|Take that, life!
||[Apr. 7th, 2009|12:17 pm]
Mozart Without The Charm
Because introspection for literary purposes can only end in death and cake:|
I'm a closet Sagittarius. During the onset of my recent semi-obsession with astrology, I've come to that conclusion. For all intents and purposes, I'm a Virgo and a very typical one at that. Though it’s much cooler to be a centaur than a virgin, I don’t always like to acknowledge my inner beast because of the many unflattering traits that come along with it. The usual Virgo is generally friendly but also cold, calculating and possessing a Nazi-like attention to detail. We can criticize you blind before you have a chance to realize just how fat those pants make you look. The Sagittarius in me is a loud, affectionate airhead with an insatiable wanderlust.
Imagine if you will, a very friendly, ditz of a Nazi (minus the whole homicidal Anti-Semite part) whose nagging is kept in check by a strong sense of social norms and raging ADD. That’s me. Wouldn't that be a great text for a personal ad? Most dates that I don't scare away outright end up being stranger than I am, and that just makes for a headache. I was once rejected by a potential love interest who ran away to Mexico. Imagine my self esteem when I realized that he thought Tijuana would be safer than dating me. I hope he's having fun at the donkey shows.
Where a Virgoan is introverted, a Sagittarian longs for the company of equally insane people so it only makes sense that I would be in theatre. The stage is my love and I might marry it if I could. Unfortunately, at present, I can't even legally get married to a human but it's hard to say if he would ever measure up to the stage, in my eyes. I'll put my proverbial finger back in leaking dam of sarcasm now.
I made my first venture into the theatre during my sophomore year of high school. The show was The Wiz. Not quite understanding that a skinny white boy trying out for The Wiz didn't quite make racial sense, I sharpened my acting chops for the first time and marched myself onto the aging, slightly dilapidated stage of my high school auditorium. I was about 5'8", and rail thin-about 120 pounds. I had shoulder length, wavy hair and I wore glasses that were much too big for my face. Logically, I should have known that I had no place in this show, but the blissfully ignorant centaur in me said otherwise. The director gave me the go-ahead and I opened my mouth. Words came out, as well as some notes and tones. The adrenaline of the moment has left a blank spot in my memory, but I walked off exhausted from the rush and ready to head home. I ended up with an ensemble role, but I was also Uncle Henry. I actually had lines! Dorothy had a skinny, nerdy, white uncle but it didn’t matter! I had freaking lines! I was hooked from then on. Acting had gotten itself into my young bloodstream and there was no stopping it from going right to my head.
Rehearsals began and I loved every minute of what I was doing. I became fast friends with my fellow cast members and I was especially close with the big, boisterous girl playing the wicked witch. She was born for that role. I’m not sure that’s a real compliment, but she was great in that role nevertheless. The show was extremely low-budget, low-tech, and low just about everything else, but we were a rag-tag group content with making do with what we had. Our school had been built in the early 1920’s, so we were used to not having some of the finer things in life, like air conditioners, new desks, or ceilings. The auditorium was definitely in the same vein.
I came to rehearsal early one Saturday and was approached by Ben, my director, who had a sort of frantic look in his eye. I was scared I had done something wrong by the way he approached me, but what he asked me was something quite different.
“How’d you like to play the Tin Man on Thursday and Saturday?” he asked me with a smile that was half crazed and half apologetic. Apparently the person who had been cast originally couldn’t make it to those two performances.
“I...um…Yeah! Ok!” I made a snap decision and nodded. The ham I was turning into had no intention of turning down an offer like this. I got my own copy of the script and began to diligently memorize my lines. I also had two songs to myself. TWO. I was the only lead aside from Dorothy and the Wizard with two solo songs. My heart beat wildly in my skinny little frame. It was time to get some instruction in singing pronto.
I asked my grandma Helen if she would help me with my music. She was a singer way back in her college days and she had very nearly taught me to play the piano when I was five. I didn’t have the patience to learn to play with both hands so I picked up the violin when I was eleven. I’ve been playing the “devil’s instrument” for about twelve years now. I returned to her for help in my newfound vocal field. I handed her the sheet music that was printed on gigantic pages, with handwritten notes. She adjusted her famously huge spectacles and started to plunk-out the accompaniment while I belted to my heart’s content. We finished once and she looked at me, nodded, and asked me if I wanted to go through it again. Was that it? I had no singing experience, so I was quite skeptical that that could possibly be it. I agreed to go through the song again and we finished with the same lack of advice or technique work. I was a little unnerved by this, but I knew that being a former teacher, she would probably know best. I sang a little for my mother later, and she told me that I sounded ok. Motherly reassurance was definitely what I needed while venturing into this new musical territory. It had felt like a long journey through northern Russia thus far, but Mom helped melt the ice.
By the time the show was ready to open, I had been told by my friends and my director that I was doing a great job and that we should have a strong opening night. This definitely served to boost my confidence, but that didn’t stop me from being ridiculously nervous. I had decided to stay silent for the majority of classes on opening day to “save my voice”. Most of my friends and family were coming to see the show, and I didn’t want to screw up. The detail-obsessed Virgo was returning for a brief stint as a very nervous little boy both excited and scared by the idea of performing for an auditorium full of his peers and mentors.
It was today that I was to be introduced to the enemy I have sworn never to cross again at risk of going insane or verbally bludgeoning a crew member: Silver Greasepaint. Perhaps it didn’t matter that I was the only lead character who wasn’t black because I would be in shiny, greasy silver-face for the whole show. The makeup person finished stabbing me in the eye with silver eyeliner and began to apply the thick, silvery goop to my face, neck and ears. I looked strange and hilarious, but it wasn’t until after the show that I would realize how evil the silver gunk really is. I would spend nearly an hour in the shower scrubbing my face with everything short of a brillo pad and failing miserably. I figured my body was just going to be taken over by a silvery parasite, and there was nothing I could do but learn to live with it. I was TIN MAN! My super power? I could smudge on you if you got too close!
Aside from mutant stage makeup, the show went off without a hitch and I performed my role to thunderous applause. The egotist in me hoped that I would completely overshadow the other Tin Man for Friday and Sunday. My friends brought me flowers and congratulated me and my family seemed to approve of the only thespian in the clan. I was ecstatic that all my hard work had paid off. It was time for me to rest my body and mind.
While at a family dinner, my aunt Barb decided to put in the video she had taken of me in the show. I was very excited to see myself perform. I always hate watching home movies of myself, but this was different. This was me at a milestone in my life. My first time on the stage of what I hoped would be many. Barb popped in the video and I saw a metallic figure standing onstage, rusted in one position. The figure on the screen opened his mouth to sing and I immediately felt my world collapse on itself. The figure onscreen sang like sauerkraut stuffed into a pipe organ. He was embarrassingly awful and obviously had no idea. He could bell-kick four feet into the air, but sang like a wounded animal. Once my brain had made the connection that that was me onscreen wailing my way through a jazzy soft-shoe number, I quickly exited the room and went to sit somewhere in a corner, alone. After being built up like I had been by everyone I knew, I felt betrayed and lied to. I had no idea at the time that I stunk because I was given no standard to hold myself to that a new singer could understand and was given no actual instruction after asking. I only knew that when I heard myself that it finally dawned on me that my friends, my costars, my director, my mom, even my own grandmother hadn’t stopped me from making a boundless fool of myself in front of my peers and people I respected. What had all the applause meant? It meant that I had been a poor little village idiot to be wound up so he would perform for them. Well, perform I did. I didn’t even attempt to sing again for a year and a half.
The Sagittarius in me wanted to pretend none of this had ever happened. The Virgo in me wanted to softly and suddenly vanish away. As in Lewis Carroll’s tradition, I had mistaken this show for my Snark. It had revealed itself to be a Boojum and it was now time for me to disappear without a trace. However, something else in me wouldn’t stand for what had happened. This was a gross indignation! It was a perjury of trust and friendship. There was only one reasonable course of action I could take. Revenge! This was going to be much worse than anything sharp and pointy or flammable. This was going to be slow and meticulous revenge. Let me clarify that I am a self-proclaimed pacifist and had no intention of hurting anyone. I was going to revenge by turning around, spitting in everyone’s face who let me make an ass of myself and learn to hold my own in musical theatre just to prove I could. I would flip the bird to the world by showing it that I couldn’t be limited by a ridiculous setback like that. I learned the value of the truth that day.
Since becoming hell-bent on showing the world that it couldn’t make me its performing pity-case for long, I made it my mission to learn everything I could about my shortcomings. I studied alone, with friends and with teachers. I have since performed in fourteen musicals and earned each and every role I was given. I wasn’t cast out of frantic necessity anymore. I pulled myself up by my mismatched argyle socks and won every moment in the spotlight fair and square.
I finally showed my family what I could do after years of work in my recent portrayal of a character I can only describe as Prince Charming meets William Shatner meets satyriasis. This time I was complimented genuinely. Though I have yet to receive an apology from anyone in my family for omitting a necessary truth after all these years, and for allowing my scarring embarrassment, I feel mostly at peace with it…Mostly. 1986, my birth year, is the Chinese year of the tiger. Maybe it’s the ferocious cat that got me through the rough patch and helped me find the spark that had almost been snuffed. Maybe astrology is one honking load of horse shit. Regardless, I know exactly what the parts of my personality are doing right now. Sagittarius is holding his belly and laughing at life, Virgo is wiping the sweat from his brow and the Tiger is focused and ready to pounce at tomorrow.