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Archive for April, 2011

Purple and White

I went to high school at Winston Churchill Collegiate Institute in Scarborough. Our school teams were, for obvious reasons, the Bulldogs. Our school colours were, for less than obvious reasons, purple and white.

Churchill was a big school. It housed Grades 9 through 13 in both the four and five year programs. As I recall, there were about 2,000 students in any one year. The school had a full auditorium that probably sat about 600 with an orchestra pit and a complete stage.

There was a long tradition of hosting an annual variety show at Churchill. Called the “Purple and White Revue”, the show featured student skits and musical performances. What made it so much fun was it really was a ‘student’ production. We did have a staff advisor but their sole role was to show up every so often and warn us about not getting into trouble. We did the direction, the scenery, the costumes – pretty well everything. “Purple and White” ran for three consecutive nights and there was a full house almost every night.

In my Grade 13 year, I would guess that close to 70% of the revue was from our class alone. I think I was in at least 4 different skits as well as being the understudy for the master of ceremonies. One of my favourite moments as understudy was the start of the show. The orchestra would play an introduction, stop, and the stage lights would come up … and there would be nothing. After about 30 seconds or so I would go on stage and report our M.C. was nowhere to be found and as his understudy I would, regrettably, have to take over. At this point the real M.C., my buddy Gord, would emerge from the back of the auditorium wearing only a towel (and shorts) and stomp down the aisle to the stage yelling, “Waddell, you jerk. Where are my clothes?” At which point I would beat a hasty retreat and the show would begin.

Superhero Sketch - The Big Boss

There were a number of great memories from the shows. In a previous year, I played the role of the wolf in a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. It was a typical satire in that Little Red was much more interested in me as the wolf than I was of her. It wasn’t that funny a skit but during the performance she was supposed to try and kiss me. (Little Red was played by a very good looking girl named Karen Johnston). At this point, I would reach behind her and pull her cape over her head and then run away. However in one performance when we came to the kissing scene, I reached behind, pulled … and nothing happened. I tried again and still I could not pull the cape over her head. All the while, Karen had a big smile on her face as she moved forward trying to kiss me. It seemed like an eternity but was probably a second or two and I gave up. Dropping the cape, I sprinted up over the risers and jumped offstage. I was greeted by the stage hands laughing and yelling “way to go man”. Now I was really confused until it was explained to me the reason I couldn’t lift her cape was that I had grabbed both her cape and dress and was lifting her dress up over her waist. Karen was a really good sport about it all. She stayed in character, finished the scene and just laughed about it after.

Superhero Sketch - Batman & Robin

One of the differences between now and then was you could do ethnic humour as long as it was good natured. Some of the stuff we did then would get you into trouble today. But we were a generation away from the Second World War and grew up still with the influence of the conflict. For our skit, “Cheat for the Top” (a satire on the school quiz show – “Reach for the Top”) I was a German nerd, complete with slide rule. When asked what iron was made of, I would go off on a scientific tangent while never getting around to the answer. After running out of time, I was supposed to return, sobbing, to my seat. On the last night however, I enlisted a couple of my fellow actors to help with a bit of improvisation. Instead of sobbing, I started advancing on the quizmaster, again played by Gord, and threatened to do all sorts of nasty things to him with my slide rule. Gord’s face was priceless; trying to stay in character but at the same time wondering what was really going on. At the last minute, two of my fellow cast members (football players as well), grabbed me and carried me off stage. The audience loved it. We even had one person ride on stage in black leather on a mini-bike as our ‘greaser” – as they were known back then.

Superhero Sketch - George of the Jungle

Probably the most elaborate sketch was our “superhero” skit. We tried to get as many superhero icons as possible and even predated Austin Powers with a “little person” in the cast as one of the villains. I was one of the bad guys and for one part of the sketch I was sneaking around on stage (I don’t remember the context) trying to avoid the superheroes. We had strung one of the gym ropes from the rafters and either George of the Jungle or Tarzan (sometimes both) would swing across and try and nab me. We had a mark on stage so I wouldn’t get hit but from the audience my dad said it looked real close. Every time the hero would swing by, I would put my back to him so technically I never saw the hero. Best night of all was when after the second swing, George had a legitimate ‘wardrobe malfunction’. The third swing saw him come across holding the remains of his costume in a strategic location (he did have shorts on but the illusion was priceless). We should have left it in.

Superhero Sketch - Banana Man (he was an original & notice Batman in the background)

The show was a lot of work and I am sure more than one cast member’s grades slipped during that term (yours truly among them). But it was fun and a great team experience.

The photos in this post were taken during a rehearsal using my old Argus. No flash, and very low tech but I was still able to get some reasonable shots for the time. And can you tell from the stage background that it was the late 60’s?

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My daughter recently returned from a school trip to England and Ireland. She brought back some English shortbread (so bad for you, but so good) and some other treats. But, the most interesting was a couple of packets of crisps (potato chips to us Canadians).

The actual bag of potato chips was Worcestershire Sauce and Sun-Dried Tomato. They were almost flavourless; I certainly could not taste any strong evidence of either tomato or Worcestershire sauce.

The other packet was not even made from potatoes.

All natural!

I think this may be the English version of health food. Crisps made from golden parsnips, sweet potatoes and beetroot. Individual flavours were impossible to detect, but there was a strong taste of canola oil and salt. Were they edible? I would give them a qualified pass – I wouldn’t go out of my way for them but I have had worse. Mind you, I am sure some of our ‘delicacies’ seem as strange to them. Different strokes …

And BTW; £1.15 = $1.79 Cdn

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Quote of the Day

“There’s nary an animal alive that can outrun a greased Scotsman.”

Groundskeeper Willy

The Simpsons – Episode 5.19

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