I can still remember that first feeling. As I sat there, in a room where about a dozen other preteen kids, all, like me, dressed in costumes. I was dressed as an elephant, with a gray sweatshirt and sweatpants, as well as a hat with a trunk on it.
We were the Willow Wind Community Learning Center’s Drama class, and we anxiously waited for Audrey, our drama teacher, to dim the lights so that we could begin. We sat there feeling a mixture of nervousness, anxiety, and excitement. When she finally dimmed the lights, we went out and performed two short, classic, African plays, titled, “The Great tug of War” and, “The Monkey without a Tail”.
I played Big Fat Elephant, and loved every second out on that stage. We performed three times, and it was then that I fell in love with the stage.
Over the next three years, I was in each of the plays performed by the WWCLC Drama class, and I grew to love the stage even more. We performed four original plays (including two musicals), that we designed and wrote ourselves, as well as an adaptation of the musical “Oliver!” (Based on the story by Charles Dickens).
I learned to carry my voice well (to be heard across an auditorium without shouting), and to think on my feet, so that if a line was forgotten, the show could still go on. I learned to work as a team with a group of people, and how to adapt to each role that was given to me.
Willow Wind is a very small homeschooling support program. Even now, with approximately 300 students, most of them are younger than 12, and there are very few teenagers.
Our Drama department was, for the most part, a dozen teens, with Audrey Flint as our instructor/director. Every semester, the class would meet in their normal room for the first time that term, and we would brainstorm on topics for that production. Often times, we would simply pick a topic that we thought would make a good story, and then we would start to write a play based on that decision. We would improvise, brainstorm, tinker and change, until we had a basic idea that we could work with, then Audrey would take that home and put together a rough script, which we would change around and work with. The same teenagers were almost always the cast of the show, but once in a while there would be a few new members, who would be quickly welcomed into the group. The group grew close as friends, and could work together incredibly well, as each of us knew our strengths and our faults, as well as those of our cast mates.
In July 2002, the group lost one of our own to a car accident, and it seemed like something was really missing in our next performance. Jared Murphy had been with us since the second of our plays, and it seemed very empty, but the show went on, and we did that show, as well as another, without him.
Another summer went by, and, in September 2003, I entered into Ashland High School. I immediately did everything possible to incorporate myself into their much larger Drama Department. I made new friends, began a Theater class, and ushered for the current show being performed, “The Crucible” By Arthur Miller.
Most recently, I was involved with a smaller show at the High School. It was called AYPF (the Ashland Young Playwrights Festival), and students wrote the two short shows performed, as well as producing and performing them. I had a short walk-on role in “The Man Beneath”, written and directed by Walon Lenk, who is a senior. But on the final night of the show, Walon was out of town, and the lead actor in his show hadn’t shown up. No one could contact him, and it was rapidly approaching show time. There were two options. Tucker, one of the two producers, had seen the show, so he knew what it was about, but he didn’t know any of the lines. The other option was for me to do it. I knew the show very well, and I could give it a shot.
Tucker thought that, since I knew the show and the character, I should take over. So, 10 minutes before the show began, I sat down with a script in my hand, and began to read.
Even though I was forced to bring the script onstage, I held it in a less conspicuous position than in front of my face, and I played the part as well as I could. Even as I spoke on stage, I felt that feeling. I felt that mixture of nervousness, anxiety, and excitement. I love theater for a few very simple reasons. I love the ability to go up on that stage, and take someone else’s personality on. For a short period of time, you become someone else, with his or her own goals, life, and voice. Maybe that person is like you. Maybe they aren’t. But while you’re on that stage, they become you, and you become them. Perhaps my favorite character I ever played was Gustov, a Russian foreign exchange student. I loved changing my voice and experimenting with the accent and how different a word could sound with just a simple voice change.
I also have a love of entertaining someone. If a person comes to see me perform, and I can make them laugh, make them cry, or even just make them applaud, I feel like my job has been done, and I feel great about it. But one of the things I love most about acting is working together with a group of people as talented as the people I’ve gotten to work with. I’ve seen incredible performances by some of my peers, and I love the chance to be able to work with people like that, and to do what I love.