I did not grow up in a very functional home, so much so that I knew I wanted out at a very early age. I started delivering papers when I was 10. I started doing under-the-table child labor at a local plant when I was 12 or 13. I always had a part-time job during school and a full-time job in the summer. For the four years of high school I worked at a local supermarket and by the time I was a senior I was head cashier, in the retail workers' union, and making almost as much as my dad thanks to union overtime for working double shifts on Saturdays and Sundays. All of this is by way of saying that starting at age 10 I began socking money away so that I could get away once I graduated from high school.
I got into a good school, the University of Virginia, with a decent scholarship and had what I thought was enough money to support myself. Imagine my surprise when, the day before I left New Jersey for Virginia, I went to the bank to withdraw my money and found most of it gone. My parents had been taking money out all along, just about as fast as I was putting it in. From age 10. I was expecting to withdraw close to $7,000.00. My balance was $23.11. Not a number you forget.
On a side note, this explained why I was forbidden to go to my prom. I would have had to make a withdrawal for tickets, tuxedo, limo and flowers and would have discovered the loss before my parents were prepared to have me do so.
So I got to college with very little money. At my high school graduation I had been awarded the Drama Scholarship, a whopping $400.00, which I still had -- thank my lucky stars I never deposited that check -- but otherwise very few funds. I had to find a work-study job, fast, to buy books. Then I found out that my parents had not bought my meal ticket so that I could be on the food plan. They used the money to make a mortgage payment. Again, as with my bank account, they never told me. I lived on care packages from my grandmother and -- literally -- scraps for that first year. I was not allowed to work more than 20 hours a week or I would lose my scholarship, so I learned the true meaning of living paycheck to paycheck.
Somehow I got through that first year. I stayed in Virginia, found a good summer job waiting tables, and kept my own damn money from then on.
Believe it or not, my family still held onto this fantasy that I was going to major in something pre-law-ish, go to law school, and become a rich lawyer who would then take care of them financially for the rest of their lives. I did sort of buy into that myself, for a while, deciding to major in history, but that was before discovering the Drama Department.
You might have noticed I made mention of a high school drama scholarship a little earlier. My activities in drama were a major source of contention and strife all through high school. My father was dead set against any involvement, probably because he thought it would somehow "make me gay" (although the word "gay" was not in common use back in 1967.) I was forced to drop out of the first play I was cast in so that I could try out for the baseball team. Now I need to go on record with this: I do not have the sports gene. I don't enjoy watching them. I am no good at playing them. I rarely know what to say about them because I don't follow either college or professional anything. So you can imagine how my tryout for the baseball team went. I missed out on a chance to be in my first play for nothing.
But I stuck with it. Eventually I was cast in other plays, and got bigger and bigger and parts. I was very nearly president of the drama society when I was a senior, and played major roles in both the fall and spring productions. So when I got to University, you can be damned sure that my liberal arts class requirements were going to be covered by classes from the Drama Department. And they were. More on this soon....