Michele Thomas

The other day someone who reads this column told me I remind her of Forrest Gump. The picture that came to mind was of Tom Hanks sitting on a bench in a goofy-looking plaid shirt holding a box of chocolates on his lap, a feather floating by his foot.

OK, I see a slight similarity. Like Forrest, I've met some historical figures and experienced some significant events first hand. And, like Forrest, I often approach new adventures with confidence and, perhaps, a little daring. My feather of good fortune has floated along many paths and led me here. And it all started with Miss Betty V.

When I was 2 years and 4 months old, my mother enrolled me in Miss Betty V.'s School of Dance. I studied with Miss Betty V. for several years. Once a week, mom drove me from the ranch in Lomita to downtown San Pedro where Miss Betty V. taught ballet and tap dancing.

When I started my lessons, the class was already preparing for the annual spring recital. Being new (and the youngest) and not knowing the routines, I was assigned a solo by Miss Betty V. On my third birthday, in front of God and who knows how many smiling parents at the Anderson Memorial Hall, I sang andquot;How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?andquot; Fortunately, in 1953, my parents didn't own a flash camera or a movie camera, so I have no embarrassing evidence, nor do I actually remember the event, but my older cousins who were dragged to that performance, all confirm that yes, indeed, at the age of 3, I stood up without fear and sang loudly to an audience.

There were other recitals down the road. After ballet and tap, I took piano lessons four recitals per year. In grammar school there were holiday plays and in high school, poetry readings. College offered more opportunities to go on stage. I took speech class and participated in the College Players.

Last weekend I saw a few scenes of andquot;Pony Espressoandquot;the melodrama being performed by young members of our Lighthouse Repertory Theatre. As I approached the backstage area, the costumed players turned, posed and smiled at usperhaps because I was walking with a Triplicate photographer. andquot;They're hams,andquot; I said as a compliment. It was delightful. It was reassuring. It said so much about the LRT experience. These teens were brimming with confidence in what they were doing. There was no fear, no shyness, no worry about going out there in front of an audience and taking center stageat least none that was visible.

Like Forrest, these teens each possess a big box of chocolateseach one differentand they've got a lifetime ahead to taste them. Feathers may blow north or south, to college, to careers, maybe to Broadway or Hollywood. Will they say it all started with LRT? Perhaps!

If you haven't seen andquot;Pony Espresso,andquot; I encourage you to go this weekend. You'll laugh, you'll hiss the villain, you'll cheer, but most importantly you'll be supporting a tradition of learning that you can't find in books or anywhere else. Except from people like Miss Betty V., and programs like LRT.

Reach Michele Thomas, The Daily Triplicate's publisher, at, 464-2141, or stop by 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.