Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lessons of Childhood Acting: Drama Isn't Just On The Stage

I know what you're thinking... "Kiri, omg, shut up about your childhood."

...Last one this week, I promise.

So I'd mentioned that by 7th grade I'd come to accept that I was a misfit, I believe, yes? And this was an awesome thing for me except, oddly (and I suspect this is due to the fact that I grew up in Aberdeen, Washington, the puddle where Kurt Cobain did spring from) being a misfit didn't work out that great for me even when it came to theater.

See drama is all well and good but they never tell you that even if you're watching Hamlet, the drama you see on stage is usually a watered down version of what's going on behind the curtain. Not always, mind you, thank Shakespeare, but often. Even when you're only 12 years old.

7th Street Kids Theater was--is a children's theater group in Hoquiam, Washington. If you're a football fan, I want you to imagine the feud between Huskies and Cougars and then pretend that they were two high schools in two towns that were so close together you could have one foot in each at the same time. Capulets and Montagues, Aberdeen and Hoquiam.

Ridiculous.

Anyway, you get an idea of the geography and really the relationship between the two towns, other than distance, is really irrelevant in this story. You just need to know I didn't have to go too far to get to this theater.

So I had heard about this theater through a girl who I went to church with named Sidney. Sidney was gorgeous and talented and her mother was the audio-visual guru of I swear the whole city, so on top of her looks and talent she had connections and to make matters worse, the girl was ridiculously nice.

I know, right? With that much on her side, part of you would almost wish she was secretly an absolute witch. Ah well.

Though sadly we were friendly and not friends--and the reason I say this is sad is because I was kind of on my own when it came to auditions. She helped sign me in (she was a year or two my senior) and then rejoined with her own friends.

This wasn't a problem, I made a friend almost instantly. She was sitting on her own and in my head if you're alone and I'm alone, clearly we can fix both problems by talking and being friends.

Her name was Ty Lynn. Or rather that was her first and middle name but she liked how when spoken together, it sounded almost Chinese. This girl was about as freckled and white as I was because... ethnicity variation in Aberdeen is almost non-existent.

The brilliant movie cast
However it was oddly fitting (in the vein of, "that's kind of inappropriate") considering we were auditioning to be in a rendition of 'The Wiz'. Not 'The Wizard of Oz', mind you, no. We were doing 'The Wiz', which was a fantastic yet very steeped in late 70's African American culture. It starred both Diana Ross AND Michael Jackson and was both a celebration of the original story and the 1970's era.

At the time I was a little too young to quite understand the full weight of why this was messed up, but some part of me did feel something was off. Looking back at it now? Wow. My first reservation with this is that it was definitely not a children's show, looking back on it. I mean, our oldest actor was 17, and the youngest was probably about... 6? And while I do enjoy the movie, it is infused with some 70's drug references and the "Poppy Girls" are even described as prostitutes. These same "Poppies" were cuted up as they were played by young children and all drug references were... less than gracefully glossed over.

The second reservation I have with this is that it was made to be a celebration of a particular culture and ethnicity and yet Aberdeen is... I think there was one little black girl (she was playing a poppy, that's how young she was) in the entire cast. To be fair, the entire area is pretty damn white-washed so they kinda had to work with whatever kids were available but it still seemed pretty disrespectful--especially since all of the characters in turn just became awkward white kids. I mean maybe if they'd tried to teach us about the era and what influenced what it'd be different..?

BTW Twilight fans? Forks is also painfully white-washed. I've been to Forks. I actually applaud the Twilight movie for having so much diversity--if only those piss-poor towns could be that awesomely diverse. Were that the case, maybe they wouldn't be breeding so many ignorant people who can't understand that there's a difference between Japanese or Korean and that Muslim is a religion, not an ethnicity, but I'm getting off subject again.

Wow, that's a road, I didn't mean to go down and would be best for a different blog post. Pardon my rage.

Anyway, Ty and I met up with a friend of mine from junior high named Kristen, we ended up all getting chorus parts and we Charlie Angled it up as 3 lovely misfits who didn't much care if we fit in with everyone else.

...and then it all went down hill.

The Poppy Girls from the movie
There was a particular boy, and I cannot stress the word boy enough in this story because I have high hopes that eventually he grew up into a man and stopped using others as a means of making himself feel important. But this particular boy--who amusingly enough was the same boy who sang through his nose in my last story (he still sung through his nose, btw and one time during jazz choir at school, I even informed him of it.) Admittedly this was during the 90's where this kind of singing wasn't too frowned on because half of the pop stars were employing it (IE Earthy Britney Spears).

But he was a boy who (whiny nasal pop sound aside) could carry a tune well and could dance. In my opinion, he was a far better dancer than singer or actor combined. So naturally he acquired quite a few parts, especially in Musical Theater. And he thought he was just the shit.

And unfortunately, so did Ty.

Poor girl had it bad for this kid. Biggest damn crush ever.

And this kid, this bratty Regina George-runner up (I mean it, this boy wasn't mean, he was catty) found out--mainly because Ty didn't go to much trouble to hide it--and proceeded to absolutely torment her.

Not.

Even.

Kidding.

He and his group of soon-to-be plastics, chattering away, pointing fingers, making snide comments as we passed.

Jerk made her cry. And they continued. For no other damn reason other than they could.

And then because we hung out with Ty, for some reason that meant that Kristen and I must have been his fan girls... because that's the kind of ego this kid had on him.

Now admittedly, I imagine that Ty's crush probably dissipated not too long after he showed his asshattery but it was the start of the run and there was no turning back. For about two and a half months of my summer, these people tried to just rip us apart. Admittedly they didn't really succeed because their attempts were pretty laughable and frankly, they just weren't that smart but it's the intent that matters right now.

I love actors but some of them love drama. They love creating it, they love being in it, and they'll pull you into it even if you did nothing to provoke it. But hey, if you love theater, don't let that be what deters you. Because unfortunately? Those self-loving, catty bastards? They're everywhere.

Ty didn't come back to 7th Street the following summer. I can't say I blame her. Course jerk-boy had the nerve to ask me where Ty was...

And I kind of lost it. Don't get me wrong, he completely deserved what I said to him and I surprisingly managed to be caustic but calm--possibly because I knew I was going to move before next school year and I had nothing to lose. Regardless, that was a turning point. I realized I loved theater and not even this asshole, or any of his little cronies, were going to keep me away from that.

That, dear children, is the day I started to grow a real spine.

2 comments:

  1. I did some theater in middle and high school. The annual high school musical was always a huge production....one that I dreamed of from the time I was a little kid until I was in high school. I never got any lead roles though I dreamed of it. Looking back it's probably because I wasn't part of the directors' "favorite" crowd. I knew I could sing (better than some of the people cast as leads if number of solos in the choir counted for anything...but I digress), and I thought I could act. But I only ever was cast with minor/supporting (usually comic) roles. Not that they weren't fun (because they *were* probably the most fun roles in a given show) but I always thought I could do better. To this day, I would really like to know if my casting was due to favoritism or if I had an overinflated ego.

    Also, I have a question: did you ever notice a clustering/feud between actors and techies? In my high school, The Actors pursued most of the Drama where the Techies were mostly the awesome folks who worked the lights soundboard and climbed the catwalk in stiletto heels (This was not me. I would have died)...but also kinda had this vibe that the Actors were shallow and egotistical. This of course made for moments of awkward for someone like me who did both. My preference of role was always for the stage, but I adored spending time with the Tech crew.

    Of course, there was a similar band/chorus split in my high school too....(chorus=Actors, band=Techies), which oddly enough I had the same split between skill/people preferences....

    Okay, I'll stop blathering now.

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  2. My high school drama teacher was really good about making the actors take the tech class and vice versa but I do remember some serious issues with the choir kids who would come in for the musicals. They would get a little too much, "I can sing, dance and act and therefore I'm the shit."

    There are people who get that way but... I feel like theater is the extreme of the real world. You will meet both some of the best people you will ever encounter and also the worst.

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