Douglas Whaley. Law professor, gay rights advocate, atheist, heart transplant recipient, actor, director, novelist, playwright, bridge player, husband, father, cat owner, storyteller. Much humor and, since the writer is a teacher, advice on many topics.
husband, David Vargo, has always been a talented man, much admired in the acting community, a terrific graphic designer, and the winner of multiple awards for various things (trophies
fill our house).It was therefore a
major shock for him to realize that in 2017, like it or not, he
was going to turn 60 on December 22.SIXTY!YIKES!A HORROR STORY!
than that, in 2013 he had married into a chosen family that has rituals for Big
Birthdays like this, and such momentous occasions do not pass quietly into the
night but are instead celebrated with traditional major public happenings.Oh, no!NO, NO, NO!!!
of these rituals, in which David, alas, has participated a couple of times over
the last five years of our marriage as one of the singers, is the rendition of the “Big Birthday” song,
about which I have often commented on in this blog.It was written years ago by myself and my son
Clayton (and rewritten a number of times since), and is used for those
birthdays ending in a zero.It has wicked
lyrics.Here they are (insert celebrant's name chorus at the end):
[Click To Enlarge]
I turned sixty this song was sung to me at a major fete.Here is the video of the end of that august
occasion, where the festivities were led by Arthur Greenbaum and Thomas Jeffire
in front of alcoholically-encouraged friends who sang it lustily; https://youtu.be/jRC07WKzt7Y.
January of 2017, when poor aging David, a young 59, could see this all coming a
mere eleven months away, he muttered in a low but determined voice, “I don’t want to hear that Goddamn Song!”I was—how shall I put this?—nonplussed at
this startling sentence, and perhaps he noticed my poorly disguised hurt.Two days later, in a conciliatory mood and
with a soft loving voice, David cooed to me, “You know I was kidding,
right?I really do want to have ‘Big
Birthday’ performed for my 60th this coming December.”Uh huh.David immediately added, as a joke, “Of course I want it sung in four
solution was clear.I have been writing
songs since I was a boy (and I produced a record album—yes a real vinyl 12” LP
record—in 1977 of my comic songs, called “Strange Songs”).Thus all I had to do was write a new version
of “Big Birthday” for David’s 60th and get our chosen family to
perform it for him.Piece of cake.
Lorri and David at Party
December David had begun to embrace his coming birthday with enthusiasm, and
decided to go whole hog.He and my
chosen sister, Lorri Latek (Goddess of Parties), went hunting for a suitable
venue, and ended by selecting an elegant private room (the Wine Cellar) at The
Refectory, the premier high-end restaurant in Columbus, for the date of the
actual birthday: December 22, 2017.A
multi-course meal would be served, and the fancy invitations explained that
formal wear was expected, which had the men in tuxedos and the women in evening gowns!David arranged for a
violinist to play, and videographers to record the whole event.The lovely place settings had a wine glass each with the guest’s name engraved thereon.It was a major birthday celebration, as these photos demonstrate:
Lorri, David, and Pamela Maggied
was in charge of the entertainment, and I told David that we were indeed going
to sing the traditional “Big Birthday” song and then perform a skit.That was a misdirection.
mid-December I gathered our chosen family together, handed out the sheet music,
and we rehearsed a new version of “Big Birthday,” now called “That Goddamn
Song.”It begins with the same first line
as the original song, but then is interrupted by me with new lyrics and melody
before it morphs into a bawler’s version of “Big Birthday” with some notes sung
in four party harmony (or, as Arthur Greenbaum speculated, more than four
parts, depending on the singer’s amount of consumed alcohol, enthusiasm, and
musical imagination).Here is the video
of that sterling performance: https://youtu.be/n193N3NVOGg.
in the end David Vargo turned 60 in a grand style, surrounded by people who
love him very much, secure in the knowledge that when it came to this “senior” milestone
he surmounted it with an evening to remember forever.
night we opened in “Proof” for a three week run at Little Theater Off Broadway
in Grove City, Ohio (a suburb on the south side of Columbus). It's a drama
with some very funny parts and involves a woman's search for identity in the
shadow of her brilliant but mad father, a titan in the world of mathematics. Her problem is that she had to care for him during much of his later life, slowing her own
pursuit of mathematics. After his death
she produces a brilliant new mathematical proof that amazes everyone who sees
it. She explains that she wrote it, but
even those close to her believe it is really the work of her father and she is
either (a) lying or (b), like him, crazy.
The terrific play by David Auburn not only won the Pulitzer Prize for
Drama in in 2001, but also the Tony Award that same year.
are four characters: Catherine, the young woman in question, her sister Clare,
a young mathematician named Harold Dobbs (who is romantically involved with
Catherine), and the father, Robert. The
very talented young actors playing the younger roles: Megan Freeman has the
lead as Catherine, Katie Wenzel is Clare, and John Sorenson (who I was pleased
to act with in the Albee drama “Seascape” in 2014) is Harold.
With Megan Freeman and Katie Wenzel
play the father, and it’s a great part, though the smallest of the four. He is in three scenes and appears in very
different lights in each: as a happy healthy man, as someone who is clearly crazy, and
as a ghost! All these scenes are interesting
to play, and the mad scene is frankly disturbing. Much of the time there is a light tone, and even
some major laughs, but there are also major profanities (Robert uses the word “fuck”
like a sailor) and two arguments, one almost violent.
Challenging work for an actor. It’s
a role I've longed to play for years.
Our director is the wonderful Kathy Hyland, with whom I have worked often in the
past. She directed me in my first show when
I retired from teaching and went back to doing theater: “George Washington
Slept Here”(2005), then I directed her “The Curious Savage” (2008), and
subsequently she was the stage manager for two shows I directed, “Who’s Afraid
of Virginia Woolf?” (2009) and “Art” (2013).
Our stage manager is the terrific Lauren Wong.
With Lauren and Kathy
play for three weekend, including Thursdays and three Sunday matinees. Contact information is below. Come see us!