Thursday, May 15, 2008
Deb was my idol. For years she was the darling of East West Players, "the nation's premier Asian American theatre organization" in Los Angeles. So, imagine my thrill when such a well-established performer accepted me under her sisterly wing in my first production with the 99-seat theater, more than a decade ago. She is also half-Japanese, like me, so we had an almost immediate bond.
We had both been cast in "Cabaret" at EWP, a production with a few gender-bending elements. Deb had been cast as the MC and I was one of two boys cast as Kit Kat girls. In our mutual delight of each other we were like gremlins hopped up on Pixie Stix every night, both on stage and off. One of her most frequent sayings was, "I just love us," usually said after a fit of giggles.
The director of the show, Mr. David Galligan, had recruited some of the Cabaret cast members for one of his annual AIDS benefits, P.A.W.S. (Pets Are Wonderful Support).
Dressed in a gorilla costume, I was paired up with Charlotte Rae, AKA Mrs. Garrett, for her solo number. Mr. Galligan introduced us to Miss Rae in rehearsal, explaining that we were some of the cast members from the show he was directing at East West Players.
"David," she gently chided, "why didn't you cast me in that show? I could play . . . "
She didn't finish her sentence. Instead, she used her index fingers to pull up the corners of her eyes. She stopped when she noticed the silent stare of daggers coming from Deb.
"I can't believe it," Deb said out in the hallway, later. "I just got ching-chonged by Mrs. Garrett!"
I just love her. Deb, that is.