Monday, August 1, 2011

Nothing to Lose

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 Fuquay-Varina, NC.  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.

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.