I can’t act, I can’t sing and I can’t draw. I am a fine arts dropout and I can blame it on my elementary school teachers. Teachers are always being blamed for everything from George Bushes’ deductive reasoning skills to the unexplainable love affair we have with Italian focaccio bread. Why not pin them with my artistic failings?
Teachers prevented me from becoming a budding new Picasso, Meatloaf or Pee Wee Herman. My first negative experience with teachers occurred in Year One. An all-class concert promised to be the highlight of the Christmas season. I fantasized about the part of Ernie the Inchworm, but alas, it was not to be. After auditioning for all parts, five of us were identified as dramatically and musically challenged six year olds.
Our group of five were sold a bill of goods that would have made Donnie Trump proud. We were convinced that a small choir accompanying the teacher, as she played the piano during the concert, was more important than the main character roles. That’s like saying that ticket taker in the Louvre played a critical role in the DaVinci Code movie. We did a lot of self talk and persuaded each other that perhaps we would be the next Osmond brothers.
Opening (and Closing) Night crackled with excitement. We gargled our six year old throats and practiced our scales. The death blow was delivered five minutes before the curtain went up (actually two kids holding the ends of a pastel bed sheet). Our teacher thought it would be better if our group assembled behind the piano, instead of beside it. Like singing a lullaby besides a freeway – nobody would ever discover our Motown talent.
The coup de gras – French for ‘kick in the ass’ – was the final modification of our long awaited vocal debut. Our teacher informed us that we were not going to be singing behind the piano, we were only supposed to HUM the songs behind the piano. How humiliating! From a potential record deal with Barry Gordie to a sound effects chorus for a overheated motor.
My artistic talent was stymied by my Year Five teacher. In history class, we were given a picture of a buffalo or bison and told to color it. I thought I did a magnificent job. I didn’t color outside the lines and even used two shades of brown. When my teacher returned my magnificent prairie art to me and said, “Don’t you know that you don’t color buffaloes up and down, you color them side to side?” I was crushed. If you are ever required to accept the same artistic challenge on some new TV Reality show just remember that when you color buffalo, the rule is “tail to tongue and not hoof to horn.” Who knew!
My career in the dramatic arts was initially much more successful. In Year One, I was awarded a major role in our class production of The Three Little Pigs. I was the brick house. There were no lines to learn; I just stood very still and held my two arms up in the air like a roof and allowed the three pigs to find safety there. When our class won first prize at a local drama festival, I knew my interpretation of a brick house was a major contributor to our award.
My skills soon became legendary and by Year Four I won the lead in our school production. I played a lumberjack and I pulled my crippled son around the stage in a wagon. Unfortunately, during the premiere I pulled the poor handicapped son too close to the edge of the stage. One wheel of the wagon slipped off the stage and in an instant the play had to be stopped to fish the wagon and its passenger out of the front row seats. My stage career had reached its conclusion, far too prematurely
I know I could have rivaled Bobby Darin in song, or painted like Lautrec or won a Oscar like Newman. As Brando said, “Ah, couda bin sum buddy!” but I was foiled by a wagon wheel, a buffalo and a tin ear for music.