Tuesday, January 24, 2006

On stage, once over lightly (#2)

"Sergeant Oop! Come quickly!"

"To everything, turn, turn, turn"

"We are all the same because we are different, you, me, him, her, and us"

Yes, that was me - child star. A star! On stage! Acting! Like I knew what I was doing!

Ah, yes, the lines I've uttered on stage could turn the stony heart of the most cruel critic to warm and sweetly bubbling mush. The gamine way I would turn my big blue eyes toward the ceiling, reciting my memorized words with a combination of charmingly expressed dread fear and panicky, well, panic. My movements about the stage were perfectly wooden and stilted, as though I was on a weekend pass from Motel Thorazine. The natural way I emoted to the audience spoke volumes, like so many marbles had been stuffed in my mouth so that the only way to be heard or understood was to SHOUT to the rafters with the rapid-fire delivery of the best patter man, only without so much of the enunciation.

Some Bold Moments -
- stretching as "Mama in her kerchief" in the third grade Christmas play as I was getting ready to settle down for my long winter's nap; or

- playing a space-girl alien who, for some reason, is hunting down library books; or

- prancing about as a silly colorfully-dressed idiot in the 7th-grade song and dance extravaganza written by our music teacher (there's a picture somewhere of me wearing striped sox and a flowered tee and purple jeans with the cuffs rolled up to my knees and my hair in pigtails wrapped in puffy brightly colored yarn, which was my outfit for the show).

And yet, it's time to cue the sad music, because here's the truth - I was never natural, never comfortable, never one of those girls who thought it would be the be-all-and-end-all of the world to be on the stage. I mean, I'd BEEN there and it was scary as all heck to have to remember all those lines and move on the stage to where I was supposed to be and to look the right way at the right time. Scary! Nerve-wracking! Made me feel like my skin was on too tight and that I was too big and too slow and too ugly and too damned "ME" to really be allowed up there on stage, where people could see me.

And yet, I still tried out. I still made it. I was still in the show. I was always in the show.

Until the 8th grade muscial.....

I tried out with my friend Sharon Woolsey. We sang something together (I recall it was "Gloria in excelcis deo," the rock version), and made that cut, then had to do the stage movement portion of the audition, at which I was told repeatedly by the director to "look happy."

And, I couldn't. Because, I wasn't. I wasn't happy, and didn't see a reason to LOOK that way if I wasn't. Why do THAT? Seemed silly. Really, it WAS silly, being something that you're not.

But, and here's a word to the wise pretenders, silly is what it takes to make the list of people that's taped up on the wall outside the chorus room, silly gets you into the show, silly allows false emotion and broad movements and shiny happy people faces, no matter what you REALLY are thinking.

Silly, needless to say, wasn't my specialty.


Years later I went to see "A Chorus Line" with my parents, who loved musical theater, and when I heard the song from the girl who felt "nothing" in her acting classes (every day, for a week we would try to feeel the motion, feeeel the motion, down the hilllll!), I knew just how she felt. I think I could still sing that whole song, word for word, because each one of them could have been written by me.


No great loss. I focused on music and got on stage anyhow.

Sometimes with solos.

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