Last Sunday afternoon, I found myself sitting at a simple table in a room filled with actors. I was invited to watch a rehearsal of the musical Sweeney Todd being put on by a modest theater group called The International Players. As I listened to the director bark notes at the ensemble, I felt as though I had been transported back to another place and time when nothing mattered to me more than performing–singing, acting, dancing.
I loved theater–musicals, drama–I got bit by the bug hard in high school. Spring musicals, summer musicals, Fall plays, I did them all. Every season, I would anxiously await the call for auditions, planning what song I would sing, what outfit I would wear and fantasize about the part I might get. And when rehearsals would begin in full force after school, it took all that I could to get through the day long slog of classes until the final bell. I knew without a doubt that being on the stage was my first real passion in life.
And it wasn’t just the performing. All of us involved were creating art together. The way that the stage was transformed into another place was magical. My first musical, Finian’s Rainbow, I spent in a ginormous tree as a little girl named Henny. In Pajama Game, a simple sheer screen created illusions with shadows and light. Then there were the costumes–pleated skirts, leopard-print bikini tops and endless pairs of character shoes. Props, lighting, sound effects–every little detail fascinated me. I can still hear the sound of the yellow crinkled pages of Mrs. Wintz’s notepad as she gave us dance steps and endless notes.
Then, it all came to an abrupt end. In my naivete, I thought after years of commitment and hard work that my senior year, I would get a big part. That’s how I had seen it work before–senior year was supposed to be the time. I quickly learned, however, that I didn’t have the right body, the right look or the political advantage, so I quit. It was my first real heartbreak.
Over the years, I dabbled in voice lessons and a few jazz gigs in San Francisco from time to time, but I never let that passion back in. Like many artists, I was always haunted by a voice telling me that I wasn’t good enough.
Now, thirty years later, inspired by a friend who is living his best musical theater life, I took to the internet to see if there was anything here in Paris. I wasn’t even really sure of what I was looking for, but as with most things these days, Google provided the answer.
So, here I sit with a Sweeney Todd script in my hand. I’ve only dipped my toe in–joining the production team. In a recent meeting, we talked sound effects and scenery and publicity. It was exhilarating. I have already found myself thinking about the next production auditions. . .
I know that it is still too soon to synthesize this thing called my “mom”bbatical. The things I expected to happen didn’t and things I would never have dreamed have showed up in the most divine ways. With four months to go, I can’t wait to see what else life has in store.