Things were getting better for me. I had met people who wanted to be my friends, and they were. I had people telling me that I had some talent. Positive reinforcement is amazing. There was a city-wide search for high school students to take college-level drama courses at Columbia College. I applied and was accepted. Only 16 students from the Columbia area were chosen.
During the afternoons, we would go to Columbia College, which was an all-girls school, and take classes in Theatre History, Acting, Stagecraft, Costuming, etc. Each student chose a partner in our class and performed a scene. Mine was "Oklahoma", where I played Jud and died. I had to fall down a lot and developed a deep bruise on my leg. I learned to wear knee pads under my jeans. So, I learned that one could protect himself from injury and still look believable. At the end of the semester, we put on a one-act play called "The Cave Dwellers". I played the mute boy, and I had to show love for the lead girl with my eyes. It was like doing mime and was very challenging. I also tried method acting, which I didn't much enjoy, but I wanted to play the part to the hilt. My first scene had to show that I had been chased by a policeman, so he and I ran around downstairs from the stage to get out of breath, and then we came on stage sweating and breathing hard. The others were amazed in our character development. The drama bug bit me that semester. I didn't know how hard it bit until later.
One interesting note from all of this at Columbia College: the directors of the Theatre were the Eakers. Catherine and Gene. About ten years later, I would be asked to perform in a play (which I will talk about later), as well as judging high school students in Speech and Drama. They really started me on my way and saw I had some talent. Thanks, guys.
While this was going on at Columbia College, I had gotten a little attention from my peers for being one of 16 area high school kids in this program, so when the announcement at Flora that they were going to have a senior play, it was just natural for me to be in it. They announced the auditions, and I went out for it. I wasn't cast. It turned out the parts had already been cast before the auditions, but they had to have the auditions to look like they were doing things right. It was clearly wrong, whether I got a part or not. There is one thing about me that has carried me through life--be fair.
During Christmas of 1970, my church was putting on a Christmas play with the Youth doing the parts. I was cast as a disciple. I was supposed to say one short line, and then James was to speak. I got nervous and proceeded to summarize the entire play while on stage. The other actors looked at me funny, and then I realized what I was doing and stopped and told James to speak. The audience never knew the difference. That bit of improvisation would help me greatly 3 years later.