identical-twin girlfriend who eventually became my sister-in-law)
was stage crew. In my sophomore year, I got involved with Warren
Central's theater department. I ended up running a follow spot for
South Pacific, and spent the next three years crewing practically
every event Warren Central put on.
Even better was that Warren's brand new multi-million dollar
performing arts center opened the next year. Ah, the adventures,
the shenanigans we enjoyed in that place! Not to mention the
Wait, I will mention the shows. It wasn't all high school drama.
The Warren Performing Arts Center was a state-of-the art facility,
and hosted its share of notable billing. It was a particular,
peculiar one-man show which I so fondly remember, involving a
portrayal of Albert Einstein. But it wouldn't have been peculiar
at all, were it not for the event that directly preceded it.
Only days before, the Indiana Thespians society held its annual
conference at the WPAC.
Some brilliant mind decided that the aspiring young acolytes of Thespis
should enjoy a smashing big banquet, and directed that it should be held on the theater's
mainstage. Furthermore, it was decided that what was really needed
was an abundance of helium balloons, liberally distributed among
celebrants. Our tech director was furious.
Creative minds being what they will be, it didn't take long before
the main amusement became releasing the balloons up into the
fly space, and watching them vanish into the rows of curtains
above. And there they remained, trapped by the static charge that
developed as they rolled across the heavy velour.
We spent the rest of the week trying to get those blasted balloons
out of the fly space.
Fast forward to Einstein. A wonderful performance. At the end, as
Albert listened to classical music on the radio, the broadcast was
interupted to announce the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
He staggered, nearly collapsing as he slumped into his easy chair.
It was then that the first balloon, its buoyancy depleted and
static cling neutralized, descended from the fly space. It was
caught by a strong draft and swept across the stage behind, and
entirely unbeknownst to Einstein.
We, the stagehands, were sitting in the back-row, slack-jawed and
wide eyed as the moment of dawning comprehension simultaneously
robbed us of breath and yet compelled us toward uncontrollable
laughter. Einstein began a somber monologue as another balloon
came down behind him and rushed away across the boards. Then
another, and another.
We dashed out to the lobby and completely lost it. There would be
hell to pay, but at that moment, it was worth every penny.
We regained our composure and returned to our seats. Einstein was
speaking gravely about the grim inevitabilities of a nuclear
future, when another balloon -- pink and still possessing enough
helium to float, came down, dragging its string along. Somehow, it
escaped the river of air that had carried its comrades off so
swiftly, and it stopped center stage. My future sister-in-law
clutched my hand as the diabolic latex sphere reversed direction
and drifted toward the dispirited genius in the wingback chair.
We held our collective breath as it stopped next to him and
slowly, inexorably, impossibly, impiously turned around to reveal
-- I kid you not -- a one-eyed smiley face, bearing the slogan
"Happy Mutants for Nuclear Power!" Einstein never noticed. His
monologue ended, he rose and shuffled off stage as the lights went
When the house lights came up, a small group of people clustered at
the edge of the stage, staring in wonder and murmuring
speculation on how we had managed to make the balloon do that. I
fetched the wayward mutant telling them it was a trade-secret. I
dare say that those lofty musings on the balloon metaphor haunt
them to this day. I kept that little pink memento until it was
nothing more than a shriveled latex blob in my cabinet of
curiosities. To my knowledge, Einstein was never the wiser...