One thing that I used to do but don’t do anymore is perform. Sometimes, I really miss it. My first stage experience was at age 5, my first ballet recital. After that, it was yearly ballet recitals until I got the opportunity to act in a play my mom wrote when I was in middle school (it was called, I believe, “Who kicked the bucket?”) After that, I was hooked, and signed up for Drama class when I got to high school (my first opportunity to do so).
When I was a freshman, most of the drama students in the school, including the two who got all the lead parts, were girls. So the drama teacher had to find plays that could accommodate any number of girls (and the few boys she could wrangle into participating). That first year, for the big production I played the part of a French Maid in a terrible play called “Our Hearts were Young and Gay” (so chosen, I believe, because there were two main characters – both female – and almost no male parts).
My sophomore year, those girls were seniors, so of course (again) the big play had two female leads. I played one of the students at the school in “The Children’s Hour” and the most memorable moment of that experience was during the performance that I picked up pieces of the broken ceramic cat (part of the plot) and attempted to tape them back together, and in so doing a small shard of ceramic cut my finger, which then bled all over the stage. I clenched my fist closed during the rest of that scene, trying not to bleed all over everything, and had to clean up the stage during intermission. I still have a tiny scar from that.
I was considered an “advanced” drama student by my junior year, and even though I was unable to be in drama class (due to scheduling reasons; I think my math class was at the same time as that class or something – remember, I went to a tiny, tiny school), I was cast as Annelle in the fall/winter production of Steel Magnolias. I loved being a part of this play and can still parrot most every character’s lines if I think about it. Each of the other actresses in the play was a friend of mine, or if we weren’t friends before the play, we certainly were by the end. I had another memorable stage mishap during a performance; I got sick with my annual Christmas cold (you know, the cold you always get right at the start of winter break while you’re in school) a few days early and ended up losing my voice on stage. Again, it was right before intermission, and so I spent the entire 20 minutes once the curtain closed desperately downing hot liquid in hopes of getting my voice back for the rest of the performance. I’m not sure how well it worked, but I still had a great time doing the show.
That spring’s play was Charlotte’s Web. I was SO EXCITED about doing this play. It was going to work out perfectly: my friend Mishel was trying out for Charlotte, Nancy for Fern, Laura for Templeton, and I was going to be Wilbur. We even all rehearsed and auditioned together. It was in the bag, I thought. But then.
Then, the cast list was released. Mishel was Charlotte. Nancy was Fern. Laura was Templeton. And I? I was LURVY. Wilbur went to a sophomore who looked, no joke, like a pig. Talk about typecasting. I was PISSED. I was PISSED AS HELL, after years of playing crappy parts because those two girls and their cronies got all the good parts, after Losing My Voice during Steel Magnolias and still finishing the show, I was a junior and ALL MY FRIENDS were the main parts and it was going to be awesome. And because another girl looked like a pig, I didn’t get that part.
I declined the role of Lurvy and attended one performance of the show to support my friends. I would have made a much better Wilbur.
My senior year, I was so incredibly busy with everything I was doing that I didn’t even consider auditioning for the fall show. I can’t even remember what it was, now. But the performance bug wouldn’t leave me alone, and when I learned that the big spring production was going to be A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I was sorely tempted. It was the first time my school had attempted Shakespeare. Not only that, it was my favorite of the bard’s plays. The advanced Senior English teacher was also the drama teacher, and I think she felt bad for what had transpired the previous spring, because she encouraged me to audition for the show. I figured that since I wasn’t in the drama class (again, scheduling conflict) and since I had about 10 other extracurriculars going on, not to mention it being my most difficult year academically, I auditioned for one of the small fairy parts – Peaseblossom, maybe. During the audition, one of my friends wanted to try out for First Fairy and she asked me to read Puck opposite.
I thought nothing more of it until the cast list was posted, and I was given the part of Puck (half the performances) and First Fairy (half the performances), my friend and I sharing both parts. My gast was flabbered.
Despite my incredibly busy schedule, I thrived during rehearsals of this show. It helped that there were finally boys involved, so our practices weren’t just estrogen fests, and the experience of trying to learn Shakespeare lines while blocking and staging and dancing and singing and, you know, acting, was a fantastic challenge. I loved every minute of it, though I was exhausted pretty much all the time and getting about 5 hours of sleep a night what with all the academic stuff and the other extracurriculars I was doing. Most of the cast were my friends, and we all got even closer during all our preparations. As Puck, I had an awesome costume with really fun makeup and had the real stump of a redwood tree to sit on during much of the show. I got splinters in my butt, but I didn’t care.
I only got to be Puck twice (and First Fairy twice); four performances for all the months of hard work, and when I delivered the final speech for the last time, I was nearly in tears. It had been an amazing experience, and I still remember the final speech:
If we shadows have offended
Think but this and all is mended
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear
And this weak and idle theme
No more yielding than a dream
Gentles, do not reprehend
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue
We shall make amends ‘ere long
Else the Puck a liar call
So goodnight unto you all
Give us these hands if we be friends
And Robin shall restore amends