I have been gifted with the opportunity to follow the blog of a former student who is now an aspiring writer. She is living in NY City and is a nanny for a day job while she pursues her ambition of becoming a published writer.
Today she talked about her high school and her interest in the drama department. It took me back to my own elementary and high school days. The earliest I can track my interest in “the theater” and writing was third grade.
Members of the class were divided into teams based on neighborhoods so we could get together outside of class to create individual “plays”. There were four of us. I remember how much fun it was to create the play and perform in the classroom. At Christmas time I directed my first Nativity play. I remember leading a group of classmates at lunch time (without anyone’s permission) to my church parsonage about four blocks away to ask the minister’s wife if we could borrow the costumes I had seen worn at church. I discovered they all belonged to the people who played their own parts, so we resorted to the usual bathrobes. The teacher gave us encouragement to be creative and we were given permission to present our play at the Christmas party.
In fourth grade we repeated our same performance with different cast members. After we performed in class, I started to lead the group downstairs to the third grade. The teacher stopped us and told us to return to class. That was my first cancellation.
In fifth grade we were divided into groups to share our creative writing stories. That was the year I got my first laughs as a writer when I spoke of the turtle biting me in the behind as I floated in an inner tube. That laughter was a real treat and gave me a real sense of power with the knowledge I could make people laugh.
In eighth grade I developed a comedy routine for our graduation party. I can only remember one act. The revue was an all male show. I got one of the boys to dress as a caveman and sing “Alley Oop“. He was the quietest guy in the class. He was great. Little did I recognize my ability to be a leader and director.
In high school I tried out for our school play my freshman year. I didn’t make the cast. I did write the Homecoming skit however and wrote myself a lead part as a Japanese grandmother telling her two granddaughters (the shortest two girls in the class) about the glorious high school football game of my high school days.
I think I tried out my sophomore year as well and again failed to gain a part. I settled for being on the props and make up committees for the next three years. I did have a part my senior year in Spoon River Anthology playing Dora Williams, the milliner’s daughter. Our director chose to have us all dress in black on an unlit stage which was great because I had such stage fright. When it was our turn to speak, we would be in the spotlight. When we performed in front of our school the audience sat silently while we all spoke. Our school classes were still naive and rather unsophisticated in our rural community compared to the city kids. We took our one act play to one of the city schools.
There was one line in my part that was received with blank faces in my home school. When I repeated it at the city school the whole audience roared thinking it was very funny. It threw me for a moment.
” A gray-haired magnate went mad about me–so another fortune.He died one night right in my arms, you know. (I saw his purple face for years thereafter.) There was almost a scandal.”
My second chance at acting was also my senior year when we put on “Finian’s Rainbow”. I was in the singing ensemble. We sang a song called “On that Great Come and Get it Day,”. My solo line was, “Come and get your gravy with TWO meat balls!”
My college career took me far away from any kind of writing other than term papers. There was no more opportunity to be part of the drama crowd. When I started teaching and working on my my master’s degree, I took a course called “Creative Dramatics for Children”. One of the requirements was to participate in a play to be performed in front of a college audience. It was a story of a village in the polar region. I don’t remember anything about it other than I got to play a non-speaking part of a BEAVER in the background! I did get to dance in a group. The young woman who lived downstairs in the apartment house was a newscaster for a local TV station. She threatened to wish “her neighbor the beaver” to break a leg on the evening news. Fortunately, she didn’t. I never would have lived that down.
Unfortunately, my contact with the theater ended then. Life went on. I just wrote for my own entertainment and my own sanity. I started a novel which has sat in the desk drawer for over thirty years. I have unpublished poems, short stories, songs, a child’s play, etc. all in various stashes around my home never to see the ink of publishing and will probably see the inside of a trash can or the delete button before then.
Yes, I envy my student’s drive and desire to be a published writer. I wish her my best.
I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.
I took the road more traveled by and became a teacher. Some days I wonder what would have happened if I had been adventurous and had taken the riskier road less traveled by and tried to become a published writer. I often question whether I made the right choice. Maybe in my next life time I will learn what it is like. Namaste. Attic Annie