If there’s one thing you’ll learn about me if we ever get to hang out is that I like making people laugh. As far as I can remember, I’ve always been a ham and standing in front of crowds neither frightens nor bothers me. And if I ever learned a new way to make people laugh, I’d become the best whatever it is to get the best kind of laugh out of people. When I was five years old I taught myself how to burp on command. For the following 10-15 years I was the burping king. Now, well, if I’m not careful I’ll hurt myself. Yep – I’m not as young as I used to be. Yet, while my powers of intentional gastric manipulation have diminished, my affinity for the stage has not…clearly.
In high school I joined a drama group based out of
. It was called Christian Youth Theater (CYT). Now, that name alone can tell you all kinds of things, but I’ll just let you know it was a lot of fun. What they’d do is take stories and fairytales and give them a “spiritual twist.” The year I joined, Beauty and the Beast was the production we’d be performing. Fuquay-Varina, NC
It was my sophomore year of high school. Puberty and a couple years of marching band under my belt had been good to me. I was 15 and had never yet had a girlfriend. Joining CYT I learned that any artsy and/or religious activity will probably have a majority of female participants. This was a fantastic combination. Of course, this was not the reason I joined – I joined because I wanted to act; it just happened to be amongst several Christian-themed babes.
And then there was the play. I had never been in any kind of production larger than a church play or choir performance with speaking lines (see: cantata). At CYT we were going to have costumes, a set, and a program with our bios in it (!) – this was a big deal! So when it came time to audition for the parts I would have just been happy to be the spiritual equivalent of Cogsworth or Lumiere; maybe Gaston because then I could be obnoxious with abandon (only onstage and in rehearsal, of course (of course)).
So, I don’t remember what monologue I chose. Around that time probably something from Star Wars…maybe something I had picked up from Shakespeare, but for my song, I chose to do an a cappella rendition of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in the style of the Temptations/California Raisins. It’s a song I know very well, and it’s a style I love. Again, I didn’t care what role I would get – I just wanted to be onstage and do whatever part I could.
I was cast as the Beast. I was stunned. It was great, it was fun; I got to carry on and roar and be mean and growl at people – in one performance I made a couple of little kids cry in fear – it was great! I mean, in the end they were fine because the Beast turns into a man and is nice again, but still!
Anyway, the point is, I went into the audition with nothing to lose. I knew I’d get a part (everyone is guaranteed at least that), and that’s all I wanted. I was not invested in any role – I wasn’t going for anything in particular. If I was cast in a supporting role or an extra for the village scenes, that would have been fine! I just wanted to be in something where I could be onstage, sing, dance, do my thing.
And that’s something that’s stuck with me from then until now. When I’m not trying for anything, when I just show up to do whatever part I can, then I get everything. When I forget myself and have a very narrow focus and must get a certain something, then that becomes my everything, and without fail I end up losing it. Then I’ve lost my everything. Quite frankly, that’s a rotten place to be. The other place, where you have nothing to lose – that’s a great place to be.