Step Fathers Don’t Forgive a Botched Kabuki Face Paint
I brought Kabuki theater to Townsend, MT, so if I say that my step-son's gonna paint my face for the show, no one's gonna pitch a fit. And this is what I told everybody when I brought Donnie backstage. I got a few strange looks at first, but they knew I wasn't fooling around. The kid paints my face. Anybody got a problem with that? They all simmered down. Now, most Kabuki actors don't let someone paint their face. They paint it themselves. That's how they get into character. It's an old custom, and one that I respect. But Donnie's a good kid. A good kid with the kind of baggage only grown men should have. Theresa said her first husband never really took to the boy, and if there's a worse thing than a father not loving his son, then I don't know it. Donnie's old man is a pile, and if he ever rolls back through Townsend, they'll be scraping him off my boots. I'm instinctual by nature. It's how I hunt, it's how I drive trains, it's what guides me on stage in Japanese theater. So when I felt the urge to have the boy paint my face--even though it breaks all Kabuki tradition--I went with it. My instinct was to give the boy an opportunity to share a moment with a male role model. Create an intimate space. Let him aid in my preparation as I transform for the stage. Well, it backfired. Never in my life have my instincts betrayed me. He smeared the white paint unevenly--that I could fix--but when it came time to do my eyes, making black circles around my lids, well, the boy took too much liberty. And what burns me to this day is that he took more than he was given, which was plenty to begin with. I never gave him cart blanche to paint whatever he wanted. Not even close. In fact, we'd practiced at home for several days before because let's get one thing straight: this ain't my first Kabuki, and I don't step foot on that stage without looking how I'm supposed to. Donnie went buck wild with the red and by that point it was too late to repaint. I was in the first scene. And, as they say in England so too do they say in Japan: the show must go on. So I performed with a botched Kabuki face paint, an act that might have got me killed in Okinawa, but in Townsend, it only got me pity. I can't tell if the boy meant what he did, but I don't like having to guess. We've patched things up, and he'll be a grown man soon himself, but at night in the mirror I still think about it. My white face graffitied like some clown.