Saturday, February 9, 2019

It Will Not Surprise You to Learn That I Played Rizzo in the Camp Production of Grease

“A hickey from Kanicki’s like a HAWLMAHK CARD!” 

I still remember that line from my one and only tread across the boards in my tour-de-force role as Rizzo in the 1989 sleepaway camp production of Grease.

Today, as I reflect on what must’ve been the mindset of the teenage counselors who cast me in this role, I realize it wasn’t my captivating voice or embodiment of character that won them over. Nor was it the undeniable chemistry between me and Kanicki, ably played by my best friend, Chuck, who grew up to be a professional actor and thus quickly eclipsed me in the acting arena.

Quite the opposite: Those counselors viewed me as a promiscuous semi-delinquent troublemaker, and they thought the role wouldn’t be too much of a stretch. 

In retrospect, I’m not sure how kosher it is (at least by today’s standards) to type-cast a 12 year-old girl as a chain smoker who accidentally gets pregnant? And her solo is literally just bullying another girl for being a sober virgin who doesn’t curse? And her biggest laugh line is about hickeys? All in 50s lingo that sounds super dated and weird? Like that wouldn’t fly today, right?

I didn’t ever WANT to be bad though, is the thing. I actually wanted very much to be GOOD. I tried hard to be good, but my refusal to shut up was the thing that always did me in. I liked to rile up my friends with silly stories and one-woman showmanship. I got kicked out of class for talking almost every week, it felt like. I hand-wrote stinging, poison pen letters to my romantic rivals. In short, my words got me in trouble then and they get me in trouble now.

But you know what they say. Once a Rizzo, always a Rizzo.

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