She Belonged On Stage

At least those were her words when Becky returned to an audition after years of being away. I’ve changed her name and productions to protect her anonymity. I was first introduced to Becky in a production of Mary Poppins when she played a significant role. She was someone who came out of nowhere, they usually do and found herself with a significant role, one that she would present with a fierceness a director may only wish a student would bring to a program.

I remember her having an edge with the cast immediately. People looked upon Becky and knew she was serious about her purpose in a show. She had her lines down early and was even helping the younger children find comfort with their roles and acting abilities. I remember being able to give her any direction and she always took it a step further. She one time told me she didn’t really get along with anyone else and she was just here to do her job. Though I wanted to disagree with her I could see in her dynamic she did stay close to the chest and it was significant to see her become close to anyone in the production. That wasn’t a bad thing I decided, she was actually so talented I let her do whatever she wanted. Off stage she may not have been everyone’s best friend but when acting and working on her role, there was no question of her commitment.

And then she disappeared. The production ran its course and suddenly Becky didn’t return for the one acts or later the spring play. In fact she vanished from the halls of the school. The next year came and went and no Becky still. I was puzzled because she was so good I was actually mildly planning my season around her (a taboo admission by a director). As I did find out she transferred to an ALC, an alternative learning center. I wouldn’t know the reason for a couple of years but once I did discover her there she did invite me to a couple of poetry readings, so I knew it was evident she wanted to perform. Turns out her angst toward other members of the stage was more likely anxiety, and she just couldn’t maintain a comfort level working with the school productions. I always encouraged her and she would give me a maybe look and be on her way.

Senior year came along and Little Shop of Horrors was our fare for the fall musical. Suddenly on the list of auditions I saw Becky’s name. I was beyond delighted. Here comes a monologue story. Students were mandated to have a prepared monologue for the audition. When Becky got up to do her piece it was one of the most heartfelt pieces I had ever heard – a story of a young woman that knew she belonged on stage but was afraid. She finally decided in the caveat of the reading she needed to take a chance and would go for it. I loved it. It fit her swimmingly. I asked her where she found the piece I would like to see it myself and maybe use it in my classroom. She looked at me with a pensive glance and said, “I wrote it.” In that moment I cast her in the show.

There is something about anxiety and students finding themselves on stage. They may walk the halls of school in a meek manner not wanting to upset the cart, their insides churning with fear the entire walk. Put them on a stage and that persona can change, I have seen it occur time and time again. In Becky’s case she belongs on stage, and to confirm this feeling I had, she continued to excel on stage in her post-secondary studies. I am delighted to reference such a wonderful human being and actor in my theater classrooms.

There is an illusion we all try to reach when performing our realities in the scheme of a stage. When we can lives may also become more complete and validating. For Becky, she did find a zone and embraced her opportunities.


© Thom Amundsen 4/2022

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