Over the past few years, Hubby and I have had the pleasure of dressing up and heading to the theater. Not the movie theater, mind you, but rather the kind with a stage and curtains. We have a local theater group, which is part of a thriving arts community in our humble but culturally rich, small Southern town.
The last play in which I performed was produced by the sixth-grade teachers at Upper Greenwood Lake Elementary School. My rendition of mother in her kerchief in our kindergarten production of "The Night Before Christmas" was masterful. I can still recall bits from my fourth-grade year when I served as both narrator and a toga-clad chorus member in our interpretation of "The Life of King Tut."
In middle school, I was in the band and played basketball. When you factor in the emergence of hormones and the sudden discovery that boys weren’t all that icky, there was no room in my life for the theater.
When I reached high school, we’d moved to different state. Desperate to fit in, I decided to get involved with the theater group. I tried out for my high school’s production of "Oklahoma."
After weeks of preparing lines and songs, I confidently headed to the audition. A few butterflies made their way into my digestive system as I took my place in front of the drama teacher. A few minutes into the audition, though, I was calmly performing like I did years ago on that elementary school stage.
As soon as I arrived the next day, I headed toward the crowd gathered in front of three sheets of paper. Each was haphazardly taped just under the square window on the drama teacher’s door.
It took me a few minutes to nudge my way to the front of the crowd and find it, but there was my name! My finger slid to the left to find my role: Spotlight Number 1.
The pit of my stomach welled up into my throat and my eyes began to sting. My vision went blurry. For a moment my chest hurt, but then I caught my breath. I would not be performing. Rather, I’d be wearing black and shining a bright beam of light toward the stage. That was my last audition—my last until last week.
That’s when we ran into a friend at one of our favorite downtown venues. He had just auditioned for "The Prisoner of Second Avenue," a dark comedy by Neil Simon. Our community theater group would be presenting it in March. As he reported on his audition experience, he and I began imitating New York accents and being generally silly. That’s when he declared, "You should try out!"
There was a second audition opportunity planned for the next morning. I was intrigued. I told him I’d think about it. Then we all went about socializing and enjoying our night out.
It was difficult to sleep that night. I kept tossing and turning, unable to get the audition out of my head. I had no script and no experience outside of elementary school. Despite the barriers, I was up early and out the door in time to walk up to the Arts Guild and be one of the first to arrive.
Since I was the first 40-something woman to walk in, I was asked to read for the lead female role. After others were given the opportunity to audition, I was called up again to read another scene.
I lost my place a few times and was basically staring at the script. When we finished the scene, I was dismissed. I walked home, happy that I had the courage to try out, but a little disappointed that I was the first one excused.
There would be other plays. I could prepare better next time and try again. And if they needed someone to man Spotlight Number 1, I could always conjure up my technical abilities.
Thirty minutes after returning home, my phone rang. I was being called back—already! When I entered the Arts Guild for the second time, the director announced I’d already been cast. I had the part of Edna—the lead female role.
The pit of my stomach welled up into my throat and my eyes began to sting. My vision went blurry. For a moment my chest hurt, but then I caught my breath. I WOULD BE performing.
I was called back, he continued to explain, so another actor who read at the first audition could read again, but this time with me. As fate would have it, the actor was the friend who encouraged me to audition.
After a grueling 30-hour wait, the final cast was finally announced. My friend and I were assigned the lead roles. Maybe I can’t sing well, Mr. High School Drama Teacher. But the seed planted in my formative years seemed to have budded into an unstoppable force that enabled me to find my inner Edna and capture the courage to perform again.
Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and author of "Thurston T. Turtle Moves to Hubbleville." She lives in Asheboro with her husband, three children and mother. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org