Prove them wrong

Never let someone’s opinion of you define who you are. Sometimes they make mistakes too.

Although I may be in over my head this time.

Last week my daughter Arabella and I tried out for the local community theater musical. I got cast in a very challenging vocal part. The director said she was happy that I tried out because she didn’t think that many people could handle the part. How horrifying!

Yesterday, I talked about how I wasn’t very athletic in school and now I am a marathon runner. When I was a child, I really wanted to be a singer. But I allowed a teacher to crush that dream.

The choir teacher was the same person that axed me as a cheerleader in middle school. In my defense, when I auditioned to be a cheerleader I had the flu. I stayed home from school the day of auditions with a high fever. The choir teacher said that if I wanted to try out I had to audition on that day, no exceptions. That evening I went to school with the flu and auditioned.

Now in her defense, I couldn’t do splits or flips like some of the other girls and was probably clinically depressed since grade school. Having the flu didn’t help with my audition either as you can imagine.

I wasn’t a good athlete and don’t blame her for not selecting me to be a cheerleader. But I always thought I was a good singer.

More than anything, I wanted to be in the high school jazz choir. But I didn’t bother trying out. The choir teacher didn’t like me. I’m not even sure why, I never did anything to her. There were certain teachers though that did not like me based on my autistic brother’s behaviors. Perhaps you have been judged for a sibling’s misdeeds? It sucks! There were certain old school teachers that blamed my mother for my brother’s autism back in the day and I think she was one.

The choir teacher picked a song for solo and ensemble for me. On the first practice, she told me I was a horrible singer and there was no way I was ever going to compete. I was so humiliated. Maybe I really did suck?

Remembering her words and cheerleading tryouts, I didn’t bother auditioning for jazz choir.

I gave up my dream. In college I wanted to audition for choir, but didn’t think I was good enough. It wasn’t until many years later that I started to sing in front of people again. Wow, you are very good at singing. You must have been a star singer in high school. What?

Now my daughter Angel is going to college for vocal performance. She has a very similar voice to mine. She has been to many competitions around the country and has done very well.

The choir teacher could have made a positive impact on my life. She could have encouraged me and worked with me to make me a better singer. She could have given me something to take me away from my troubles at home. But instead, she squelched a dream.

The choir teacher, whether she knew it or not, changed the path that I chose to take. She was a horrible teacher. I wish I didn’t give so much credit to her opinion.

Challenge accepted, I’m going to do the best I can at this role. Maybe I will dedicate this show to proving my choir teacher wrong.

The community theater extrovert

I don’t know what it is about community theater. I become a whole different person. I’m not just talking about the role I’m playing as a character, I’m talking about me as a person. I become an extrovert.

In real life I am not much of a social person. I blog, does that count? You get the idea. I like to keep my opinions to myself. I shy away from the spotlight and become a wallflower. I am moody, melancholy, and not at all agreeable. But at the theater, I am an extrovert on stage and off. All or nothing, baby! My most redeeming social quality is that I have a quick wit. I love to make people laugh. After the evening shows, Paul and I rarely made it to bed before 1 AM.

One night after celebrating at the theater, we had a couple of people crash at our house. One of the actresses confessed that she has cancer and is going through her third round of radiation next week. How could I say ‘no’ to that? Come on over! That night I went to bed at 2 AM then got up the next morning and did the show all over again. That is life as a community theater extrovert I guess.

You tend to meet a whole bunch of eccentric characters at the theater. For a brief time, they get to be someone else too. I wish I could say that all other life stops for awhile during the run of a show, but it goes on. I lost my job during the run of the show. I wasn’t the only one either. A cast member had a funeral to attend out of state. One young girl got her first period and had to reach out to people that were basically strangers to help.

For that short period of time, we became like family and you know how it is with family…some people drive you nuts. Oh, and there is always drama.

There was this new lady that was very beautiful, nice, encouraging, optimistic, and cheerful. She also totally annoyed the crap out of me. Every time she was on stage she would over act and upstage me. It drove me nuts. Back stage she dumped my whole water bottle on my dry clothes. It was an accident so I couldn’t do anything but suppress my irritation. She apologized profusely. When we had only two shows left, she decided that she didn’t like the dance routine choreography and wanted everyone to change it without actually telling everyone who would be on stage at the time. I told her there was no way I would be changing anything.

My husband Paul had the lead part. He had somewhere around 200 lines to memorize. Most of them were a paragraph long. He did a great job. Everyone thought that he had a natural gift for memorizing. Does anyone?? I really want to know. He spent at least an hour a day going through his lines.

There were love triangles on stage and off. Did you know that the theater is also a good place to fall in love? My uncle Rick met someone at the theater for a first date and they are already engaged!

Sometimes things didn’t go as planned. Lines got missed or messed up. Once the curtain opened at the wrong time while a woman was changing behind it. One little girl got hit hard on the head by someone moving a prop. Three other people fell, one while tied up. Many people had sore throats. We wandered around the rest of the week like exhausted zombie versions of ourselves while life continued on.

Then after the show is over, the main characters have to de-role. It is time to say good-bye to the new family. There is a period of sadness and loss after saying bye to a beloved character that almost becomes you for awhile.

For that brief time, everybody loved you. You were someone special, a star. The anxiety of performing is a major adrenaline rush. It is thrilling! Did I mention the costumes, makeup, wigs, and hair primping? Fun!

Then when it is all done, we go back to our normal lives until the next show.

 

Prom…the good, the bad, and the not so ugly.

There was this 17 year old girl (Ali) that got the part of the floozy that I wanted in the musical. She pulled it off a lot better than I thought she would as someone rather inexperienced in life and love. She has the body that many would envy with long gazelle like legs and curves in all of the right places. She also has a kind and compassionate heart…truly beautiful inside and out. She almost seemed to feel bad that I didn’t get her part although it wasn’t a big deal.

After the show one night, Ali told me that she was missing her junior prom. She bought a dress, had a date, and couldn’t go because it was the same night as the show.

She spoke with regret…lamenting a missed prom…while at a theater full of beautiful costumes, wigs, and makeup…including a stage with music, lighting, and speakers. It seemed like a no brainer to me…I decided to throw Ali a prom. We picked out lovely dresses and had a dance party with most of the people that were lingering about. Almost everyone got into glamorous costumes and danced the night away.

Afterwards, people started treating me like I was Mother Theresa. I became (gulp) almost popular. People told me how wonderful I was for throwing Ali a prom. Ali was even crowned the prom queen. I really felt uncomfortable with all of the praise. Maybe because I had more fun at her prom then I ever did at mine.

I missed my first two high school proms because I was home schooled. My autistic brother was too violent to be in school, so we had a retired school teacher come out to our house to educate him. My mom pulled us all out of school during this time. We weren’t treated well at school because Matt was the first violent autistic child in the school district. Apparently, it was the family’s fault he acted the way he did. For 3 years, I was not in school.

When I was a sophomore, there was a boy I wanted to go to prom with. I finally got up enough courage to call his house. He wasn’t home, so I ended up talking to his mother under the guise of some church fundraiser we were having at the time. I don’t think he ever knew I called for him. I didn’t have a prom date and didn’t attend the school.

So no luck for prom!

I went to my junior prom with my boyfriend at the time, Timmy. My mom picked out a dress for me and brought it home one day. It was ugly and I hated it. But I wore it anyway. We got our pictures taken at Timmy’s house. His step-dad grabbed my ass. Timmy was angry when I told him. At prom, another girl told me that someone wore the same dress that I was wearing the previous year. She also said that Timmy was planning on breaking up with me after prom.

After prom, Timmy and I got into a huge fight on our way to an after prom party about him wanting to break up with me. We sat outside the party in his car on the road. It was pouring. Several people stopped asking if we had car trouble, but the screaming and tears suggested otherwise.

Not a good prom.

Then senior prom came along…my long term boyfriend Bobby and I just broke up. I was heartbroken…so I started dating Bobby’s next door neighbor and friend. Nothing exciting happened beyond a few hickeys on my neck to get back at Bobby. Boy did that show him! Lol…But, I was planning on going to prom with Bobby’s friend. He didn’t have his license. When I went to pick him up, his sister said that he left for the weekend to go on a fishing trip with his dad.

So, I went to prom alone in a cheap thrift store dress with hickeys on my neck. At prom, a low status guy asked me out… I thought to myself…Sure, why not?? I didn’t like the guy, but I was feeling miserable and alone at the time. The other kids found out about it and laughed. Someone had the DJ announce ‘congrats Alissa and Donny for making a love connection’. We broke up the next day.

Not a good prom.

So this past weekend…I threw Ali a junior prom…Maybe I feel guilty for having so much fun. It was like I was redoing my prom all over again.

Sure, it was a nice thing to do…but I am not a saint for doing it.

I just wanted her to have happy memories. If nothing else, she will have a lot of interesting stories..

It was a great prom!

Stranger then family

We had our final show this past weekend…What started out as trepidation ended with exhilaration..

I have been thinking again the last couple of days…Community theater is not that much different from running a marathon. I know that some of you may think my comment is a bit of a stretch, especially if you have done one or the other or neither..

There are commonalities… The months of training that nobody really sees… Special clothing… Anticipation…Dread…Goal setting… Setbacks…Worries… Until the months of training culminates with one big ending…the show or race with a lot of spectators.

Our common goal forces us to reach out to people that we wouldn’t talk to in our everyday ordinary lives..that person is the one we hold hands with as we limp across the finish line…It doesn’t matter if we voted for different candidates. All of the things that divide us melt away as we walk hand in hand towards a common goal.

It becomes a place where strangers become family.

It doesn’t matter if I really liked my part or not, although being cast in a great role that really fits adds so much to the experience. I can’t say my lines if no one replies with theirs. We have to work together.

It doesn’t matter if I run fast or slow. Maybe it is a good thing that I am not the fastest runner. It forces me to reach out for the hand of another running down the same road.

Long distance racing and working as a team to make a community theater show great are some of the biggest natural highs that I have experienced in life.

All of the long hours memorizing lines, practicing songs, and running long distances makes it all the more rewarding.

The more you put into it, the more you get out of it.

Why can’t life be like that all of the time? Why can’t we grab the hand of a fellow stranger struggling along the path? Why must we get so hung up on squabbling about our differences??

 

Some harmless, some hidden

Memories swirl around in my mind. Some harmless, some hidden..

…laughter of teenage girls…the lighter flicks…not to smoke…melting the tip of the eye liner so it glides on easier…

I put on eye liner for the show. It goes on easy. It almost smears, unlike the sharp pencil of my younger years…Does anyone use a lighter anymore to soften their eye liner pencils?

…I see a younger face in the mirror, then she is gone..

A harmless memory..

An interview for the show…

Were you ever involved in theater before you came to this theater?

…My dad dropped me off at the theater before work…I was the little girl with a small part in the show…I was dropped off early before everyone else…I walked the trails alone in the woods surrounding the theater, sometimes afraid…but it was only a deer…alone…fun on stage…the big kids…the costumes, the makeup…

…The only time alone with my dad…his boss taking him for lunch…maybe I can go too since I ride with him…laughter…why would I take you??

The next summer, I got a part in another play. I was a princess.

…Reading my lines out loud with the other princesses on the grass in a circle in the summer sun…gone…have to drop out…Matt is sick…my mom left for the summer to go to a hospital out of state with Matt…selfish…how could you still want to be in the show…your brother is sick…so lucky that you are not sick…so lucky…anger and tears…some things are more important…crying…no ride…alone…loneliness…missing my mom…fragments of memories reflect off the surface of the dark murkiness in my mind…

Were you ever involved in theater before you came to this theater?

Just one innocent question scratched the surface…I don’t answer…

It has happened before over the years…innocent questions avoided…the explanations too personal…too painful…they shouldn’t be, but are.

Over 20 years later, I walked through the doors of another theater…in another town…and left all those old hidden painful memories behind me..

Or did I?

Mile 20 of the show

The last time we talked, I was feeling apprehension about the opening weekend of the musical. It wasn’t about stage fright or worrying about whether or not I knew my songs or lines. It seemed to go a lot deeper than that.

The last show that I was in was back in 2011. I was in my mid-30’s and I had some really awesome parts. I built up a rather large fan base. I wore some really beautiful dresses.

As luck would have it, I was the oldest female that auditioned for this show. The part that I wanted was given to a 17 year old. Feeling old bites, especially after being given the old lady parts. In my mind but not in the mirror, I am still young and beautiful. Don’t they see me as I do?

I have been teased endlessly for my costumes. At first I was angry. One of the costumes I wear was owned by a woman before she had bariatric surgery. I was not kidding when I said that I had to wrap the belt around me twice. Over the weekend, I learned to laugh at myself too. Although it is one of my least favorite shows, the cast and director have been phenomenal.

Over the weekend, I had a few moments for self-examination. Paul and I have the same problem, we tend to be the type that takes on too much. Then we get overwhelmed with the choices that we make. I realized that if I ever train for a full Ironman, there are going to be a lot of things that I am going to have to give up or say no to.

Being in a show is a tremendous time commitment. Many people do not know what it is like until they have done it. Not only are there many hours spent on stage at the theater, there are many hours spent at home memorizing lines and songs. Time that cuts into other time commitments.

Stepping back into community theater after a long hiatus hasn’t been particularly easy. I lost all of my fan base. I am not remembered anymore. The director and most of the cast have never seen me on stage before. The ‘good jobs’ people threw at me as they were passing by on their way out the door don’t mean as much…you should’ve seen me in my hay day…It’s almost like qualifying for the Boston marathon…taking a break from the running scene for years…then being complimented on running a 5k.

This show has forced me to face that I am not young anymore…my looks are fading. I know this sounds incredibly shallow. But it has been difficult for me. To be honest with you, most of the positive attention I received as a child had to do with my looks. It met a lot of emotional needs for attention that went unfulfilled at home. I am learning to live with it like a genius slipping into dementia.

Maybe that is why I slowly switched from beauty to brawn over the past couple of years. It is something I feel I have more control over. It is something that I earned versus a genetic lucky roll of the dice. I feel great. I am starting to see a big separation between those who are active and those who are not. There are people my age who are out of breath climbing the stairs. I get a little winded at about mile 18 in a marathon.

People say that I am lucky. But this has nothing to do with luck. I earned it.

I don’t expect to live forever or even longer than everyone else my age. I probably won’t be running marathons at 80. But I do expect to live a full and active life until my last days. I expect to have enough endurance to make memories with my grandchildren someday.

Will I ever do another show again?? Yes, perhaps I will if the timing and part is right for me. But if you ever ask me if I plan to run another marathon at mile 20, the answer will always be no.

The show must go on…

As you are reading this, I will be silently sitting backstage waiting for the show to start. Honestly, I don’t feel excited or nervous. I just feel frustration.

The show must go on…

Tonight the show that we have been working on since January starts. I am ready for it to be over so I can get back to my regular life. Maybe I have lost my passion for community theater?

The show must go on…

This has been a record month at work. Many times, like today, I had to walk away leaving things unfinished. It bothers me to leave things undone…it demands my attention.

The show must go on…

I feel unbalanced yet again. This show is taking a big chunk of my time now. Besides work, my first race is less than a month away. Only a few weeks are left until my 18 mile weekend trail running race. Yesterday it was snowing again. I haven’t been able to run outside for a long time. The trail is filled with snowy mud. I feel like I am falling behind on my training this week because I didn’t have the time.

The show must go on…

I haven’t had the time to write. This is probably my record for the least amount of posts per week.

The show must go on…

I am sick with a cold that has been hanging around for weeks. My ears are plugged and I am snotty. It makes it hard to sing. The last couple of weeks the whole cast has been sick with laryngitis, colds, and/or the flu. There are people back stage with fevers as you read this.

The show must go on…

Two of the cast members lost parents since the show started.

The show must go on…

The cast includes many more children than adults. Sometimes their chatter and childishness annoys me. They ask stupid questions that takes up the directors time and I don’t get home until very late at night. Does it really matter what side her hair is parted or that his costume has a tiny rip. Who gives a rip??

The show must go on…

We also have a dog in the show. He has been great so far, but the last few nights he has been skittish. He might be picking up on the stage fright of the actors that are handling him and sometimes he has been running off the stage. Some of the lead characters have extreme anxiety.

The show must go on…

This is the first show that I am the old lady. I am really having a hard time with my new identity. I don’t feel happy. I am not sure that being in this play was worth the other things that I had to give up. Maybe I am having a midlife crisis??

The show must go on…

I always had beautiful dresses to wear. My costume this time looks frumpy. I look ridiculously ugly. Call me vain, but this is the first time I feel really bad about my appearance. My costumes are ugly. They are ill fitting. My dresses are about 20 sizes too big. I am not kidding. I have to tuck the bust area into my belt that wraps around me twice. Someone asked if the new director was out to get me. Even my wig doesn’t fit. The cast has been super nice to me about this.

The show must go on…

Despite not liking the show nor the part I play in it, I have met some interesting characters. I have always been drawn to the eccentric type. They are pretty easy to find in the theater. There is the young man that had a failed kidney transplant and is going through dialysis. Hearing the stories and struggles of others and the friendships built help make the experience worthwhile. It puts things into perspective..

The show must go on…

It is a huge time commitment and I am not sure if I will be doing this again for a long time. But I kept my commitment even though I felt like walking away. In another week, I will be able to leave this behind me. Then I will have time to examine why I feel the way I do..probably on a very long run..

Until then, the show must go on…

My magic wand

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When I was 34, I played the part of Glinda. I was given someone’s old ill fitting wedding dress to wear. I didn’t like it. So I dug out my wedding dress from the back closet and broke the vacuum pack seal that would forever preserve it. It still fit.

I was given a large magic wand, but the director did not like it although I did. The large wand was replaced with a smaller one and was held by some of the younger cast members.

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One morning I awoke to find my first magic wand in the front yard with a note attached. I felt young to be the receiver of pranks from a youthful crowd.

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Recently, I tried out for the part of a floozy at the local community theater. I didn’t get the part. The actor that was perfect to play the part of the floozy’s boyfriend is 18 years old, the same age as my daughter. Instead a young high school girl who never had a boyfriend was chosen to be the floozy.

What does she have that I don’t? Besides being 25 years younger?? Ha ha, oh well…hmm..

I was given the part of a homeless old bitchy hag.

I had to take a long hard look at myself in the mirror. I am not young anymore. I once was a beautiful flower, but now I’m at the end of my bloom. My petals are starting to droop…wrinkles…lines. My color is starting to fade…My hair a glistening gray…old hands…weird freckly dots..

I still like to think of myself as young. But I don’t glimpse much of that girl anymore in my self-reflection.

This past week I threw out my magic wand. It suddenly seemed a painful reminder of what I once was.

But if I could have my magic wand back and make one wish, it would be that I could feel young for just a little longer…

This year I will be 29 again…

At the theater, left and lost

My husband lost his wedding ring this week.

You are probably wondering why he took it off in the first place. It almost seems sacreligious to take off your wedding ring the first ten years of marriage, even to clean it. We are way beyond that now. We are on the second ring that needs replacing for him.

Paul played the main character the last couple weekends at the community theater. The character he was portraying was a single guy. He slipped the ring off his finger and slid it into his wallet. Then it fell out who knows where.  

It wasn’t the first time a hobby of his claimed a wedding ring. The first time he went fishing and had to walk up a steep bank. He tripped and caught himself with his hand. The ring cracked and was unwearable. It was a cheap ring, all of the money went into my ring. I still have his broken ring though. 

After it broke, Paul decided to go without his wedding band for awhile. Then he got hit on by countless women. He was on a sales call one time and a single woman invited him out for cocktails later on that evening. It happened so many times that I thought it was time to crack the bank and announce to the world that he was not on the market anymore. 

We’ll see what happens this time.

It wasn’t the first thing lost at the theater either. Someone could make a lot of money on theater art, a display consisting of items or props left behind at the theater after a show. Theaters tend to have very interesting lost and found boxes if you ever checked.

My daughter Angel lost her retainer at the theater years ago. It has never been found. I have to say that at least she wore her retainer like she was supposed to.

My son went in this week to have his retainer check at the ortho. After not wearing it for almost a year, he wore it the whole day before his appointment and suffered through the pain. Wouldn’t it just be easier to wear it every once in awhile?? But he is the type not to hand in assignments or apply himself in school then stay up all night studying for the final so he doesn’t fail the class. Doesn’t make any sense to me. I try to get tomorrow’s things done yesterday.

Who know? Maybe the ring will show up before having to buy a new one. I have given up on the retainer though.

Now showing, the end

 
Yesterday was the end of the show. Even though I wasn’t in the show, Paul and I did have a few moments of bonding because of it. Like taking off our makeup together. 

Paul asked me how to take off makeup. I had to take a picture. How many couples do you know that take off makeup together?? He said that we needed to hurry and take the picture because the makeup was burning his eyes. I personally think that he didn’t want to be seen around the neighborhood looking like a drag queen. Hey honey, lets go for a nice long walk… Ah, who cares what the neighbor’s think! 

I didn’t help him learn his 450 lines. Not at all. I didn’t watch a movie of the play beforehand. I wanted some surprise. Or maybe it was a good excuse to be lazy. So he sat out on the deck alone at the crack of dawn mumbling his lines to himself furthering the neighbor’s suspicions that he is crazy. 

Auditions for the next show are in 2 weeks. Paul said he would try out if I do. It has been 5 years since I graced the stage, but I think I will do it. 

Apparently I earned a reputation at the theater. Okay, it was because of that one time that I squealed my tires as I tore out of the parking lot. I did get pretty psycho. I was unhappy because I had the part of a maid. That in itself wasn’t that bad because as a mother I am used to picking up other people’s crap. The kicker was that I had to wait on my husband and another woman who was playing his wife. They had to dance and act like they were in love. Mind you, this was the woman that told me she wanted to give my husband a lap dance and ended up running off with another man from the theater. Oh, never mind that she was already married!  

Can you imagine quiet, introverted, stoic, thinker me carrying on like a mad woman?? Squealing out of the parking lot and screaming obscenities? So out of character. I guess I fit into the theater group after all. Since then they decided to not place couples in parts where their significant other has to woo another person in front of them. Hello!!? Seriously though, it is just community theater. Nothing worth filing for divorce over.

Things have settled down a bit since those days. After the shows, the actors sit around and talk. Sometimes they drink soda or wine. The most exciting thing that happened after a show was that I accidently spilled someone’s soda. Oh, and a mutual friend offered another friend (a previous actor) a glass of wine which he refused. Not even one glass. The friend said, “Wow, you really changed since you got a new girlfriend.” Then noticing that she was there, he followed up by saying that it was not a bad thing. I leaned over to the girl next to me and told her that I think Paul needs a girlfriend so he stops drinking so much wine. She said that would probably solve all of my problems. Lol. 

Back in the old days, when I was in the shows, the cast would play games or dance afterwards. I was well known for burning CD’s. We would dance until 2 in the morning. I remember the musical Clue especially. We would dance on the dice we used for props with or without weapons. The dice were 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide with wheels on the bottom. 

There is Ms. Scarlett dancing on the dice on the stage with a rope. Looks like it was her. Guilty! 

Those were the days. Most of the time our after parties were recorded. 

Well, there goes my career in politics.   

Can’t wait to go back…