Trevor Allen went deep into the heart of Disneyland, and lived to tell the tale.
“Working for the Mouse,” Allen’s hilarious one-man show about working as a character actor in the world’s best-known theme park, has been a hit since he introduced it at the San Francisco Fringe Festival in 1996.
The playwright-performer continued developing the play, premiering it in its current form at the Impact Theatre in 2002 and performing it frequently since then. Now he’s reviving it, directed by Nancy Carlin, at the Exit Theatre.
Equal parts rollicking comedy and incisive expose, the show gives audiences a glimpse behind the scenes at “the Happiest Place on Earth.” Allen, who was a UCLA theater major when he went to work at Disneyland in 1988, says “it wasn’t all smiles and sunshine.”
His first job was playing Pluto, a nonspeaking role that required him to wear an enormous head and padded suit.
“It’s a big, heavy fur coat, and, of course, you can’t talk,” he says. “You’d always get the same questions — ‘Is it hot in there?’ — and usually, it was about 110 degrees outside.”
The costumes left workers defenseless, he says — as Pluto, he was grabbed, groped and, once, stabbed with a large hatpin.
That was the least of it. Allen describes long hours, low pay, nonexistent benefits and bizarre rules. Among them: no facial hair. “I was in the Pluto suit all day, but you could be written up for having a mustache,” he says.
Despite the indignities, Allen persevered, working his way up to roles that included Mr. Smee and the speaking role of the Mad Hatter. “I wanted to get voice clearance,” says the actor, adding that studying Shakespearean roles during the week and donning Disney heads on the weekend amounted to “a surreal experience.”
Allen fills the show with absurd moments and laugh-out-loud bits: a description of backstage debauchery among his fellow actors, a recollection about his Matterhorn-sized crush on the petite actress playing Alice.
But the playwright, whose other works include “Lolita Roadtrip” and “The Creature,” never forgets what motivated him to write “Mouse.”
“It’s a coming-of-age story,” he explains. “But I wanted people to see the reality. It’s not all glitter and pixie dust. Once you’ve been a cog in the machine, you have a very different view of it.”
IF YOU GO
Working for the Mouse
Presented by Black Box Theatre
Where: Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays except no performances Thanksgiving weekend; closes Dec. 17
Tickets: $20 to $22
Contact: (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com/event/201528