Rick R Reed’s Gay General moment

Our subconscious is a wonderful thing. Sometimes it comforts us, protects us; sometimes it even hides things. But sometimes it reveals our own truth when we least expect it.

Here is Rick R Reed to talk about how one such subconscious moment became a defining light.

Looking Back: Playing a Gay General in THE WIZARD OF OZ
By Rick R. Reed

Okay, so I recently read Jane Lynch’s autobiography, Happy Accidents, and have discovered I have more in common with Jane than I might have first realized. For example, we’re about the same age, she grew up in similar times with a similar background, we both lived in Chicago, we both never quite felt we fit in.

We were both fiercely in the closet growing up.

It’s this last point that caused me to have a revelation. I just read the part of the book where Jane gets her first speaking role, as a freshman, in the University of Illinois production of Lysistrata. Jane decided, in an improv moment, to play her character as an out lesbian. Even though she was deep in the closet and actually shunned the only other obvious lesbian in the theater department, she went this route.

Coincidence? I think not.

But Jane made me think of my own theatrical experience–and one in particular. My senior year of high school, back in East Liverpool, Ohio, my school put on The Wizard of Oz as the spring musical. It was a kitschy mix of the original with some songs from The Wiz thrown in to make–the director, a gay man, hoped–hip. Since I have always loved The Wizard of Oz (clue #1 that I might have been gay), I had to audition. For the singing part of my audition, I sang “Sentimental Journey”, an odd choice for a small town high school boy (clue #2).

For my stellar singing talents, I was cast in the farmer’s chorus (swaying in the background as Dorothy sang “Over the Rainbow”); as a ghost in the witch’s castle (I got to come through the audience in a sheet, dancing); and as one of the witch’s generals.

This last part is what caused me to have a revelation. There were fifteen of us generals and we all said the same line to the single private in the witch’s army. If we wanted to stand out, we had to do something to differentiate ourselves. I chose to do a nasal voice (thinking that’s all it was). When my fellow cast members heard the voice, they cracked up. It took me a while to realize what they found so hilarious was that they thought I was doing a gay general.

Oh, a gay general? Sure, that was what I had in mind.

Not really.

But now I wonder if it was the subconscious, closeted gay boy yearning to be recognized for who he was coming out. Even though I hadn’t intended to be a gay general, I went with it and added a lace hanky to my sleeve and a sashay to my march that was so effeminate it would make Paul Lynde look butch. It was probably a horrible gay Uncle Tom moment, offensive, but I plead ignorance–on a lot of counts.

The audience loved it; they roared.

Now, thanks to Jane Lynch and her open lesbian character when she was a freshman too, I can look back at that thespian moment in my life and see it for what it was–an unconscious moment of coming out, a moment where I was recognized for who I really was, recognized and laughed at, yes, but appreciated all the same. And remembered. And, in an odd way, accepted–because I was entertaining. Bringing what I so loathed about myself and was desperate to keep hidden to the forefront was, now that I look back, revealing myself.

And the best part was, I was not hurt for it.

To see more from Rick R Reed: WEBSITE | BLOG | FACEBOOK

Rick has added a print book to our GRL Reading Challenge Grand Prize. Remember to post your list for your chance to enter.


6 thoughts on “Rick R Reed’s Gay General moment

  1. Tracy Faul (@tracykitn) September 5, 2012 / 9:07 am

    For some reason, I’m just finding this extra-amusing as I’ve been slowly (oh, so slowly!) reading the Oz books out loud to my sons. It’s taking a while because between my youngest’s homework struggles and my TMJ, there aren’t many nights when homework’s done on time *and* I haven’t had to talk till my jaw aches. But we persevere!

  2. Erin September 5, 2012 / 9:07 am

    Thanks for sharing that story with us! It made me a little sad and a little happy all at the same time. 🙂

  3. Susan Laine September 5, 2012 / 9:54 am

    That was a wonderful, positive, affirming story–only it’s real life. It’s great to be able to look back in time and find that a sliver of who we are today already existed back when we didn’t know for certain who we were. Thank you for sharing this moment, Rick.

  4. in2thewood September 5, 2012 / 12:39 pm

    The Wizard of Oz is like Shakespeare – it can be reworked in a myriad of ways, and I’m pretty sure that’s what you did there. It’s all sweetness, it needed some spice! And now I’m thinking of possible WOO retellings. You gave me my distraction for the day, and a good one at that!

  5. scarletty24 September 5, 2012 / 9:08 pm

    Rick thanks for the amazing story, I think your singing voice is probably about as good as mine lol.

  6. zahraowens September 7, 2012 / 2:21 pm

    You can’t keep a good man down, even if that boy/man is as deeply closeted as you were. Great story, Rick, and thank you for sharing!

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