Taking Chances

January 11, 2010
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The crowd was cheering; they were going wild. I could feel excitement radiating off of them like the sun radiates heat as they cheered as much as they could without their arms dropping off. Cheers and praise bounced off the walls of the theater; we changed the gym into a theater, and shot straight into my ears. I tried desperately to absorb that praise. But they were not cheering for me.

Andrew and Kate stood in the middle of the stage, looking proud and confident. Andrew had been Danny and Kate had been Sandy. The other main parts stood around them, gathering the applause that wasn’t for the stars of the show. I was in the back, or as close to the back while everyone could see me, and forced one big, fake smile, and glued it to my face. It was one of those moments when you wish that you could just reverse time and go back to the moment where everything might have turned out completely different. I remembered the months before this day with sadness.

Mr. Brunell walked into the quiet room and looked at us steadily. We had requested that we do Grease, and yet his prolonged silence made me think that he had rejected our idea. It sent shivers down my spine.
“I have gathered your votes, and have decided which play we will be doing,” he paused, for effect of coarse, being the most dramatic person I knew.
“We are doing Grease!” Everyone stood up and cheered in a great uproar.
“Sit down! I ‘m not finished yet! Listen, you just so happened to choose one of the top five hardest plays to do in middle school. We need to be diligent and determined.” I was almost positive that no one was listening, but I didn’t care. We were doing a play about my favorite movie. Though a deep fear welled up in my heart. I prayed to God that I wouldn’t have a lead role. I recalled previous plays that I had done, the mess ups and the fear of being criticized, telling me about my flaws and what they don’t like about me. I just didn’t want any lines at all.

That night, when Mom walked through the door, looking tired and in a bad mood, I rushed up to her and said, “Hey, Mom! We decided to do Grease for our school play.” Her mood instantly switched and she gave me a big hug. I wanted to make her proud but I wondered if not having a lead role might not make her as proud as she could be. I shoved the thought aside as Mom began to speak.
“Oh Emma, I know you will do great and work hard,” she exclaimed

Practices were held after first period every day and seemed to be only five minutes as we practiced with Mr. Brunell. The days went by and the school year seemed to speed up. January came and then February. The roles had been cast out as volunteering moms slipped around and wrote our role on a scrap sheet of paper and stuck it to the inside of our lockers. When I opened up my locker, I saw that I had been chosen as one of the many Pink Ladies/Cheerleaders. I was just fine with that. I had issues with performing in front of large crowds. I couldn’t stand the thought of repeating lines in front of thousands of people, just waiting for me to mess up. And as I would mess up, I would forget the rest of my lines. It was a nerve-racking thought. Mr. Brunell continuously commented on my acting and dancing. I scarcely dared to think that he wanted to recast and have me as a lead role. I wouldn’t even know how to say no to that man. I tried to ignore it as much as possible.

Practices eventually became too complex to hold in the hot, musty basement anymore, so we migrated to the cold, spacious gym. The stage would be extended soon but we practiced lines and dances. The lines were hilarious and the dancing was even more fun. Josh had been paired up with Anna for the Hand Jive. When she was supposed to lean back into his arms, he wasn’t there. She fell with a thud on the floor and started to laugh hysterically. Everyone started to laugh with her, but felt bad for her at the same time. I was slightly nervous about being dipped back into my partner’s arms, but Mr. Brunell reassured me that he was strong enough to “pick up a house.” I wasn’t as nervous later on, thank goodness. As the dances developed and the lines were memorized, excitement began to settle into our hearts as if it had found a new home.

I was walking to practice with my friends, Ellen and Catherine. We were generally pretty happy and were all excited about practice, as usual. As we approached the gym, I could here faint shouting. We pushed open the doors and saw Mr. Brunell and a student who was rehearsing her lines.
“That wasn’t just bad, that was horrible!” The student looked at the edge of tears

My friends and I backed out of the door and waited for the rest of our grade. Thankfully, Mr. Brunell had stopped yelling at the student and they were patiently waiting. She looked cheerful enough, but the look on her face stuck to my mind like glue. What right did he have to judge her on her acting? She had never performed before, and if he worked with her instead of expecting her to be perfect on her first try, then the thought of Mr. Brunell, strict, angry man of theater who demands perfection, would be warped into Mr. Brunell the strong yet caring mentor who nurtured talent when it is not well developed, would be standing there. Practice went on that day but it seemed to be a bit more stressed than it used to.

We were required to take a rotation class for a free period ;I had Music. We were practicing rehearsing with emotion and as soon as the bell rang my classmates shot out the door. I was about to leave when Mr. Brunell called me to his desk. I was nervous and wondered what he wanted.
“Emma, you are a good actor. I want you to play as Cha-cha’s understudy. I nodded briskly and walked out the door after my class. When I was halfway to my locker, it set in that I was an understudy. I panicked and ran to Ellen.
“I was forced to be an understudy! Forced I tell you! Forced!” I nearly screamed.
“Calmed down. I am sure you weren’t forced. Mr. Brunell would have given you a choice,” she assured me. I wasn’t so sure. He could be pretty scary and I think he knew that and used it to his advantage. I thought about it for days and finally got the nerve to tell him that I didn’t want to be an understudy. I stiffly walked to his room; each step felt like I was trudging through near solid cement.
“Mr. Brunell, I don’t really want to be an understudy,” I stammered. He looked at me and muttered one word that made me flinch.

Over the next few days, I got over the shock that Mr. Brunell had practically yelled at me. I liked him as a teacher and I didn’t want him mad at me. I think he got over it too, after he found another understudy. Practices continued and the final day was coming pretty darn fast for how much we had gotten done. The costumes arrived and the girls got giddy with excitement to try on the prom dresses, cheerleading uniforms, and tuxedos. I felt like another person and I was truly happy, even when one of the moms stabbed me with a pin. At last we finished and the props were set, the preparations were made and the first of two shows was about to begin. We performed once for the school and once for the parents at night. As we prepared for the first show, I thought about how nervous I would be when we did the second show.

The show began and we got into our places for Summer Nights. We went through it with ease and made no flaws. The lower grades did the Hand Jive with us and were nearly jumping out of their own skin with excitement. I couldn’t help but laugh during that particular dance because of the look of thrill on everyone’s faces. The first show was over and we waited to do the next show. We walked to dinner and chattered about how fun it was. After that, the girls went to their dressing room, the ballet room, and did a dance exercise to work off the food. The moments before the play were truly enjoyable and I will always remember them.

As we waited for the show to begin, the parents were congratulating Kate and Andrew. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would feel that same praise if I had been an understudy. The thoughts swirled around in my head as I got my hair curled and had my hair completely showered in hair spray. At last it was time to go onto the stage, and the show began.

We went through the play with a few errors, but they didn’t mess us up too badly. The next day was bad because we had ended the show at ten o’ clock and I had gone to bed at eleven. We were all so tired and I almost fell asleep in class. I couldn’t stop thinking of the chance I hadn’t taken, the opportunity to make myself feel and look great. I would have felt better if I had agreed to be the understudy of Cha-cha. The road not taken almost seemed clear; I could imagine what would have happened, but it didn’t because of horrible thing called fear. Some things are better left undone, but this wasn’t one of those things.

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