With my birthday in a just a few weeks, I am enjoying this time contemplating what I’m grateful for.
I have much in my present which I very much appreciate. And though I’m looking to the future, my past is obviously what brought me here. There are some very specific memories that come to mind.
My grade school did not have a choir or really provide any vocal classes. We’d all sing in class, but, as I recall, it was simply about learning the words, nothing about learning to use your voice as an instrument.
And we occasionally had little shows where each class would learn a dance or sing a song as a group. However, there was no program that enabled us to better our singing, dancing, or acting skills.
Then when I went to high school, it was the opposite. These kids had mainly grown up together and had access to vocal lessons and performance opportunities throughout elementary school.
Incredibly naive and shy, it never occurred to me that I could audition for any of the productions my high school put on, even the ones that were not musicals.
I presumed the students who were involved in theatre were born with the acting gene. They were a special group of which I was not a member. So I never gave it a thought, except to watch from the audience with envy.
The opportunities I had to perform were during the annual talent ‘Corral Show’. Thus named because we were the Wyoming Cowboys (in, Ohio).
Anyone could sign up to participate, and my friends and I would get together and make up skits to perform that usually involved a dance that one of the alums from our school who was a dancer would help us choreograph.
One year my friend, Carolyn, and I decided we were going to actually do a duet. Carolyn’s Mom, Mary, suggested the song, ‘Sisters’ from the movie White Christmas. Keep in mind, I had no training or idea how to sing. Carolyn and I would get together at her house and her Mom would sit patiently at the piano and play the song while Carolyn and I tried our best to sing.
‘Tried’ being the operative word.
After we struggled through a few rehearsals, Mary presented the idea that we recite the song instead of singing, and even wrote an intro for us. On the night of the show, Carolyn and I sat on the edge of the stage, matching outfits and ponytails on opposite sides of our heads, and recited…
“We are sweet and pretty, and we know a song that’s swell. The only trouble is, we don’t sing very well…”
And then began the song.
Great idea, Mary!
Several years later, in my mid-20s, I was feeling lost. I’d gone to college but struggled with no sense of what I really was doing there, so I finished what I had to do to receive a 2-year degree in General Studies. I caught my boyfriend in bed with a girl who was supposed to be my friend. I had moved back into Daddy’s house. And I was now working a full-time job that was not very fulfilling.
My sister was living in New York and invited me to spend a weekend with her–my first trip to New York. I had a great time. But when I came home, I still felt trapped, confused. Perhaps even more so.
I had very little confidence and, even if I had believed in myself, which I didn’t, no sense of direction.
Daddy had always supported my dream of being an actor that I’d had since I was a kid. But other than moving to Hollywood, he wasn’t familiar with what I could do on a local level to make it happen.
Along comes Mary.
Though I don’t think Carolyn and I were currently in touch, the day after I returned from New York, Mary, Carolyn’s mother, called me. The local community theatre was having auditions for a play called, Wayside Motor Inn and Mary thought I should audition.
I should mention, I don’t believe I’d ever told Mary my dream of being an actor. Regardless, she thought of me for this play, took the initiative to call me, and encouraged me to try out.
Something in me clicked. It made me feel scared and special at the same time. I’d never been to an audition, unless you include when I went out for Teen Board. But that was a team modeling gig for a local department store for which I actually won a spot on. But my parents couldn’t drive me to the weekly events so I had to forego the opportunity.
So, with no idea what to expect, and a little coaxing from Mary…
I don’t recall the actual audition, but I do remember the walk just a few blocks down the street to my first audition ever. I couldn’t believe it- I was cast (Thank you, Clint!). Now hooked on acting, I went on to perform non-stop in community theatre productions all over the city for the next several years. Mary and I were even in one together in our local group.
There are a few other things I barely skimmed the surface of in attempts to be an actor in my teens and early 20’s. But as insecure as I was, nothing stuck. So, when Mary called and encouraged me to audition for that play, it made me feel that perhaps my dream wasn’t crazy.
Though I don’t act so much anymore, and I’m on the production side of the industry more often than not, Mary’s phone call, and her believing in me, were undoubtedly the beginning of me believing in myself enough to not only say I wanted to be an actor, but to lead me to where I am now–moving forward on my filmmaking career, sharing stories as a director.
I am grateful for Mary, who although she knew I couldn’t sing, she saw I had talent as an actor and believed in me enough so much she made the phone call that really started it all for me.