I'd Like To Thank the Academy

Last night was the first rehearsal for Rumplestiltskin, the play that I'm going to be in. About a month ago I saw the audition notice in the newspaper. I was having a stay-at-home-mom-need-to-get-out-more sort of day. I immediately decided to audition.

Just trying out was a big deal for me. I used to be involved in Children's Theater growing up, and I loved it. I was Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Templeton the rat in Charlotte's Web, etc. These shows were from 5th-8th grade. Thankfully, I was still too young at that point to know about the drama clique.

Anyone who went to public high school probably knows about the drama clique, but let me give you a little background. The drama clique was second only to the A/V club for "once you get in there's no getting out," and "if you haven't been in the group for years, it's impossible to break into it." Now with the A/V club I never had a problem feeling like the outsider because I never had ANY desire to wheel filmstrip carts from biology labs to physics classrooms. Just think about the A/V clubs today. With all of the technology we have in our schools now, A/V club has probably gone from pocket-protector donning dorks to a whole crowd of mini Martin Scorseses and Spike Lees roaming high school campuses making short films. Talk about going from geek to chic in one generation.

Drama club, on the other hand, was something that I always wanted be a part of. I came off of my 8th grade "I Want My Golden Ticket" rants feeling like the Queen of Children's Theater. Then I went to the freshman-year activity fair. Amazing how one fateful day can change your life. The activity fair was a veritable who's-who of the clubs at my high school. Each table had student and faculty representatives hocking their extracurricular wares.

Let's pause a minute to examine the high-school psyche of me. Basically, I was an insecure person. I knew in my heart that I could do certain things, acting being one of them. But I always felt that until I could prove myself to others, I didn't deserve to be eating at the grown-up table. Once I had proven myself publicly, I was as confident as the next girl. But it always took some time before I felt worthy enough to call myself part of the group. Ah, the days of growing up in a John Hughes movie. (I kid you not. I grew up in suburban Chicago. Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink were modeled after our little suburban high school.) Boy am I glad that my Sixteen Candles-high school insecurity days are long gone? But I digress. Back to the story:

Approaching the theater booth that day I could feel the beady little eyes of our high school drama director staring right though me. I was convinced that he was thinking,

"What does this little wannabe think she's doing approaching the table of the almighty drama club."

When in fact he was probably thinking,

"Oh good. Another young girl that I can use to fill out the Fiddler on the Roof chorus. We need another alto. Hooray." (Or something to that effect.)

And the tragically cute, "gee, I'm struggling with issues of my sexuality which makes me even more attractive to both sexes" senior behind the table?

In my head I could hear his little "Tchk" tongue click, followed by the quintessential lip snarl that only Elvis and my most flamingly gay friends have mastered.

"What does SHE think SHE'S doing? Ha! Maybe she could be a prop girl if she's really lucky, but she'll never make it past first cuts for Kiss Me Kate."

When in fact he was probably thinking,

"Thank god. Someone shorter than I am. Why, oh why, was I blessed with the talent of John Barrymore, the face of Johnny Depp and cursed with the body of Napoleon. Finally, a leading lady that doesn't dwarf me. Hooray!" (Or something to that effect.)

Anyway, I screwed up my courage and marched up to the table. The only word that I managed to utter was "Hi" before I reached for the first-semester audition flyer and promptly knocked an entire pitcher of red fruit punch onto the flyers and into the lap of Beady-Eyed Director. Tragically Cute rolled his eyes, B-E Director yelled, "Damnit." And that was end of my high school drama career. Over before it began. I couldn't bear the idea of auditioning after that mishap.

In college, I still had aspirations of being involved in theater, so I got a Theater minor. I could take all the acting classes that I wanted. The university that I attended had an amazing school of music. With 20-something almost-as-good-as-professionals roaming the halls, why wouldn't the drama department want to focus on musical theater extravaganzas. Little Miss can-sort-of-carry-a-tune, but-has-a-little-trouble-with-changing-pitch-sometimes was terrified of going up against these future Disneyland Ariels and Belles. I never tried out for a single production. Proving myself on a small scale (in class) was enough for me.

So, here I am seventeen years after the Kool-Aid Incident, trying out for a play. I seriously thought I was going to hyperventilate in the car outside the theater. But I breathed deeply, auditioned and got the part. Turns out I do have a little bit going for me in the acting realm. I am The Miller in the Dandylion Theater Company's production of Rumplestiltskin. The Miller is the comic relief in this interactive fairy tale. Lots of stumbling around, running into the King, panic attacks in the audience, etc. After one night of rehearsal, I have to say it's going to be fun.

Even though auditions are over and I made the play, I still have my anxious moments. At the beginning of rehearsal, three of the cast members and our director were talking about their upcoming parts in Oklahoma! I guess one show isn't good enough. Wow! Was this the adult version of the drama clique. I quickly looked around for a table full of Kool-Aid and the Buddy Holly glasses that Tragically Cute wore with such flair.

But, all I found was a theater bathed in work lights and eleven people with spouses, jobs, kids, some spare time and a little talent for acting. Call it self-confidence. Call it growing up. No, I'm still not in the drama clique. But for now, I'm in the play. And that's enough for me.

1 comment:

Susan W said...

WooHoo! You GO sara miller. I can relate so very strongly to your thoughts on drama cliques and the fear of the people in theater. I was a thespian in high school and in every production - but I was never in "the group". I was on stage as an extra in almost every scene - given lines, solos, dance pieces - but never had a name. I always felt like I was close but yet so far away.

I've had similar urges to go try community theater somewhere but Chicago is definitely not the place. My friends who are still trying to "make it" in theater are the ones doing community theater around here. Perhaps whenever I move away to a smaller place!

Kudos to you for both taking the audition and making it as The Miller. I can't wait to hear more about it and only wish I could be there to see it myself :) Break a Leg!