Hejira


On Display Collab, June 2000.
The Roar of Greasepaint
Topic: "Passion"

I have always been the kind of person to fall in love with something quickly and deeply, pursue it with an intensity, and then drop it as soon as my talent or interest wanes.

From about ages 13 to 16, I was obsessed with acting and becoming an actress. Obsessed may not be a strong enough word...I ate, breathed and lived the world of acting. I drove my parents and friends crazy talking about it. I scribbled endlessly in my journal about my dreams of eventually acting on Broadway and living in New York City. I had an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Broadway musicals, everything from "Oklahoma!" to "The Phantom of the Opera". There was a point in my life that I could sing "Les Miserables" in its three hour entirety, from memory. I was determined to be an actress, and dammit, I would make it and become famous.

Unfortunately, I was completely clueless to the real world of acting.

I live Lebanon, PA. It's a town of 30,000, with a population that is more interested in corn and bingo night than it is in the arts. My acting options were very limited: my high school, and a handful of local community theatres. The kind of places that give out parts to all who auditioned so no one will feel bad. In short, not anything even remotely close to what the real acting world resembled.

I was also clueless in that I was convinced that people would give me good parts based on my talent. I look back at myself at 13 and cringe, wondering how I could be so naive. I had thick glasses (this was pre-contacts), a little chubby and awkward, and had more than occasional bouts of stage fright. But I could sing really well, I was a good actress. So I was all set to go.

The wake call began when I started auditioning in more and more plays and musicals, and was always given character roles or chorus parts. I would sit in the wings, watching and listening to the people who had the lead parts, thinking "I could do that better. I can sing better. I can act better. Why am I not out there?"

The way things really are in the acting world dawned on me when I was in my first professional level production in Harrisburg. It was my first exposure to all the joys of the professional theatre, the backstabbing, the fierce competition, the kissing up to those in power. By the end of the show I was pretty horrified and shell shocked. I wondered what the hell I was getting into, and I wanted out.

So I got out. I left the thing that I had devoted close to 4 years of my life to. The thing that defined me was gone. That was 1997. I haven't been in a show since.

I don't exactly look back on this period of my life with fondness. I feel embarassed for my naiveity and stupidity. I don't even really like to be around theatre people anymore, because they remind me of what I once was and of things I don't want to remember. I don't like going to the PA Renaissance Faire at all, it just makes me uncomfortable to attempt to interact with the actors who work there. I've done a complete 180 when it comes to acting.

I wonder if I'll ever go back. Maybe someday when I'm more comfortable in my skin and with who I am I'll try it again. There was some part of me that loved all of it, the anticipation, the temporary close-knit camaderie of the cast and crew, the rehearsals, the moment before the houselights come up and blind me. The soft whispering communication backstage. I have so many memories. The hot lights around my mirror as I apply stage makeup. But the part of me that loved the theatre was overwhelmed by the part that said you can't do it, you're kidding yourself to think you can ever succeed, looking the way you do. So I quit. I could say I don't regret it, but I'm really not sure.

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