In junior high, Jaston Williams was in a Boy Scout troop whose members smoked, drank and slept late. He's included their most outrageous episodes in Camping with Gasoline, scheduled for the middle of June at Galveston's The Grand 1894 Opera House.
But don't expect a searing teenage drama. The same actor/writer known for his Greater Tuna productions has gone back to his early years, seen through a lens of humor, and developed a one-act that will be world-premiered in two performances.
"This Boy Scout troop was a great group. It was the '60s, The Beatles, all of that stuff was just happening. There was a kind of a revolution going on even down in junior high. We marched to a different tom-tom," he says, adding: "I'm still in touch with a lot of these guys. We've only had one go to prison; we haven't had any go to Congress, so we feel like we did pretty good."
The family Christmas is another focus of the play, says Williams, who grew up in the Texas Panhandle. His father's family were Westerners, his mother was from the South. He compares their relationship to Robert Mitchum meeting Scarlett O'Hara. "So at Christmas time it could get real crazy." Asked how his family feels about trotting all this out onstage, he replies: "They're fine. My family has a great sense of humor." His parents are dead, but his siblings will be there for the opening. He has a sister who lives in Houston and an older brother who lives in British Columbia, Canada, now.
The third portion of the one-act is a recounting of how Williams ended up running down a volcano in Guatemala a few years ago. "I adopted a child seven years ago, I adopted a boy from China. He was seven at the time. Initially I thought I was going to adopt out of Guatemala."
"I went to Guatemala just to experience it. I ended up getting trapped on an active volcano with a bunch of crazy German tourists, and armed bandits chasing us down in the night. I had a friend with me; we're running down this volcano in the middle of the night, hoping not to get kidnapped. Part of that whole adventure was my search for my son. "
Williams was still working through last-minute script changes as Art Attack talked with him. "The show is about boyhood, seen through my personal experience as a boy and as a father."
Performances of Camping with Gasoline will be at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on June 16 at The Grand 1894 Opera House, 2020 Postoffice St., Galveston. For information, call 409-765-1894 or 800-821-894, or visit the theater's website. $25-$45.
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