Chunky in Heat Yearbook: Timothy Stoddard

EiO’s upcoming opera Chunky in Heat follows the emotional life of a teenage protagonist, Cheryl (aka Chunky), as she navigates the perils of her changing world.  We asked some of the artists involved in the premiere to share how their own experiences in high school informed their work on the opera.

Timothy Stoddard plays the roles of Walter, The Fiancee and Beekeeper in the premiere of Chunky in Heat.

I was like the only out kid at my high school, which is really fun considering we had this giant auditorium that said “Home of the Bruins” that some jackass every year climbed all the way up there miraculously and removed letters so it looked like this: “Hom O the Bruin” (blink blink, knee slap).

I was in choir, and I was also the editor-in-chief of the high school yearbook. I wasn’t the coolest kid. So, I had to head the mass voting for “Best ofs” and “Most Likely to.” Surprisingly, I won best laugh. But of course since I wasn’t cool, there was a slew of conspiracy theories as to how I rigged that in my favor. Also, most people hated the theme I suggested, that ended up getting the majority vote from the yearbook staff: “Raise the Roof!” I was like Public Enemy Number 1.

I also wasn’t good at math. My geometry teacher Mrs. Bybee was a character, to say the least. She wore Birkenstocks everyday, even in winter, and had an array of birdhouse sweatshirts. I had class with my good friend Liyah, who was a refugee from Armenia. But Mrs. Bybee, couldn’t grasp that, and always referred to Liyah as a foreign exchange student.

We had to take a district math assessment during junior year to see if we would progress onto calculus? Trigonometry? I wouldn’t know, cause spoiler alert, I didn’t pass. What she did, was invite us up to her desk and discreetly tell us our scores, while we worked on some math related craft in class. But, when I went up to her desk, she looked up from my test and ANNOUNCED to the class, “Tim, I’m sorry, you will not graduate to the next math class.” SHOOK. I was so embarrassed. But, I was like, oh it’s on, Mrs. Bybee. (I went on to the math class where they teach you how to like balance a check book and shit, which is actually way more useful than trigonometry. K THX BAI)

Before Christmas break, Bybee had brought her scrapbooking scissors to class for us to craft and she had gushed how she looked forward to scrapbooking club over her holiday break every year. So, to exact my revenge for being publicly humiliated, when Bybee wasn’t looking, I stole her scrapbook scissors and sashayed my way to Xmas break. (I didn’t plan to keep them, just hold them over the break, and then return them without her knowing who took them).

After break, we returned to classes. As I entered geometry, Mrs. Bybee was standing by the whiteboard like some sort of dark, mysterious figure of great mourning. Yeah, she didn’t take it very well at all. We spent half that first math class back with Mrs. Bybee drawing ALL the shapes of the blades to each of her scrapbooking scissors like a lineup of missing children posters. She broke down into tears. I was so disappointed with myself.

My friend Liyah told me she would return them in stealth during yearbook period (when I was still a mere reporter), which she did, unscathed. The next day, Bybee was shining like a ray of sunlight. She thanked whoever returned the scissors for doing so, while staring at Liyah, saying things like she didn’t know who, it would remain anonymous, never breaking her gaze at Liyah. “Why you looking at me? I didn’t do it!” “Nevermind, Liyah,” Bybee said. I felt awful again. But I wasn’t about to rat myself out.

The next year, the newspaper had a column for senior confessions, and I was in a position to leave school permanently before it was released. I confessed in the newspaper to Bybee that I had stolen her scissors. I felt a bit of relief.

Later in the summer, I was grocery shopping for my Gramma Boo Boo, who had pretty advanced macular degeneration. She would give me a list of things to buy, she usually referred to the punchline of the products and I had to guess. “The soup that eats like a meal” or errors like “Butter I don’t think it is.” LOL So I was shopping, and I reached the end of the aisle and I did that thing they do in movies where you bump carts with a person coming around the corner. Of course I did, because guess who it was, BYBEE! She was so stunned, and she shrieked “YOU SCALAWAG!” And then she laughed. She was in good humor and had actually gotten a bit of a kick out of my newspaper confession.

LOL awww the memories of being a young sociopath…