Okay, maybe I never got to Broadway but I did get back to my high school theater.
This past weekend I performed in an alumni play at my high school for a fundraiser. I hadn’t been on that high school stage in 22 years.
I got to perform with more than a dozen other former students that spanned 30 years of high school graduates. In one word, it was- incredible.
Here’s something that might surprise you. I loved high school. I know, weird huh? I loved high school because I was a theater geek. And proud of it. I spent hours upon hours rehearsing. I spent weekends until almost midnight running through dress rehearsals and tech rehearsals.
Would I have rather lived in the theater during my school days instead of going to Chemistry or Business Law class? You betcha.
I wasn’t popular, but I loved when people came up to me and said they saw me in the show. I made friends with everyone- jocks, brainiacs, band geeks, cheerleaders, wavers, stoners, whatever. They all did some type of theater for an English credit at some point. For the kids that figured out how much fun it was, they stuck around. And then we just became a family of theater kids. Our director/coach/teacher was a woman we called Gorne. Just her last name was enough.
So here we were, in 2012. All in the name of Gorne, who asked us to do this fundraiser for the Speech and Debate team, something else she coached and yes, I was a part of that too. She found most of us through Facebook and probably our parent’s phone numbers that she still had in some address book somewhere. Yes, I’m friends with some teachers on Facebook. Is that weird?
These are the teachers that made an impression. That treated me like I was a person. They recognized that I wasn’t just a teenager or a student, but a living, breathing, dreaming soul with the world waiting for me. They helped me make that step into the big scary world and gave me the confidence in myself that kept me from hiding under the covers every day of my first semester of college.
When a bunch of us convened at the Little Theater, that’s what we call the school’s performance hall, to pick up our scripts, I recognized a few faces. Hugs and big hellos were exchanged and it was great to see friends that I had only seen through Facebook and hadn’t had the chance to see in the flesh for the last 20 years. A few faces I recognized immediately as alumni from grades that were before my years. But I knew who they were because when I was in junior high I would come to the high school to see the shows. I fell in love with those performers. They were my idols and inspiration to do theater myself.
One girl, Cindy, was in a performance of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes during her senior year. I loved that show and her in it. When I was face to face with her for this show, I told her how much I admired her. Here we were, both in our 40s, just regular folks, and I felt like I was 15 again idolizing the big campus Senior. She was sweet and humble of course.
The connection we all had, even if we were the class of 1983, 1990, or 2012, was that we wanted to be there for our teacher, Gorne, and for the love we have of that Little Theater. It’s like coming home. Writing this puts a pit in my gut even. It brings tears to my eyes. Because the feeling of being in that Green Room, doing our before show chant (it’s a secret) and walking through the back stage door for Gorne to give us that arm squeeze of encouragement, made me swell with emotion. Taking our places in the dark wings of the back stage, tip toeing around to our props and waiting to hear the audiences reaction, was almost enough to get me to sobs. It felt so good. I couldn’t believe that what I loved most about my youth was being recaptured in a way that wasn’t disappointing or a let down. It was just as much a thrill and a feeling of family as it was back then.
I pulled myself together, shed a tear or two, but not much since I didn’t want to ruin my false eyelashes, and I swallowed that vomit-nervous feeling, and went on that stage to the bright lights I love so much. It felt good. And best of all, there in the front row, were my kids cheering me on. Does someone have a Kleenex? I’m all verklempt!
Thanks to Gorne, and the whole cast for making this a truly remarkable experience. I’ll do it again in a heart beat!