Stephenson Tales

Aladdin, Africano, and Fredrico
The sequel to Dude's theatre debut

When I played in Aladdin, a student at the U of M played the role of Africano, the wicked magician who steals Aladdin's magic lamp. The actor's name was Robert Q. Lewis. He later went on to have his own comedy program on radio and played in a lot of movies.

Bob had a couple of problems (for me as well as for himself) as a performer. He felt no obligation whatsoever to stick with the script. During one Saturday afternoon performance he suddenly stopped. "Hold it."

He dropped out of character and went down to the front of the stage: "I just thought you would like to know: Michigan is leading Illinois 7 to nothing!"

Then he came back and we resumed our dialogue. I never knew what he was going to do.

One day he said, "Oh, Aladdin, what did the mayonnaise say to the refrigerator?"

I gasped inwardly and saw that he was being his irrepressible self. "I don't know, Mr. Africano, what DID the mayonnaise say to the refrigerator?"

"Don't open that door, I'm dressing!"

Then we went on with the play.

He had two full-page soliloquies - one at the beginning of the second act and the other at the beginning of Act III. These were rapid-fire recaps of everything that had happened up to that point. The problem was that he never completely memorized them. He would get about half or two thirds of the way through and his memory would fail him. He would raise his hand and say, "Don't go away; I must consult Fredrico."

Then he would run off stage right where the prompter sat, bend over her, and say, "What comes next, my Dear?"

She would prompt him with the beginning of his next sentence. He would pat her on top of the head, thank her and then come back and finish the speech and the play would go on.

I am sure that Bob never knew what he had spawned. When Dude and I began directing our own productions, Fredrico always appeared in every show - somehow - a name among "the townspeople," in the acknowledgments, "language consultant," a labeled picture on a wall - under many guises: Fredrico, Frederick Ricco, Fred Rikko, Fredrique Riquo, etc., etc. An in-joke just for our private amusement.

Composed 17 November 2008; Transcribed by Lucky

© Jim Bob Stephenson 2008

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