As a high schooler, I was a bit of a theater nerd. Not only was I on the Speech and Debate team, but I participated in my school’s semi-annual Fall and Spring theater productions. Sometimes these included musical theater extravaganzas. Being as how I can’t sing or for that matter, dance a lick, I sort of just stood in the background and mouthed the words and swayed awkwardly from side to the side and actively willed myself not to fall off the rafters during the big group numbers.
Suffice it to say, I preferred the non-musical productions. But I was never really the shining star. I was more of a stage crew kind of girl. I built sets, I ran the prop table, I helped everybody else memorize their lines and remember when they needed to be ready to go on stage. I had one shining star moment during my junior year. I had one staring scene. (It was the beginning and the end of my life as an actress.) I played a cockney speaking bar wench. My accent was terrible. It was super classy. My best friend played a bar wench in the scene as well. And our sole purpose was to talk smack to one another and then stage fight. I don’t really remember why this was an important part of the plot. In fact, it probably wasn’t. I’m pretty sure my theater teacher was just throwing us a bone. She was supposed to pretend to smack me in the face to end the scene.
We practiced it for days upon days before opening night. I practically lived at her house anyway, so for weeks we drove her entire family crazy with our staged rumble. We tried it from every angle, which one looked the most believable? Which hand should she use, left or right? Which way should I fall to make it seem realistic? We were really milking our 15 minutes of fame. Opening night comes. We put on our costumes, tease our hair, and wear pounds of stage makeup. We feel confident and excited. Our big scene comes.
I see her winding up for the stage smack, and I’m so thrilled to be on stage and have the spotlight on me, I don’t even consider the fact that something could go wrong. And then it does. Instead of pretending to smack me without making any actual contact, my friend gets excited in the moment and goes all method actor on me and not only does she make actual contact, but instead of smacking me in the face, she practically coldcocks me in the temple with a closed fist. Later, my parents would tell me that they could hear the thud way out in the middle of the audience. I had a headache for hours after the show. When she hit me, I was unprepared and actually fell on stage. I laid there for several seconds, dazed and attempting to gather my bearings before the stage manager (another one of our best friends) realized what was going on and quickly killed the lights to prep for the next scene. We never considered practicing for that.
So now you know a bit more about me and my brief, but colorful stint as an actress. It was also in theater class that I became familiar with the Julie Andrews classic, the King and I, and the accompanying song.
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