Inventures and Life Lessons, written, directed, and starring Clark Sayre. At the Dos Pueblos High Charger Theater, Saturday, August 19. Also shows August 25 and 26.
Reviewed by Bojana Hill
“It’s never too late to become what you already are,” said George Eliot, who was 40 when Middlemarch was published. Dos Pueblos High School drama teacher Clark Sayre is 46, and he is taking his new one-man show, Inventures and Life Lessons, to Broadway in pursuit of a dream. On Saturday night, Sayre’s dynamic show-and-tell performance, in which he reminisced and sang Broadway hits, revealed talent and energy.
The audience in the Dos Pueblos Charger Theater responded warmly and enthusiastically to this endearing, touching, and humorous tribute to Sayre’s father, who still exerts a deep influence on his son. The influence of Sayre’s father begins with the title. Inventures is a word Robert Ellwood Sayre coined from combining “adventures” and “inventions,” a hint at Sayre’s late father’s playful spirit. With the image of his father’s gentle, smiling face projected behind him, Sayre described his dad as an artist, for whom family came first. A painter-reluctantly-turned-businessman, Robert Sayre became devoted to his art only at the close of his life.
During one scene, Sayre moved toward a dimly illumined “dilapidated shack” at the corner of the stage to suggest a place where his father was painting. “These were the happiest days of his life,” recollected Sayre, “despite his illness, he was glowing.” And Sayre never forgot his father’s lesson in living creatively (although at the time, like most adolescents, he only thought of girls).
Often when artistic talent is inherited, it manifests in a different field. The father used paint and brushes, and Clark Sayre uses his beautiful voice. The show opens with an old family recording of a spunky 5-year-old Clark Sayre singing, “Do-Re-Mi.” Sayre goes on to sing 16 more songs over the course of the evening, each selected to express the emotion of a memorable moment. “The Girl I Love” and “You’re My Home” are both sung tenderly in honor of his wife Sharon.
Seated on a piano, high above the audience, Sayre exudes the infectious optimism of a man in love. Indeed, love for his family — the kind that inspires work — permeates the show. Still, Sayre admits that he felt trapped as a non-performing drama teacher. With Sondheim’s refrain, “Be careful with the things you say, [children] will listen,” Sayre underscores just how meaningful that job is to him, but the passion to perform is a call he cannot resist. Perhaps this time, as he follows his father’s teaching, Sayre is fulfilling his father’s longings, too.