Memory Road

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I have been taking a really wonderful journey down this road again just in the last few days. I may have mentioned in a previous entry that I had been involved with Theatre on the Lake here in Chicago back in the 80s. Just during this past weekend, a whole bunch of other folks who were as well started a private message chat in Facebook, and that very quickly became a group page as well, and we already have almost 100 folks in there! 

In just a few days, not only have so many people joined the page, but have submitted pictures and stories….and memories of folks who have since passed. In seeing these pictures and participating in these remembrances, I have once again gone back there, both in my head and in my heart. Listening to “Summer Hits of the 80s” on Pandora has of course added a touch more fuel to the trip. But this visit back feels different.

I have also mentioned previously, I believe, that the time that I started doing theatre was a time of many beginnings and firsts for me. Many of those are really coming back and bringing with them so many emotions. For example, when I first came out publicly, I was naive enough to have been thinking that all gay men thought the same way I did….easy sex, since we all wanted that! Guess what…not necessarily true, much to my dismay. Except a couple that I met who were involved in theatre. Quite honestly, they were my first experience with a couple in an open relationship. I was aware of such things, but at that time, I wasn’t convinced they were right. This couple had an effect on that thinking….quite a nice one, actually. That was a first.

Through them, I met my first husband, Page. At that time, I was doing a fair number of plays nearby the Manse here at Chase Park. Page had somewhat recently graduated from Northwestern University’s Drama Program, but had not done any shows yet since. He had exposed me to a playwright named James Kirkwood. I had begun to read some of his work when lo, and behold!…Jean decided to direct “PS – Your Cat Is Dead”!! Page and I both auditioned, and guess what? It was our show. That was a first….first relationship, first play together….and not necessarily proudly, first chance to be unfaithful. I don’t want that point to be a focus in this entry, so I’ll leave that for now.

Doing theatre and meeting all of these really hot men was QUITE thrilling for me! Crush upon crush, fantasy upon fantasy, play after play….it was amazing!! I’d say ‘like a kid in a candy shop’, but really more, it was like I was in the shop window, looking in but not able to touch. So many of the guys were either involved in a non-open relationship, or they were simply not interested in me that way. Of course, many of the latter were due to the fact that they were straight! However, one of them back then told me something very sweet one time. Admittedly, we were under the influence (really?!), but he had told me that if he WERE gay, he would have gone out with me. Now really…..how often does that happen? It remained one of the sweetest things anyone has said to me. 

Now….also at this time, something else was beginning. I’ve talked before about my pervasive sense of solitude in my life. Up until that time, most of that was due to the walls around me because of the early abuse. But now, what I started to feel was that I didn’t belong. My first love ended after about 15 months….and honestly, it totally derailed me. Occasionally, someone would come along that would at least sleep with me. And then slowly, theatre started to go away as well. I had, for a while, believed that I had found a group that I fit better than the church. Even then, though, I was very insecure, and if there were people that had been involved with my new theatre friends before me, I tended to hold them at bay for some resentful reason. And then, after Page and I ended, the ground became quite soft and sandy beneath me…hard to walk in. Progressively, as I did less and less theatre, that sand beneath me was beginning to siphon off to one side, and I lost foothold….and it all seemed to just go away. 

Of course, I did not recognize at that time that I was the one moving away….not anyone else. Of course, I understand that now. And I did, in the 90s, become involved with theatre groups working at the Atheneum Theatre, and I had a really wonderful time again for a few years. And again, I thought I belonged to a safe group. And guess what again? I drifted. This drifting really has been a running theme in my life. I am very grateful to say that I have come far enough at this point, and have woken up enough to be able to understand, as I do, that everything happens for a reason. And so I can look back at these times and people and memories, and it really doesn’t ache so much. I own the feelings that I have had about back then, and I embrace them! That’s why I love such journeys down Memory Road now more than ever before. It doesn’t ache…it feels warm and tender and nice…..and grateful. 

Ok, so ending on a fun – and hopefully a complimentary – note – some of the bigger crushes I had back then! (Perhaps one or two of the smaller ones as well…) Ready? Ed Huerta…Pat Causgrove….Tom Quinn…..Kathy Messmer (…..yup!…)…..Gary Olsen…..Steve Kimbrough…..Kyle Jorhansson…..Lex McCauley…Tim Eannarino….Joe Savino…Richard Anton…..Giles in Mousetrap….Bobby in Company…..Henry in Lion in Winter…..ah, and the names start to fade…..

I love my theatre memories, and all the people within them. And I always will. 

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About Rob Russo

June baby in 1962 in Chicago of Irish and Sicilian parents. I'm gay and Wiccan....now that the shock is out of the way, I am a mystic, energy/light worker/teacher, sensitive, paranormal investigator, local tour guide, and student of the Universe. Love and Light!
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