As some of you know, I am a former thespian. Graduated from Bloomsburg University with a degree in theatre arts and, shortly thereafter, did a year-long internship with the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble. For one of my intern projects, I adapted JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye into a one-man show and performed it on BTE’s main stage. I took the sections of the book that were most meaningful to me personally and, with the help of some of the ensemble members, tied them together into a piece that lasted approximately 45 minutes — Holden Caulfield came to life briefly one night in Bloomsburg.
This performance was done illegally, as the Salinger estate doesn’t give out rights to reproduce any of his work. But it was just one performance done for a crowd of 200 (if that) residents of Bloomsburg and the surrounding area, so I decided to take my chances…and I’m glad I did. This is definitely one of my fondest memories and probably my most rewarding experience as an actor. Besides, the novel is written in first-person and is practically begging to be performed.
I often find myself reminiscing about my theatre days, but this particular performance came to mind as I was watching the JD Salinger documentary, “Salinger”, on PBS the other night. For those of you that haven’t seen it – and I’m assuming that’s most of you, after all who the hell watches PBS during prime time on a Tuesday evening – find it On Demand and watch it. Seriously. Even if you’re not a fan of Salinger’s writing (doesn’t seem fathomable to me), this documentary gives great insight into how artists’ life experiences influence their work. Though I’ve studied Catcher in the Rye inside and out, I don’t know a lot about Salinger himself, or at least I didn’t until tuning in that night — the household he grew up in and his childhood, his service and what he endured during World War II, all of the women (and girls) he had relationships with, the cabin he built in the woods to cut himself off from the rest of the world so that he could concentrate on his writing – fascinating. Kept me glued to the tube from start to finish. And Holden Caulfield is even more compelling knowing that all of this has gone into creating his character. I love it.
Two cool facts:
- Salinger died on my birthday, January 27. Not sure what that means if anything, but I now feel like I have a connection with him that runs deeper than just being able to relate to his characters.
- My youngest son’s name is Holden. Can’t believe my wife went for that, but she did.
Set aside a few hours to watch “Salinger”. It will be time well spent, trust me.