Many years ago now I was in seventh grade. One of the extracurricular activities that we did was to put on a stage play with characters that we created. There wasn’t much to it; each player was to come up with a character and work it into the act. I don’t really remember much about the play, except that my character was the only one that had a last name. Why do I mention this? This is the earliest example of being on a formal stage that I can remember. It was, however, not the last.
When I was in 11th grade, one of the activities we did in the gifted and talented program was put on small skits for the annual parents’ night/talent show. We split into two groups, and in my group I was the unnamed Inspector in a small, one-act play (really, not more than a skit) called The Case of the Frustrated Corpse, by Ruth Wallace. I do not remember what play the other group was planning on doing, but they had some interpersonal issues in the group and their skit was on the verge of falling apart just a couple of weeks before the talent night.
I overheard some discussion about some of the issues that they were facing (not the details; I certainly did not want to hear the details), and decided that I could do something to help. That night I went home and wrote a skit for them to perform that could be prepared in the time remaining. It was not an involved skit; it was mostly a “talking heads”- type skit, based around investigating a murder, with humor coming from confusion over the names of the characters. The director (she was directing both groups, I believe) thought that it was great when I showed it to her, but I had one too many characters — they had a person quit the act over whatever issues they were facing.
The solution to that problem was simple, however. I was already playing a bumbling investigator in my own skit, so it was fairly easy to add me in to the other skit as another bumbling investigator. I wasn’t really worried about being typecast, however. Nobody would ever confuse me for a bumbling investigator in real life. Especially not since, up until about age 38, my preferred coat was a trenchcoat and I prefer fedora or trilby type hats. And the ringtone on my phone is the Inspector Gadget theme. I have never, ever been called “Inspector,” “Gadget,” or “Clouseau” by random people in the street.
There may have been some sarcasm in that last sentence. My apologies.
The skit I wrote didn’t have a title. It did, however, list the cast of characters before the play itself, and this cast listing is known as a dramatis personae. I had it labeled as such, and was quite surprised to see in the program that night that that was listed as the title of the play. I think I was surprised mostly because that implied that whoever put the program together did not realize that the words “Dramatis Personae” were not a title but instead the heading of a section. Still, twenty-three years after I wrote the play, I can’t think of a better title, so “Dramatis Personae” it shall remain.
The night of the performance, I had a flash of delayed inspiration (really, I should have thought of this long before twenty minutes before the performance). Since I was playing an Inspector in both skits, I should make them the same character. All it took was a slightly improvised change to one of the skits, gently informing the director of what I was doing (she thought it was a great idea), and Inspector Kluless was a recurring character.
And that is how I wrote and starred in my own play. It is presented here, with some minimal edits for clarity and grammar correction.