The Early Years: Jim Was In A Play Once

Many, many years ago, I came across a casting advertisement for a play that was going to be put on at the outdoor stage in Hanna Park, a local park created by (I think) and named after (definitely) Ed Hanna, a colorful and notorious* former mayor of Utica, NY. The play was The Children’s Crusade, which, as you might imagine, was billed as some sort of heavy drama about—you guessed it!—the Children’s Crusade. According to the linked Wikipedia article, “The traditional narrative is likely conflated from some factual and mythical events which include the visions by a French boy and a German boy, an intention to peacefully convert Muslims in the Holy Land to Christianity, bands of children marching to Italy, and children being sold into slavery. Many children were tricked by merchants and sailed over to what they thought were the holy lands but, in reality, were slave markets.” Sounds cheerful, doesn’t it?

For reasons I could not possibly articulate, I decided, hey, that sounds like a good time ― let’s see if I can get myself a part in that. And, shockingly, I did. And then, via some means or mechanisms I don’t remember, the play changed. We were no longer going to be performing The Children’s Crusade. We were now going to be performing Silly Soup, “A collection of wonderful, short, zany plays from which children can pick and choose to perform, for their own fun or for a presentation to an audience.” (Mood swing much?)

And so it was that instead of being sent off to Jerusalem to get sold into slavery and/or killed, I ended up cavorting around in a conducter hat, a shirt with drawings on it, and a great big tie:

Anyway, that was my one and only experience with being in an, uh, “play”, if you don’t count the times when you like have to read a part in English class or whatever**.

Incidentally, while trying to find out who wrote these 40-year-old plays, I did find a video online of some children performing The Children’s Crusade, which looks pretty much like you would expect it to look: Fewer clown pants and flowered ties, and a lot more misery and death:

Hey, Children’s Crusaders ― 2020 called. It says you’re a bunch of amateurs.

* Among other things, Mayor Hanna removed the door from his office (a literal “open door” policy), routinely publicly insulted the city he governed, and managed to get himself interviewed and/or profiled in adult magazines like Playboy and Hustler, because any publicity is good publicity.
** Which you definitely shouldn’t.

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