Crazed Wildcats

September 26, 2012
Sprawled out on the warm concrete, soaking in the hot California sun in my spaghetti-strap tank top and jean shorts, I thought to myself, “Wow, I haven’t eaten yet today.”

It was about an hour after school and all of the drama kids at Whitney High School were frantically preparing for another night of the coveted Theatre Festival. The concept was simple, a bunch of plays, all with a thirty-minute time limit, all put together in a few months, all, of course, school appropriate, and all created entirely by students. The shows were on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night for three weeks, with each play showing, at the most, three times. Call time was 6:00pm for all cast members, directors and tech people, but most of us just stayed at school all day until that time came. What happens when you put a big group of theatre students on a pretty much empty campus for a few hours? You get games of “pass the shoes,” Panic at the Disco jamming sessions, a complicated adventure to get a can of chocolate Axe back, discussions of the ghostly beliefs on an Indian reservation, risky games of “chicken” minus the water, and other interesting occurrences produced by high school teenagers.

I was hanging out with my friends Blu, Montana, Lynsey, Casey and Kelly. I had realized my hunger during a rare silent break in our conversation. Luckily, Kelly’s amazing father was on his way with Taco Bell for everyone. Not my first food choice, but I learned to deal with it after hearing the constant, annoying gurgles coming from my stomach. He arrived with bags and bags of greasy, spicy-smelling fast food. Since no one, including me, really put in an order – Kelly’s dad just bought what he thought would satisfy the crowd – I was just handed what Kelly happened to grab for me; my very first Crunch Wrap Supreme. The fates collided. Some sort of majestic force had persuaded Kelly’s hand to grab that delicious wrap and transport it to my hand. That thing was amazing. From the first bite, I knew what I’d be ordering at Taco Bell from then on.

After our little meal, the group continued on with our pointless antics a little more. We played games, gossiped about everyone who wasn’t there, typical stupid teenage activities that are, for some reason, satisfying. One of the people we gossiped about, someone we discussed regularly (every teenage girl in the Whitney High School theatre department was admittedly in love with him), was Mr. Eldredge. He had a brown head of hair paired with a matching beard, his height was more than enough to satisfy his life on stage, and when I was twelve, I told him he looked like the Geico caveman. He was the director of our extravagant theatre department. The fact that he held such a high position in a theatre program based in California made him too easily admirable. Every one of his students, mostly female, but a few male, fell from A to Z, hook line and sinker, full heart and soul in love with him.

Of course, this love was harmless, more like a little crush than anything meaningful. The only instances where it was not harmless were only spoken of in rumors, none of them proven and none of them true. I watched, I listened, I witnessed these crushes. His effect on these girls was almost unbelievable, but our raging hormones and high school need for acceptance was more than enough to prove that these girls would willingly admit to crushing on a teacher, especially this teacher. Even I have to admit that I was somewhat attracted to him. But, he was a teacher, so even the spoken thought of a relationship was disgusting. So, girls he walked passed would drool, get really excited and immediately catch up to him. They would start a friendly conversation, but he, exposed to the obvious attraction, respectfully declined. He was a great guy, not one to ruin his reputation with a mistake. And he was a brilliant teacher. I doubt I will ever come across a teacher who will make a classroom as interesting, entertaining or sneakily educational as he did. In all my years at public school, he has been, by far, my favorite teacher. It was only appropriate that on this very special day, I was sitting in a circle, giggling over how much my friends and I loved him.

But, these circling subjects ¬¬– Mr. Eldredge, the hunger, the Taco Bell – all held a low position of importance in the competition for my attention. Oh, I had much larger things to think about. That night was the opening night of my silly little skit, Crazed Wildcats, written, directed and organized by my tiny freshman self. It was a typical teenage romantic comedy following three couples through the first couple weeks of their junior year. It was funny, quirky and made sensational by the top actors at my school that I somehow managed to snag; including Montana, Lynsey and Blu. I was so excited that my arms itched, which always seemed to happen when one of my emotions dominated over the rest. It was like my arm was my own personal alarm, a distraction from what I actually wanted to do, but with an important warning. It was the only part of my body that saw what could potentially be a huge disaster, and it was desperately trying to tell my brain. But I wouldn’t let it, I just scratched the message away.

When 6:00 finally came around, I was frantic. I rushed around checking on my props, my lights, my radio backstage that needed an extension cord, my curtain people, every one of my costumes, making sure all of my tech people knew exactly what to do, and unsuccessfully finding time for a little snack and a few sips of water. I was very busy. But, while checking on all of that, I overlooked a brutally important detail; my actors.
I just assumed they were all ready to roll, as was etiquette in the theatre world, but I was wrong. One of them was missing. Lanina, a “friend” of mine, someone who normally didn’t associate with the theatre people, wasn’t there and wasn’t answering her phone. Let’s just say she’s lucky her part was small and easily replaceable by me, a decision made so quickly that nervousness didn’t even have the chance to set in. Suppressing my anger towards Lanina, I was ready to get out there and put on a great show.

In the dressing room, while putting on the skimpy costume required for my character, Maddy Stockell, a very well-known member of WHS theatre, actually talked to me. She said she was excited for my show and asked if I was nervous. I responded with, “I have no time to be nervous.” Two things surprised me about this encounter. First, she was excited to see my play. My expectation was that it would turn out good, but not great, and definitely not the best. I expected people would say, in faked excitement, that it was “Greeeeat…” But, these expectations were slightly improved after hearing Maddy was excited. If she was looking forward to it, something good had to come of it. Second, Maddy actually had a personal conversation with me. Though short and sweet, it was still a conversation. As a freshman, getting that made me actually feel accepted by high school. Strangely though, that wasn’t the first time that happened. A couple times before that, WHS theatre legends came up to me, asking about the play. Crazed was making a mark. And now it was time to satisfy the expectations.

Our small cast and crew filed backstage and waited in silence as Mr. Eldredge introduced our play. My two main tech members, Lauren and Deana, had their hands on a set piece, ready for the first scene change. The cast was in costume, ready to run on after the couch and chairs were in place. I put on the headset, ready to cue the lights while Taco Bell churned in my stomach. It was time for business.

Standing in the spot where I would spend most of the show in, I could see Mr. Eldredge, speaking to the audience of about forty people, introducing Crazed. He turned his head toward me and half-mouthed, half-said, “Everyone ready?” I smiled and nodded with a little too much excitement. He turned back to the audience and said, “Ok then. Here’s Crazed Wildcats!” and walked off, beginning a small applause, one last way of wishing good luck.

Our lives, previously paused in suspense, snapped awake as the play began.

The play rolled by perfectly up to the scene change between scenes two and three. I was blinded by curtains and could not see the progress of what was happening on stage. Thinking everything was ready I said through the mic, “Lights up.” The stage lit up, right on Lauren and Deana attempting to tape a sign to the back curtain. They quickly ran off stage, leaving the sign loosely taped to the curtain. And, well, when the scene began, it fell. Of course, being the extremely paranoid person I am, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t that big of a deal and proceeded to freak out over the headset. Thank God Dana, our lights girl, knew how to calm me down by saying that if the actors kept doing what they were supposed to do, the audience would barely notice.

Finally, the time came for my scene, number seven, the only one my character was in. She would’ve been in two if Lanina showed up, but I don’t hold grudges. I handed one of my actors, Levi, the headset, scurried to my position and looked out to see if the stage was ready. With one last deep breath, I gave Levi the signal to say, “Lights up.”

Strutting out on stage, I couldn’t help but take a peek at who was watching. Of course, a girl I could not stand, probably my mortal enemy of that year, the cruelest, most selfish and stupidest girl I have ever come across, Lindsey Hendrickson, was sitting right up front. The only sound I heard walking out there was her saying, “Oh, God.” That probably gave me the most motivation to absolutely dominate that scene. There was just something about that girl that always made me want to be better than her. Disregarding this silent battle, my eyes quickly swept passed her and saw something else. All the seats were filled. Could all of these people have come to see Crazed? I had no idea. All that really mattered was that they were there, watching my play and not booing.

The scene went beautifully. It was just Max and me up there and, if I may say so, we both nailed it! The only thing that really went wrong was unnoticeable to the audience. At one point, I had to kiss Max. Well, I guess I went in too fast because he didn’t have enough time to close his mouth and I ended up kissing his teeth. Not the greatest experience, but hey, I got to kiss Whitney High School theatre department king, Max Jacobs, so it wasn’t that bad at all.

Scene after scene glided by with people throwing clothes everywhere, pushing set pieces into place, running to the other side of the stage, walking on for their moment in the spotlight and finally running off, often out of breath, to begin the whole process again. My nomadic abilities were unfortunately suppressed by the fact that I was connected to a headset. So, I mostly supervised, whispering sharply to those around me, throwing commands around so others could do the moving I wasn’t prevented from. But I still stayed on my toes, in control, even though I was limited to about a three-foot radius. Although, that was all the space I needed. My actors, who I trusted with my life, more than filled in the gaps where I would’ve been useful. Most of them were seniors, so operating backstage had become wired in their brains. Thank God for that, or this play would’ve been a repulsive disaster.

The final scene came around, went by with the same stumbling perfection of the others, and it was over. We all made it through our first show. I yelled at everyone backstage to just get out there and take a bow! So we ran out, stood in line, held hands, raised our arms to the ceiling and took a huge bow. The audience cheered and cheered, filling a small space with roaring noise. Rising up from the bow, our big, bright smiles saw, to our surprise, that everyone was standing.

In that moment, in front of a standing ovation worshipping something I created, I felt something I can’t quite describe. A feeling so great, so special, so rare that it can only be felt during the exceedingly memorable moments of your life. Once you feel it, you know that that moment will be one you will never forget.

The thing about this play was that it was so stupid. It was so predictable that I bet every audience member knew exactly how it was going to end. But they still stood and cheered. Those outstanding actors took some words that I just threw on a few pages and turned them into a show. That’s what made it different. That’s what made it more than just some cheesy chick flick. That’s what made everyone laugh and smile, “aww” and “ooh,” stand and cheer. That’s what made my silly little skit into a performance.

Amidst the chaos of cheers, Mr. Eldredge came down from the audience. He walked right up to me, gave me a big, congratulatory hug and said, “You did it!” He announced the ending of the program – our little play closed the night – and stayed on stage to visit and congratulate my actors. Later, my mom, who had come to see it that night, told me that Crazed Wildcats was the only play he came out to watch.


Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

Site Feedback