“Matt, you would be perfect in the school play. Why don’t you want to do it?”
Ever since elementary school, my parents have been pestering me to take part in a school play. But doing one seemed daunting and I thought I could never qualify for it. As a fourth and fifth grader, I thought it was nearly impossible to learn the lines and recite them on a stage with dozens of critical people watching me. I could see it then; I’m standing there clueless and speechless on stage with the oppressive lights beaming down on me.
People from the audience watch in awkward silence as my trembling voice attempts to find any sort of line to get myself through the scene. Everyone in the school is there to see me fail, while my parents, my sister, and a slew of relatives witness it all in embarrassment. It would be humiliating; a train wreck waiting to happen. So to avoid this catastrophe I rejected the idea all together. The closest I ever got to participating in it was being an usher for Annie when I was in the fourth grade. “No one has ever criticized the usher,” I thought.
I was reminded again of musical productions once I entered high school. And like my younger self, I thought that there was no way I could do a play. During my freshman year, the choral director put on How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. I went to go watch it, seeing the cast in vintage business attire singing tunes about coffee and love in a bright yellow set made to mimic a flashy office building. My favorite song was “Grand Old Ivy,” which was one of the funnier songs in the production about a prestigious university the boss attended as a young man. I thought about how much skill it must have taken them to perform it and I was blown away by many of their performances. I thought how there was no way that I could partake in it. I would noticeably stumble on a line, I would freeze on stage, or I would ruin the plot of the show somehow by forgetting to come on for one of the many scene changes, leaving everyone else stranded on stage in utter confusion. And it did not help that my friend, Brett, was constantly at yet another play rehearsal. Not only did plays appear to be a gateway for failure, but I feared that signing up would leave me overwhelmed with rehearsals and stress leading up to the show dates. Nuh uh, this would not be fit for me.
During my sophomore year, the planned musical production was Anything Goes. Brett wanted me to take part in that year’s musical. He continuously attempted to persuade me to go to the auditions because, like my parents, he saw the potential I had, but I continuously shot his notion down. Eventually, his constant persuasion caused me to cave and I reluctantly agreed to audition. I thought, “How bad could this be? I can dance in a few numbers and hang out with some of my friends.” As it turned out, I walked out of the audition with a principal role as Evelyn Oakley, a goofy British character with his own song. Once it came time to perform, I instantly loved the rush and adrenaline of being on stage with all eyes on me, which caused me to even do that year’s summer musical, Guys and Dolls, where I played Sky Masterson. My decision to do an activity that I dreaded for the longest time has allowed me to have a more open outlook, and will possibly have an effect over other future decisions. As I look back on that little elementary kid, I can’t help but think I should have just gone to those auditions, as I did in high school.