Why is a raven like a writing desk? Trevor Allen could tell you. He worked at Disneyland as a character for four years while attending college. Now, years later, he's sharing the answer to this riddle and much more at the Exit Theatre in San Francisco. His one man show, "Working for the Mouse," which plays now through December 17, goes behind the scenes of Disneyland and reveals a lot more than why a raven is like a writing desk.
Allen tells the "unspeakable" truths of the Disney way. You see, as one supervisor told Allen when he worked for Disney, there is a right way and there is a wrong way, and then, there is the Disney way. Allen pulls back the curtain on the Disney magic, showing audiences that the Disney way wasn't always just or magical, and a lot of not so magical things went on behind the scenes - drugs, sex, parties. But, don't worry, that's not the whole show. Stories range from the most entertaining, hilarious instances to the most heart-wrenching stories about Make a Wish children and cast member terminations.
Allen takes his audience on his coming-of-age journey, sharing the times during which he went from having all the excitement in the world to having a broken heart. Throughout the play, Allen acts out about a dozen different characters, including those he played at Disneyland.
Allen's story starts with memories of growing up in the shadow of the Matterhorn - the one in Anaheim. To Allen, working at Disneyland seemed like the next best thing to running away and joining the circus. Once he started working for Disney, a dream grew in his heart. Allen wanted voice clearance, the term used to describe characters that don't wear masks and are allowed to talk. More than anything, Allen wanted to play Peter Pan.
Starting as Pluto at hotel breakfasts, Allen made his way up the ladder. He played Smee, the sidekick to Captain Hook in Peter Pan. That role got him into adventure and trouble, but after auditioning for every voice clearance character on the list, he landed the role of the Mad Hatter of Alice in Wonderland - a hat salesman who happens to like tea, as Allen describes him.
Allen delivers joke after joke with nonstop energy. Even his short water breaks (there's no intermission) entertain the audience. Disney music plays as Allen simultaneously bounces up and down to the music and drinks his refreshment. His stories are easy to follow. Music provides transitions between stories, and Allen speaks at the perfect pace as he switches back and forth between his younger self and other characters. His character voices are flawless. One-man-shows are hard to sell, but boredom has no place at the Exit Theatre.
Allen wrote "Working for the Mouse" for an adult audience, however. Even Exit Theatre exudes a night-out-on-the-town feeling, from its small cafe that sells alcoholic drinks to its shelves for holding drinks during the show. Yes, snacks and drinks are allowed in the theatre. And, in addition to dirty jokes and racy stories, Allen does use the F word several times throughout the show, but always in proper context and always with the purpose of adding to the authenticity of the play.
People who love all things Disney may not like what they hear, but Allen tells the truth of his experiences. He delivers an odd juxtaposition with his upfront honesty about the ugly truths of the Disney way versus the hilarity of it all. Audiences understand how unjust things are in some of the stories, yet love every minute of the hour-and-a-half-long show. Audiences can maintain their love of Disney, but make fun of it with Allen at the same time. Disneyland remains a magical place, but "Working for the Mouse" offers an equally magical experience.
Working for the Mouse
By Trevor Allen
Now through December 17, 2011
Exit Theatre - San Francisco, California