Sunday, May 22, 2011

Becoming an old actress (or, "How I found myself on an episode of "Glee")

I am watching the first season of Glee (Yay, Netflix!), so I'm aware that I'm many episodes behind the general population.

However, currently  I'm watching the episode with Neil Patrick Harris in it. Oh, I was so looking forward to it, as I would happily bear Neil Patrick Harris' love children. (If he hadn't just had twins with a surrogate.) (And if he wasn't gay and in a relationship.) (And if I wasn't married and middle-aged and whatnot.)

Anyway... Neil Patrick lust aside, the episode dealt with, among other things, the very real possibility that all those rising stars in high school drama productions may end up not becoming "stars." They might end up becoming accountants.  Or insurance salespeople.

Or drama teachers. Like me. Because you know the old expression: "Those who can't do, teach." 

All of this made me a little bit sad. I thought back to the high school version of me, who was going to be a "star."  I realized I didn't know what had happened to her, but I knew she wasn't here now. 

Back to "Glee."  To make me even more sad, this episode showed a woman auditioning for a community theatre production. She was middle-aged, eyeglasses-clad, frumpily-clothed. She was supposed to give a comical image of an actress well past her prime.

It was comical. Sort of.  

It's been 20 years since I've been onstage. In high school, I was supposed to be one of those kids who "made it" in theatre. But I wasn't that kid. I went to college, discovered I didn't like auditioning for plays and not getting past the chorus, and decided to be a writer instead. (Because there's less rejection in the writing world... ha ha ha.) I was still in a play here and there, but it was no longer what I lived and breathed for. 

As it does, life went on after college. I had a series of jobs I didn't really like, dated a series of men who really weren't worth the effort, and eventually ended up scoring a husband, a couple of kids and a regular writing gig. But I think in the back of my mind I assumed I'd be in plays again someday. In fact, when my daughters auditioned yesterday for a local production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," I shyly asked the director if they happened to need female background actors. You know... villagers and that sort of thing. And then I realized that being onstage again would scare the heck out of me. 

The director said I'd be more than welcome to be in the chorus if I wanted to, and then she gently mentioned it was sometimes difficult for people who were "stars" in high school to step back onstage and take their place in the chorus. 

And just when I was feeling really really fat, middle-aged and... hmmm, boring?... it occurred to me. It didn't matter (not a lot, anyway) that I hadn't become a "star." Maybe a "star" isn't a person, maybe it's a "love."  Maybe every person who loves the arts is a "star" because they feel that fire inside them, that joyous passion for things that happen on a stage. That love makes them just a little bit different. Once that love is ignited, it doesn't die. It's there forever. 

I've taught drama to kids for the last few years. I have taken my own kids to every play and musical I come across, and then we sit together and discuss the performance at length afterwards. My children have that fire, that little "star" inside them. The kids in my drama club have it, too. I like to think I put it there. 

After a few moments of careful thought, I decided to not audition for a chorus part in "Joseph." However, when the director asked if I'd like to help with the production's children's chorus, I felt my drama fire ignite and brighten. Did I want to work with children again? Did I want to show them the joys of performing, and did I want to ignite little tiny fires inside them?

Yes, I certainly did. That's what I'm supposed to be doing, that's my "star." 

I wouldn't have it any other way.

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