When Like You Like It was performed in Cardiff, Wales, at the International Festival of Musical Theatre, Dan’s father and my father each joined us. The attendance at the festival that year was somewhat low, so Dad and Mr. Acquisto went to the lobby to drum up some audience. They were the best press reps we could have asked for.
In Like You Like It, Rosalind and Celia’s Dads used to be characters in the show. Played by the same actor, the Duke Senior and Duke Frederick of As You Like It became Principal Freddy Duke and Sonny Duke, a mall security guard. In AYLI, Duke Frederick expels Rosalind from court. Likewise, after catching Rosalind skipping class, Freddy Duke expels her.
Duke Senior, the banished ascetic in BillyShakes’ Arden Forest, had a storyline in AYLI that veers a bit from Shakespeare and closer to Pretty In Pink in LYLI: Rosalind assumes her Dad is a successful businessman who’s often abroad doing business. When she is in disguise at the Arden Mall, she discovers that he is a security guard there. His business went bust, and was too embarrassed to face the truth. Rosalind, in disguise as Corey, assures him “Rosalind” will be okay with it if she tells him, and throughout the story tries to bolster his confidence to talk to his daughter.
Wow, just synopsizing that points to the problem: It’s a story for another show. While thematically relevant to the “be yourself” mantra of Like You Like It, it didn’t belong. It was really was more about my dealing with some old family issues of my own from my teenage years in the ’80s.
Like a lot of people, by the time I was 15, I realized my Dad wasn’t perfect. In our case, he made some mistakes that affected our family, and I saw his jovial confidence fade away. I was pissed at my father, and saw him as practically ruined, angry at himself and paralyzed emotionally.
And then literally.
He got very sick my senior year and lost feeling in his legs. He couldn’t walk. A physical therapist came to the house and worked to get Dad on his feet. My Dad grunted in frustration with the exercises. But then a force took over him. It was like a Rocky training montage to see my Dad’s frustration give way to persistence. He worked his ass off (hurling some colorful expletives), and he found the will to walk again. Any shred of self-pity that I might have sensed in him was gone. He was strong; he was heroic.
It restored my hope not just in him but in myself – that as his son, perhaps I could inherit his ability to persevere. To this day, whenever I am down, I think of my Dad in our living room, emerging from his crumpled state and standing up. And walking.
Ten years after my Mom died, Dan’s father also passed away. He was a gentle man with a dry sense of humor (which his son inherited), and believed in his son 1500%. Personally, I am so thankful to have gotten to know Sal Acquisto and to travel with him on that trip. I’m also glad his decision to attend was a motivator for my Dad to join as well. Watching the two of them walk down the street was always entertaining – Sal’s shorter, smaller frame compared to my Dad’s big Texan silhouette, like Abbott and Costello in reverse. Seeing Dan’s interaction with his Dad, the same blend of love, frustration, respect and “Dad humor” that I share with father – made me realize how lucky both us have been for such parents.
My Dad often comes to the “dance recitals” for Like You Like It and my other shows. He loves the showbiz world that I live in, and I love having him around.
Dan’s mother also comes to our shows and is so proud of Dan and the show she lovingly refers to as “the grandchild.”
And wherever Like You Like It plays, I know Sal and my Mom each have great seats.
Happy Fathers Day to my Dad and to Sal.
(and to Sonny and Freddy…)