On Monday Next

My most enduring contribution:
Cover Art!

In 1985 I was working at the H.F. Receiver site at RAF Croughton UK, and shared a house with my good friend Bobby Wells (the man of a million Swatches). One day Bob walked into the house and asked if I'd read for a part for a new production by RAF Upper Heyford's new theatre group; the actor they'd had for the part had other responsibilities and couldn't continue. "Sure," I said, and he tossed me a script. The part was that of George, a crusty old stage carpenter for a failing repertory company.

So Bob drags me down to Upper Heyford's recreation center where I walk into a room full of people I'd never seen (and about whom I may tell you more later) to read for this part. The play begins with "Maude" walking into the theatre and greeting "George," who responds in kind. Deston Lee played the part of Maude, and she began with, "Good Morning, George!" I got as far in my reply as, "Good morning, Miss Barron..." and the room erupted in laughter, to my complete surprise and confusion. Evidently they hadn't been expecting me to do it in a Cockney accent (silly me... I thought it was written into the part). Since the cast was all-American the previous actor had read it with a "down-East" (New England) accent. We kept the Cockney, though, and the laughs.

Daphne, The Producer, & The Author

Somehow, and I'm not quite sure exactly how, Bob and I were "elected" to co-produce the play. This was a nice one to cut your teeth on... the premise of the play is that the audience has arrived early to a rehearsal of a play that won't be opening until next Monday. What they actually witness is a dysfunctional group that falls into chaos when the nerdy Author makes a surprise visit and the draconian Producer (Harry Blacker himself!) accidentally falls off of the stage and lands himself in the hospital. It's a comedy (surprise!) and fairly easy to produce... the sets are purposely half-built.

Maude and George

Actually, it's better than a comedy... done right it's absolutely hilarious. I'm not sure exactly how much of this was due to the script, but I am sure that much of it was due to the excellent cast:

The Author is upset about "a few" changes to the script

Every one of the characters was perfectly cast, from Tom Walker as the imperious Producer/Director, Harry Blacker; to Denise Carter as the ditzy glamour-girl, Daphne Wray. Actually, Daphne was a little difficult to cast; we were getting so desperate at one point that Bob threatened to dress in drag and play the part himself! It's a good thing he didn't. I can't think of anyone who could have played the momma's boy Author better. (Trust me, this isn't a reflection on Bob, just his acting ability!). Deston Lee was absolutely magnificent as the motherly Maude, and as I was to learn this was par for the course for her.

Jacko gives the Author the brush-off.

As for me, I did passably well as George when "On Monday Next" was first presented at the USAF Tournament of Plays in Mildenhall. (Actually, I received one of the nicest compliments an actor could get. The judges, who were British, didn't realize I was an American. (Sweet!) Then again, I had the opportunity to be horribly miscast as Jerry Winterton, the amazingly handsome, yet flamingly gay actor when we performed the play at the RAF Croughton Middle School. If you know me then you know that I'm neither particularly dashing, nor particularly outgoing in real life. Michael Hatico did a much better job, in my opinion. The role of Jerry did have one nice perk, though. Oddly enough, it's Jerry that gets the girl ("Avis", played by Tammy Ford). There was a twist on that, though...during the "Big Kiss" it's Jerry's leg that raises!

It was this play that gave the Harry Blacker Admiration Society its name. Tim Hill uses the words "elected" and "chosen" in his history to describe what happened. I don't think that either word precisely applies.

Several weeks into production, we still hadn't settled on a name for ourselves. We were still reading from scripts when Tim Hill (as "Jacko" the Stage Manager) delivered the line, "What are we, a reperatory company or the Harry Blacker Admiration Society?!?" With one voice, every person in the building shouted "YES!!!" We immediately began using the name. That might have been a vote. If so, it's earned the title on a technicality. It was literally true, though, that we justified the "choice" to ourselves with the reasons Tim gives... it was an excuse to talk about the group to curious strangers; and it was thoroughly unique.




The Programme
(yes, I know it says Brad did the cover. I did the original sketches and he produced the cover)