My role as first fireman in “The Still Alarm”

In August of 1972, I arrived in Provo, Utah to take my Junior year at Brigham Young University.
I’d been there in 1969 at the Language Training Mission for 2 months for a missionary course in German.
But this time I was majoring in Communications, with some classes in Opera and German.
I even took an evening sign language class.

I lived in the Tanner apartments in the block south of the lower campus on University Avenue.
The whole city block I lived on and one set of girls apartments in the block to the East comprised the LDS branch
I belonged to.
I was chosen as a Family Group Leader of a group of boys and girls apartments formed for social activities.

I was to perform in an Opera and several of the girls from the branch and the family group asked for comp tickets.
More asked than I could possibly come up with but the dilemma was solved when all the tickets to all the performances were
sold out leaving none available for comp tickets. So no one was upset with me not getting them tickets.

Student directed plays were performed in the old College Hall in the same room where we also had our church services.
I attended some of these fine shows.

Two girls in my branch were in the acting course at the University.
One was in my family group.
One day she came to me and asked if I’d help with a course assigned play she was directing.
Would I play the part of the main fireman in George Kaufman’s Comedy of the absurd “The Still Alarm”.
Sure, I’d help her.

We rehearsed and got costumes and showed up in a theater room the class used on the main campus in the Fine Arts Building
for dress rehearsal.

The play consists of 5 characters: Ed and Bob, hotel guests, a bellboy, and two fireman.
The plot is that the two guests are talking when they are informed that they will have to go to another hotel as the one they are in is on fire.
They talk about the bother this would be but don’t seem to be in any rush to pack their belongings and leave.
The temperature rises as the fire intensifies.
Presently two firemen come in and ask if it is alright for them to check on the fire from the room’s window.
That is perfectly fine with Ed and Bob.
Wanting to be polite, one of the men offer the firemen a cigar, which they accept. The one fireman goes to the window and puts
the cigar into the rising flames and lights it.
They all continue on in polite conversation when the other fireman pulls a violin out of his case and asks if it is agreeable for him to play
a number on it. (Our violin player was a girl but in her fire suit no one could tell she wasn’t a man.)
It is agreeable and the fireman proceeds to play “Keep the Home Fires Burning” while the two men and the other fireman sit and politely listen.
We concluded with the three man audience wiping their brows and enjoying the music.

The instructor of the directing class was a Charles Metten.
He critiqued the performance.
His biggest concern was that of us using the cigar even though we had only mimed it’s use.
That wasn’t in compliance with church standards of not smoking even if we only gave the appearance of it.
It would have to be something different.
We actors left that problem with the director.

When the performance day arrived, we showed up and just before we went on, the girl director told us of her plan to demonstrate the hot temperature.
The firemen would be offered chocolates in a bowl. The chocolates would be melted, just a liquid.
We had no time to rehearse.
We were on.

The play progressed fine.
When the chocolates were offered to the fireman, I was the first and dipped my finger into the liquid and pulled it out dripping chocolate behind.
I had an odd look on my face of surprise as I did this, or so it appeared to the audience.
But in reality I was trying desperatly not to burst into laughter.
I licked my finger off and thanked for the chocolate.
The audience erupted into laughter.
Then we sat back to listen to the violin.

We were so happy that we’d got through that part that I didn’t say something like, “Ah, Keep the Home Fires Burning”, my favorite song.” Or something like that
to let the audience know how that particular song fit the play even though we did.
When the play was first written, it would not have been necessary as eveyone was familiar with it.
The instructor graded our director down on that point
but up on the creative use of the chocolate which was not only the hit of the show but of all the shows that day.

The point of this story is to say that when one keeps a play or film or any performance clean, in this case in adherence to church standards,  the said entertainment can be a greater success than if those standards weren’t upheld.

You can read more about the play at:
and get a sample read at: