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Chapter 7 of Days of A Christmas Carol Past: 1980sTeen Limbo in the Greenroom

A Gen-X kid hangs out with Victorian ghosts

By Rebecca MortonPublished 6 months ago Updated 5 months ago 4 min read
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My high school senior yearbook picture (photo provided by author)

After that second production of my dad’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol, I never acted on stage again — not in this or any other production. There is no dramatic reason for this. I just lost interest all of a sudden, a normal event for most teenagers.

My younger sister, my only sibling, never performed in “Carol”, but she had a more admirable reason: she was a ballerina. Her childhood Christmastime stories revolve around dancing in yearly productions of The Nutcracker, which perhaps she will write about someday.

I was no ballerina, and I learned during that second production of “Carol” that I really was no actor, either. It hit me all at once. I remember the exact moment, when I was onstage during dress rehearsal, saying a line as Belinda Cratchit, more commonly known as one of Tiny Tim’s sisters. My dad, the director, repeatedly commented from a seat deep in the dark auditorium:

“Becky, we still can’t hear you!”

“Sorry.”

“Just, turn a little more to face the audience, and just say the line a lot louder.”

I did it again, just like Dad told me to.

“Hey, Beck, I’m afraid we still can’t hear you.”

I hated this so much. I was bored, pimply, self-conscious about being pimply, and saying my line as loud as I could without sounding demented. The thrill of acting was definitely gone. My interior voice articulated it perfectly: “I don’t want to do this anymore”. And after the run of the show, I never did.

But that’s not to say my involvement with theater or productions of A Christmas Carol was over. No, not by a long shot!

That regional theater in New Jersey, my dad’s workplace, was my home away from home throughout my high school years and college breaks. I worked as an usher at the theater when I could. Unlike the other ushers, after showing people to their seats, I did not sit with the audience or hang out in the lobby during the show. I snuck downstairs to the greenroom.

To the nontheatrical, that is the room where actors hang during the show when they’re not onstage. It is the dugout of the theater, to use a baseball term, and I was the only non-actor allowed to hang there. This was my favorite place to be.

The legend I heard, probably from some kid backstage, about why a greenroom is called that is that it is named after the vomit of nervous actors. Gross! Wikipedia explains that it could be based on legends about The Blackfriars Theatre in sixteenth century London, which had an actors’ waiting room that was painted green.

I didn’t care that my theater’s greenroom wasn’t green, or that it had old, holey couches and chairs that smelled like cigarettes and a tiny black and white TV on a wobbly table in the corner. Here, I could feel I belonged to this cool group of talented, creative people, and yet be invisible at the same time. It was a teenager’s dream!

Any high school student lives a life in limbo. You are not a child anymore, and yet not a real adult either. You are preparing for an adult future, while adults tell you to enjoy these “best years of your life”. But there in the greenroom, I knew another kind of limbo. A teen in the 1980s, I didn’t know it yet, but I was “Generation X”.

Long before anyone ever said “OK, Boomer!”, I was surrounded by Boomer actors, usually nice to me, but also talking to one another about us “MTV kids”, the “mall babies”, who were shallow, watching Madonna’s “Material Girl” video without a social conscience or awareness of the world’s injustices.

I thought that was an unfair characterization. We didn’t have a war to end, and we couldn’t vote President Reagan out or make him more aware of AIDS, could we? We were busy doing practice SAT tests and learning to drive!

Yet, believe it or not, the theater was also where my teenage self began to feel old for the first time. One afternoon as I was doing my homework, waiting for my dad to get out of a meeting and drive me home, I heard the new cast of children in that year’s “Carol”, singing together in the hallway loudly with good cheer. But it wasn’t Christmas carols they sang. It was “Private Eyes”, the latest radio hit from chart-topping, blue-eyed soul duo, Hall and Oats.

“Private Eyes”, clap clap! “They’re watching you!”, clap clap! “They see your eev-reee move!”

I was not amused. How could they be so excited about such a dull new song? It certainly wasn’t The Beatles or Springsteen or Billy Joel! These kids didn’t know good music. I felt sorry for them. I was fifteen at the time.

I had to hand it to the Boomers for their superior taste in music, but they thought they were so deep and that we teenagers didn’t care about anything. The kids younger than me wanted to wear neon and huge hair bows and jump around to Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, looking ridiculous to me then. It sure was a preview of generational conflict to come.

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This chapter was originally published on Medium.com.

NonfictionMemoirAutobiography
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About the Creator

Rebecca Morton

My childhood was surrounded by theatre people. My adulthood has been surrounded by children! You can also find me on Medium here: https://medium.com/@becklesjm, and now I have a Substack newsletter at https://rebeccamorton.substack.com/

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