Thursday, March 31, 2011

Deep in the Heart of Texas

"All roads to The Fantasticks lead to playwright Tom Jones" and Texas. ( 1)

Texas in the 1930's was scruffy, dusty and dry and unlike the fantasy world of The Fantasticks , "there was no confetti, whirling girlies, no tipsy gypsies" in Jones's tiny hometown of Coleman,Texas. Located 150 miles northwest of Austin, the town's signature was the smell of turkeys at the turkey hatchery Jones's father ran.

As a child Jones was plagued with ill health, in fact, when he was two, severely ill with pneumonia, he landed in the hospital for weeks. During his hospitalization, doctors cut out a rib to drain the pus. Jones says, "It left me convinced that I was in some way scarred, mutilated, unacceptable. I'm convinced that at least in some part of my compulsion to pretend was the necessity to compensate for that feeling."

He spent most of his time indoors reading and listening to radio comedies and dramas. He wasn't as tough as the other boys but he was popular for telling great stories and reenacting what he had heard on radio. He sparkled in school plays. At the relatively young age of 12 he starred in a production of Our Town as the narrator in an all adult cast. The idea of an omniscient narrator was certainly the inspiration for the narrator El Gallo.

His big love, however, were the movies that came to the local movie house. Zorro, Robin Hood, and Tarzan those swashbuckling heroes were his idols. When he was old enough he got a job as an usher at the movie theatre, sometimes catching 4 movies a day on the weekends.

The only live theatre he had seen, came to town in the form of the popular traveling shows known as The Toby Show, named after the freckle faced, red headed, country bumpkin main character named Toby. Jones was mesmerized by the shows; their colorful wagons and tents, the improvised stages, the lantern lighting, clownish costumes and bands. By the time he was in seventh grade he knew he wanted a life on stage.

Jones's theatre career began at The University of Texas at Austin where the theatre department was first class and where he met his most influential mentor.

(1.Quotes and a lot of information from The Fantasticks:How It All Began by Donald C. Farber and Robert Viagas an excellent book for fanatic Fantasticks fans)

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