deciding against it for fear of alcohol poisoning.

Now, I consider myself a pretty competent dancer, but upon watching the tape, it became clear this was not always the case. Whatever I had in terms of coordination, I lost through the unmistakable look of abject terror and/or constipation I wore in every dance-heavy sequence. (I've pointed it out in the first screen grab... see if you can spot the rest!!!)

In my defense, riding any type of horse, even an imaginary one, does not come naturally to LaMarches.
Ditto to performing tricks with basketballs, especially when it's near the vaginal area.
This is a hip-hop number. The flailing arms helped with bladder control.
Forced to jump rope onstage, this image was captured mere seconds before the projectile vomit began.
Most of the time, when I wasn't busy making a poop face mid-choreography, I was adjusting my hat...

One of these people won a Tony. Sadly, it was not for Most Dramatic Head Grip.
There were other people in the production besides me, of course, and I'm not excluding them solely for the purpose of navel-gazing. It's just that I feel that it would be unfair to mock the others, especially when I provide so much material all by myself. But there was the aforementioned Tony winner, Lin, who sported a studded choker and at one point mooned the audience; my former boyfriend, who I seduced Mrs. Robinson-style (he was a freshman) at the cast party later that night and who played a Hispanic heroin dealer named Manny despite looking like a blond Disney prince; and my friend Aileen, who, although she is Filipina, played a Latina who looked like she could have starred in a telenovela version of Canadian teen drama Fifteen:

Everyone seemed to enjoy the humiliation, however, and good spirits (including the drinkable variety) abounded.

The best part of the Runaways reunion, aside from the memories and free sushi, was realizing that I look much better now than I did at age 20.

Do your eyebrows not like each other, former self? Or are they just making a hasty retreat from your self-cut bangs?
"How was I so skinny with such a puffy face?" I later asked my friend Charlie in horror. Then I remembered my diet of Rice Krispies Treats and grain alcohol.

Ah, college.


  1. OMG! I was on the exact same diet in college!

  2. Lin-Manuel10:40 AM

    Oh good gracious, I have never seen YOU laugh so hard as you did on Saturday night. This sums it up pretty perfectly. Although I think Aileen's giving us Swans Crossing in that screen grab.

  3. I ate a lot of cupcakes in college. And then drank Mike's Hard Lemonade. I'm surprised I still have all my teeth.

  4. That play that you were a wall for wasn't the the Fantastics by any chance was it?

  5. hell yeah, swan's crossing! "boy meets girl... boy meets ROCKET."

    behlmann's best efforts to make that basketball song palatable to human ears: that's what i remember of this play.

  6. Your face wasn't was just still full, not yet angular, you were young, remember?
    Owen! I forgot to read him. I enjoyed it so much when he did PR for you and promised myself I would since he hardly ever has any comments and I felt bad.
    I looked out my window and thought a ginormous space ship, Independence Day style, was hovering over the Hudson. Nope. The GWB has the towers lit for GW's B-day. Pretty, not scary.

  7. I can't tell you how excited I am to be tangentially involved with a post on my favorite blog! Also, I think you were a very impressive street urchin. And it was great to see you. :)

  8. Wait. Lin. As in ... "In the Heights" Lin Manuel Miranda?

  9. I really like to think that I know what's going on in the world of musicals, and yet, and yet, I somehow totally missed out on t his one. You do learn something everyday!


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