A CAST OF THOUSANDS

WHAT DO YOU GET WHEN YOU CROSS A STAGE MOTHER WITH A GROUP OF SCHIZOPHRENICS? A REALLY, REALLY BIG SHOW.

"You don't know how good that is," Jim says. "I think I'm going to be able to work again. I'm in the process of moving out of my mom's house to a halfway house. But most of my time I spend here. Everybody helps me out, even the people you would call very low-functioning. Actually, I would put myself about on top as far as that goes."
Near the bottom, perhaps, would be the young man with the greenish-white skin who has fallen asleep in a corner on a pile of exercise mats. Or the older man who keeps moving from seat to seat, unable to concentrate on Gerianne, who is on stage doing an enthusiastic, big-busted Dolly Parton.

"Hey, chief," he keeps whispering to anyone within earshot, "you got fifty cents for me?"
"No, and you shouldn't be bummin' off of people either," says another CSP client.

"Hey chief, hey chief--"
"Would you park it?" Julie says. "Go in or out, you decide. And what do I want from you, audience? Yes. Applause."
The dozen people in the audience clap politely as Corey begins his John Lennon impression. The four actors who make up his ensemble play toy instruments and wear outfits more reminiscent of a Pizza Hut staff than the Plastic Ono Band. But Lucy is appropriately mysterious as Yoko, and Corey is almost eerily Lennonesque. He is tall and lanky, and his sunglasses are historically correct. Moreover, he is being Lennon rather than acting Lennon, which may be why he also was cast as the lead Bee Gee and the Dan Aykroyd half of the Blues Brothers. Corey himself has no ready explanation for his theatrical streak.

"I guess I just love rock and roll," he says. "I could never be an actor or a musician--they end up being waiters, and waiters don't make it."
And just contemplating that makes Corey a little nervous. "Hey, I've been okay," he hastens to add. "I was driving a truck, I made good money. I had my own apartment, friends. I even had cable."

This was something to write home about, because Corey, who is now 41, had his first nervous breakdown at 20. "Maybe because I was in a bad car accident with pretty bad injuries," he says. "Or it could have been drugs, they're a convenient excuse." Spurned by a girl and out of work, Corey had the sensation of "everything just coming down on me," he remembers. "Everything turned rotten, so I made a world of my own and lived there."

Though he can see that this was quite an intellectual challenge, Corey has no good memories of that little world. "It wasn't at all cool," he recalls. "It was dangerous, actually. I was eyein' someone down with a rifle at one point. There were no bullets in it, but still."

That began two decades of medication and therapy for Corey. In his early thirties he stabilized, got the truck-driving job and entered the big world. When the truck gig ended, he spent three years in TV and VCR repair school, where he earned high grades and worked two extra jobs during his off-hours. "It never hurt me to work hard," he says.

What did hurt was something less tangible. For some reason last year, everything crashed down again, and Corey retreated back into the little world. He moved in with his parents--until they told him they were afraid of him and that he would have to go. "But I wouldn't have hurt them or anyone I love," he says, a little incredulously, "and I love them very much."

Corey ended up in Fort Logan, which impressed him as "pretty cool--there's so much food in there, you can have whatever you want, ice cream and stuff. But they kept locking me up in my own little cell. And after a while," he adds, as if embarrassed by the behavior of someone much younger and less responsible, "I was just bothering people too much."

Enter lithium. Within weeks Corey was well enough to move into a Jeffco group home and to attend CSP, where he now supervises a clean-up crew for pay. But far and away the best thing about CSP, he says, is the improv group. Corey had undergone therapy before, and spent hours trying to decide if he were "mad, sad, glad or scared," but never had he been asked to supply a split-second ending to a gag about 101 constipated rabbits who walk into a bar. At first Corey hung back, worked on the music and sets, and went on stage only for the Chorus Line production number that closed last year's show. "I was out there singing with a cane and a hat, and it felt so good," he marvels. "The best part was the sound of clapping. That was therapy."

Out from behind the blue velvet curtain come the men's and women's improv teams. There is something tentative about the comics: One or two seem blinded by the spotlights, and--

"Hey!" Julie yells, "this is all wrong, you guys. Come on out with a little happiness. Let's pretend it's a manic stage."
No problem grasping that concept. This time the entrance is much more professional. Julie runs down the center aisle and faces the audience. "Okay now," she says, "we need a bunch of professions that begin with a."

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