"Write about something you thought you'd never write about, something you think might be too personal..."
I've had incidents in my life, with my family, my friends..that were personal..but not huge or detailed enough to write a memoir on them, or they were too boring or cliche to be written..However, one theme kept running over and over in my head... Theater.. (Death came second.)
..Anyone who knows me, will probably know that I love and have loved theater with a fiery passion..it's not a secret that I love acting on stage.. The rise and fall of my theater experience is probably one of the biggest events in my life that has changed me in several ways...Some of the events are embarrassing to admit.. but.. that's life.. we do stupid things when were blinded or confused.. and, I think, we unconsciously write out our deepest secrets in undertone thoughts so that, by chance, that person or others will stumble across it and finally realize some sort of truth...An indirect way of telling them yourself..
So... with that long introduction.. I bring you my nonfiction memoir..
The hair is what I remember the most. To this day, I can still smell the pungent odor of thick hair spray as layers upon layers of gray coloring was hissed unto my crisp bun. I was supposed to look sixty years old, shown by that gray beehive sitting above dark lines drawn upon my forehead. I could hear low hums of chattering outside the stage doors as a third layer of firm hold hair spray was applied. Checking my almost clown-like makeup and adjusting my black gown, I strutted out into the green room to join my fellow actors. We were no longer the high school teenagers we once knew hours before but we had evolved, changing into the characters that will be perceived upon the open stage, acting out through that invisible fourth wall. The lines I had to speak were no longer memorized dialogue but words from an aging woman’s soul, it all had meaning. I was no longer the actress or graduating senior, and my name was no longer Amy, but instead, Julia. I knew that name well and loved with the depths that I loved every over character that came before. However, this character was to be shown to audiences of a great number, alongside other actors that I had looked up to over my high school years. Grouped together, my hair spray hanging thick in the hair, I knew this would be my most shining moment in theater, the peak of my passion.
Theater became like a drug to me, always begging for another role, another monologue, another chance to act out my scene. I was craving that passion for the stage and the chance to become someone else. As much as I wanted to become talented and be recognized, impressing others is what mattered. If those closest to me weren’t proud of what I had accomplished, than my work was for nothing. I wasn’t craving attention so much as I was craving acceptance. Going to a high school as a loner, an independent shy loner at that, one like myself could never get very far. Two years of this hell have already passed me by and I had yet to make an impression on anyone. Scheduled to take an intermediate drama class my junior year, I was curious if anything would be different. My curiosity would be satisfied, covered in a black leather jacket, looking at me with light blue eyes. He was my new drama teacher and I almost laughed at his first impression. Right away, he preached cheerfully of his passion for Shakespeare and the arts of theater. I had yet to quite understand the dynamics for my passion and only looked on with wonderment. After a while, I started to notice and understand his enthusiasm. He not only loved theater so much, he made me enjoy it more than I ever thought I could. I always seemed shy to approach him, but his encouraging words made me more confident in my work. The grade never mattered to me. It soon became a challenge to try new things and stretch out my ability as an actor. I was becoming more open and adventurous in my scenes and monologues. My teacher, complimenting on a few things, criticizing others, created me to see my true talent. Not only was I performing to satisfy my own addicting needs, but I did it to impress him. He has been able to inspire me, even to this day, to become better and strive for just another moment on stage. When I think of him now, I call him Mr. Inspiration. My teacher and mentor who showed me the way and helped me become a more courageous person on stage, never fearing what others might think.
“My hair is going to be spray painted?!” I asked, a bit startled.
“Well, Amy, you are playing a sixty year old.” My teacher kindly reminded me during one of our last rehearsals. I had portrayed my character, Julia, as a loving, vibrant, enthusiastic, older woman. It came to a shock when I realized that I was indeed, playing a crazy old lady with good intentions. As I was perfecting aspects of my character, so was others doing the same to theirs. We all spent hours upon days upon weeks doing nothing else but rehearsing and delving into our performance. We cheerfully enjoyed our time together, devotedly worked on our parts, and unescapably rubbed each other the wrong way. However, we were able to pass through it all, better and wiser than how we came in. I had watched my fellow actors and friends grow and change into their alter egos. In return, those around me had witnessed my transformation as I put on yet another mask. With every moment passing, it was becoming closer and closer to stage time. My heart was beating faster, sweat forming upon my forehead, yet I never felt more calm in my entire life. I had perfected my piece and the only thing left to do was to show it off.
“You’re on soon.” the stage manager whispered as I stood impatiently in my high heel shoes. I nodded. I knew. I stood in half darkness, as I heard the other actors on stage reciting their lines with absolute perfection. I then silently made my way behind the planks of wood and half painted back sets as I walked to my entrance door. I raised my hand slowly, not noticing if it was shaking or not as I knocked loudly, right on cue.
“It’s me Henry!” I yelled from backstage, “Open the door!” Even from behind the scenes, I was slowly morphed into my character. Then the moment came. The door swung open and I was, at first, blinded by the stage lights. I lifted my head high and strutted, perfectly, onto stage. The lights shined onto my aged face and my frozen gray bun. I posed and moved as my character, hearing soft coughs and mumbles in the crowd. My heart, still racing, remained silent to everyone around me as I looked calm upon the stage, my home. I gracefully raised my gloved hands and motioned to my long black gown and silver shawl as I loudly uttered my first lines, “How do I look?”
The high was over. My performance was done. I heard my applause and received my praise and acceptance. I saw a smile upon those faces I had wished to impress. The words of congratulations echoed in my mind as I took off and put aside my mask of Julia. I didn’t know then that I was really putting away my mask of theater performance all together. This was my peak, my zenith, the highest I’ve ever felt. I never knew then that it was going to be such a downhill fall from there.
“Did you make the spring musical?” A friend of mine asked, knowing full well that I was auditioning. I responded, as I had done the three years before, shaking my head. I expected not to make the musical for the pure fact that I have no talent in singing or dancing. However, one of my closest friends had gotten a part and asked me to join the crew. The directors, including Mr. Inspiration, had needed a prop manager and quickly accepted my assistance. I was to perform on stage, but my work was to be done behind it. Any prop, item, or extra costume piece I was needed to provide. I soon realized that there was quite a difference between the actors and the crew. I was titled “The Prop Mistress” and known only that for some actors never truly remembered my name. Some of the actors I had performed with in the play were also performing in the musical and few of them never distanced themselves from me. We were still close but that curtain, that line of tape on the stage always separated them from my backstage work. When they were dressed in their suits and dresses, I was still wearing my dusty jeans. I never had lines to memorize or scenes to perform. I busied myself gluing together carnations when people were rushing around with make up and costume changes. The only mask I wore was the one pretending to be happy for everyone else. When in fact, I was merely green with envy. I was extremely jealous and frustrated more and more that I wasn’t accepted into the actors group. If being prop mistress wasn’t enough, I was also to become one of the “running” crew, those responsible for moving pieces of set between scenes. I became a shadow in the background and treated as such.
“My prop broke, I need you to fix it.” One of the main actors demanded of me.
“You need to move that bench a bit faster between the scenes!” A director yelled from the seats.
“This sign needs to be changed, it says here in the script...” Another stage manager demanded of me as I slowly started to zone them out. I was clearly not invisible to those who needed something to be changed, but my past acting experience seemed to have been erased from everyone’s memory.
I must say, however, that the performances went off without a hitch, backstage that is. I couldn’t say the same for certain actors who had cracked their singing lines or twisted their ankles during dance moves. I had enjoyed my experience and have learned the tricks of the trade, but the happiness and the anxiety of acting was never there, each night I stood the darkness. Watching silently backstage, I desperately wished to be with them. However, for my efforts I had received my name, in small print, at the bottom of the program as well as a t-shirt and several dark bruises. I thought I had slipped in and out without ever being noticed or thanked. My job was done and merely the actors were applauded. Then I received the letter.
Amy- Great work on both shows this year. I’m glad you were able to be a part of these challenging but amazing experiences. You’re an extremely gifted young woman and I know you’ll do wonderful things in the future.
He had nonchalantly given me this card while the cast and crew were shipping out pieces of the set. His direction was for the actors throughout this whole process, so I hardly saw him during the production. He gave one to each of his others students, so I wasn’t the only one. However, I felt as if my drama teacher wrote this specifically for me. I couldn’t help but smile when I first read it, reading it over and over, backwards and forwards. I thought I never made a difference. I thought I could never impress anyone or make them proud. The card I was holding, written by Mr. Inspiration himself, was all the motivation I needed to fuel my passion for theater.
Graduation came and went. The moment I thought would never come to pass, had passed me by in a whirlwind of emotions. Walking onto the stage for the last time, a purple gown and cap as my last costume, I had my very own Mr. Inspiration handing me my signature of acceptance. It was a very fitting end to a fitting high school experience. I knew that graduation didn't mean that I was leaving my high school for good. I had returned several times the year after to visit the old classroom, chat with old friends, and reminisce on good times. I had also return to watch a new generation of actors preform the new generation of plays and musicals. Not only was I not on stage or even behind it, but I had reduced myself in the audience, silently appreciating the work gone into each performance. It seemed strange, almost foreign to me, to attend a play instead of actually performing one. I was silent, attentive, and just like everyone else. Anyone can be an audience member, whereas not everyone could be on stage. I was once on stage, but during those times, I had merely blended right back into the mainstream of the majority.
If graduation wasn’t separation enough, I had moved soon after. Attending San Jose State University, I looked into the theater programs and classes but never took any right away. The acting class I had taken seemed different and odd to me. It was still carefree and fun, but it just wasn’t the same, like a puzzle piece that doesn’t quite fit in a spot that you’re certain it’s meant for. I had lost that piece and was desperately trying to fill it again. However, I didn’t think I lost everything, till I got a phone call. My mother, back at home, had informed me of something I thought would never happen. My teacher, my mentor, my director, and my inspiration had left. Due to unknown reasons as well as mysterious circumstances that I have yet to fully understand, he would no longer be a teacher at my high school. Some said he was fired, others said he resigned. Subjects like alcohol and a lat night celebration were mentioned in articles in the neighbor paper. Words like “minor” and “misdemeanor” were also used. These events, as well as the consequences had shattered my perfect image. The man that I had admired and put on such a high pedestal had fallen. As he fell, he had broken my rose colored glasses, blinding me with the harsh light of reality. For a combination of reasons, some known, some shoved in denial, I had slowly started to separate myself from the performing arts. Losing my inspiration, as well as adding more things on my priority list, I had lost my motivation to even participate.
I never thought it would come to this. I hung my head in shame after my last disgraceful audition for two plays at San Jose State. I couldn’t believe that I even attempted such a thing. I wanted to try to get back into the swing of things, back into theater. Apart of me didn’t even want to do it, but I still had that desperate crave for the stage drug. I thought that one audition was the same as any other and I had no need for real preparation. I could never be so wrong in my life. My hands were shaking as I unsteadily read lines that I had only just learned that morning. My British accent was flawed and my movement was to a minimal. If any more than three people were there, I would have been booed right off stage.
“Ummm, well, thank you. We’ll post call backs next week.” A voice yelled out from the seats. Call backs were the least of my worries, it was the humiliation I had shown myself as well as these other professors that frightened me. They never knew what I had done or what I had accomplished. Instead, they witnessed what I now can honestly call, my lowest of my lows.
I have yet to attend, audition, or perform at any theater production. I have slowly distanced myself from my passion as I slowly dissolve back into the mainstream. I have become immune, no longer addicted to my once ever needed drug. I feel now that a fix wouldn’t suffice because it could never hold a flame to the blazing glory of my early theater days. Deep down, my heart still beats, still earns for that anxiety, that rush. At times, I feel that it could and will happen again, that I will have my time in the spotlight and be able to take another final bow. However, there are times when fear devours my wishful thinking. Fear of humiliation. Fear of rejection. Fear or no longer making others proud. I’m slowly drowning in societies’ mainstream world, believing that my creative touch is no longer going to be able to reach others. All my masks have been put aside, placed in a dusty old chest, and locked with a missing key. I don’t know if I will ever open that chest again. Even though I constantly reminisce upon the old theater days and reflect on the better times, I can’t help but think those times have past. Perhaps something is holding me back. Perhaps, one day, I’ll receive another spur on inspiration that will drive me to wear yet another mask on stage. I’ll have my spoken words memorized and my mannerisms practiced to perfection. And when that day comes, I’ll be proud of even myself- No gray hair spray needed.
If you have no interest or care about me or my life.. Then don't bother.. you'll probably just get bored with it anyways...I also have a tendency to want to explain myself about certain things I write.. so if any questions arise..feel free to ask..im more than happy to rant some more.. because.. I am..after all.. a selfish attention whore.. -.-;;