Center stage. A single actor in a pool of white light, his jaw opening to sing the first note of “Santa Fe” from the musical, NEWSIES. That is the director’s main goal, in my opinion; to captivate audiences within the first couple of seconds. One of the director’s main roles is to help guide actors during rehearsals. When I was younger, nine or ten, my elementary school teacher told me that I could be an excellent teacher. That has stuck with me through the years. A lot of the teachers that I remember fondly have always taught me something I could never forget, usually something about myself or how the world perceives me. I want to give people that same spark that leads down the creative path of never ending joy and fascination and the only way that I know how is by doing something that comes naturally to me; being creative.
In third grade, I had just transferred to a new school and I was struggling to make friends so I did what I do best: pay attention. A group of girls was playing Four Square close to where I was getting some water after playing a round of kickball. They were talking about a movie that had come out on Disney Channel that I had seen, High School Musical. I tried talking about it with some guys and they said that it’s a girly movie. I eventually struck up a conversation with the blonde girl with a mole on her upper lip, Alyssa, which we both wound up “fangirling” over the movie.
We became friends and got into the same class in fourth grade with the devil as a teacher. That year, we decided to sing songs during recess. The first song that we sang came from High School Musical, “Breakin’ Free,” and we quickly went over to the easily best song from the entire series, “You’re The Music In Me.”
While we were performing, even if no one was paying attention to kids singing songs meant for high schoolers, we still sang our hearts out. When the novelization of High School Musical 2 came out, I devoured the book within days. Alyssa suggested to me, after reading it as well, to perform it for our families. That idea popped into my head and it was hard since I wanted to do everything, put everything possible for the fans. I guess that is why producers, directors, and screenwriters have to pick and choose what is absolutely necessary for adaptations. The idea of turning it into a script didn’t make it past an idea.
One evening when I was sitting at home watching Suite Life of Zack and Cody, an advertisement for a special edition of High School Musical 2 popped up. It was for the dance-along screening, when the actors teach the viewers how to do some choreography from a couple of the numbers in the movie. I wasn’t going to be dancing along, but I would probably catch it anyway. That morning was starting to get a little chilly, but Alyssa ran up to me as if she had some mind-blowing news for me. She told me about the dance edition and how excited she is for it; as a result, I was excited. It premiered and I was dancing along in my living room, since it seemed stupid not to do it. They were exercising to a video screen without anyone watching actually doing it. No wonder those people make money off of selling those workout videos, even they wind up collecting dust after one time of watching it. My parents must have thought that this was just a phase. The following day, Alyssa wanted to put in the dance moves into our performances. I was fine with it and we got to work with some of her friends that wanted to get some action.
Towards the end of the fourth grade, Alyssa took me to where we first sang, “You’re The Music In Me.” We sat on the silver bleachers where you could see the basketball court and a couple of the Four Square arenas. It was a little breezy and there a look of sadness on her face. I questioned her about her apparent sadness and told me devastating news. “My parents told me and my brother last night that my dad was stationed in North Carolina.”
“What does ‘stationed’ mean?” I asked nervously.
Alyssa sighed. “I’m moving.” The breeze seemed colder and made my blood chill.
“Next week.” That simple statement made my jaw drop to the ground. “We’ll stay friends,” she put her hand in mine and asked if we could sing her favorite song. She started to sing the first couple of notes of “Gotta Go My Own Way” and I joined in on Troy’s part and fought back tears.
The thought of professing my love for her crossed my mind several times, if it would’ve stopped her from moving. I was talking to a frenemy about the situation around me and Alyssa, he told me that I should take to the outskirts of the playground, confess my love for her and to kiss her. I even suggested that she should move into a friend’s house. There have been some crazy ideas through the years that have passed through my head. If it had happened, she would have never forgiven me. It was the end of my creative outlet as I knew it. I wished that I would have savored the creativity and fun that I had while it lasted.
Flash forward to the sixth grade, the start of middle school and high school was a place where conformity is a must. The walls of the “one room schoolhouse” were a slate gray; those backgrounds to those old, boring teachers who bore people to death or try and be “cool” with their students. I went there from sixth grade to sophomore year. You get an hour and a half of lunch and breaks; during sixth grade to freshman year, you got an extra hour twice a week for P.E. The rest of the time was on the computer in your dull, gray cubicle pushing yourself until you burn out and physically and mentally drained. The workload kept piling and piling up until you burst from exhaustion and stress. Then the drama was worse than I could have expected. A friend of mine that I had known for a while started to date this senior, while he was in eighth grade… It was weird for everyone involved and all of their friends. She was seventeen and he was fourteen. It still confuses me on how they are still a couple to this day.
I suffered through that until my Christmas Break during the sixth grade, when my aunt introduced me to my saving grace: Glee. It’s a little piece of my heart. I remember watching the opening cheerleading sequence and was absolutely captivated by the routine, Sue Sylvester's comments made it even better.
I was at the movies with my aunt when the fated Season Two episode when “Klaine” kissed. We continued to watch the show, just with my parents screening it ahead of me. I appreciated that they did a lot to help me with my desire for creativity; I wished that they would have let me know about it without sneaking behind their backs and finding out about the kiss. This lasted until they were on the West Side Story arc and the topic of sex came around for both of the main couples: “Finchel” and “Klaine.” Needless to say, they pulled the plug.
My aunt discovered this band, Celtic Thunder, for me. We were following this band and the youngest member, Damian McGinty, was going to be on this Glee-inspired reality show, The Glee Project. I found it before it premiered. Thank goodness. McGinty was scheduled to debut on the seventh episode, two episodes after my parents pulled the plug. I was unable to watch it without them knowing. I snuck around watching it online whenever I could, which I regret now, but not then.
My sophomore year I gave up and just didn’t go to school, I somehow was able to pass and get credit. I did my homework from home, spending all day sitting on my butt in a 73 degree house, trying to wrap my head around World War II and the Pythagorean Theorem. I would only go to my school when I had a test that needed to be done. It was a struggle just to get out of the house to go to school.
When I rejoined the regular schooling system, in my junior year, I gravitated towards what I missed and craved: the arts. I auditioned for my high school’s performing choir, with a song that I barely rehearsed: “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper. I didn’t make the cut, so I stayed in my Beginning Choir class. Then I auditioned for the school musical, GREASE. The director was a new drama teacher and hasn’t directed in a long time; so she enlisted the help of the past drama teacher who was an assistant teacher and the choir director. I didn’t know about that last part so I kept working on perfecting “True Colors.” I was probably the biggest amateur that they had ever seen. I wore this obnoxious yellow shirt that made me look sick. To make matters worse, the choir room was designed to also be a black box theatre, so those lights were on and the usual lights off. Lights focused on me, just waiting to hear me sing. The nervousness had never felt that bad and as soon as I saw the choir director, I wanted to blow him out of the water and demand that I be in performing choir. I cracked on the opening note and I could tell that they had lost interest. I regret not asking for help during that rigorous process.
Me being a guy, helped my chances of being cast, but I was fine with being in the ensemble. As the days got closer and closer to opening night, my grades started to suffer, a bad move on my part. I wasn’t used to the sheer amount of homework, but I was used to procrastinating until a couple weeks before the end of the semester.
Hell week, a.k.a. Tech Week, a.k.a. sit on your butt and do homework, if you aren’t a principal (lead), until you have your cue to go out onstage. That was my life. I was donned in costume and makeup (guy-liner is a thing, I don’t recommend it) for that period and time. Then opening night came upon us… I had that jittery feeling and it felt like I was about to throw up, The feeling of adrenaline was coursing through my veins.
BUM! BUM! BUM! Call was about to happen and my heart dropped to the pit of my stomach. When I stepped out on stage, essentially acting like a boy, the sense of having eyes on what I was doing was the best feeling in the world.
During my senior year, I was wanting to try out some backstage crew (techies or technicians) since I knew there was a greater chance for me to be more closely involved. As a result, the following year after Drama I was completed, I was involved with the advanced drama class, Production and Performance. My most favorite project that we had, we were assigned to was to direct a silent scene set to music. Two pieces instantaneously popped into my head: “We’ve Got Tonite” by Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton, then a piece from the movie, “Last Chance Harvey.” Then this plot came to me:
Jared and Mary have been married for seventeen years, since they were eighteen. Mary is unable to have kids and is homebound due to the amount of medication that she is on for her depression. Jared works at a publishing company and on his way to work, he grabs a grande Double Chocolate Chip Frappuccino from Starbucks then continues on his way, walking to work. One time, he meets this girl, Julie, that just grabs his attention and they start talking and walking together to the publishing company where Julie was just hired as an intern, in between her junior and senior year of college. They swap phone numbers and realize that they both have SnapChats. Jared tells his best friend from high school, Cameron, about him not getting any from Mary and about Julie being a hot thang. Cameron then mentions about this promotion coming out from the publishing company. Jared seems interested in the new position and applies. Julie and Jared start to sext with each other and Jared invited Julie to his house, while Mary is out shopping. Mary comes home to see the two of them in bed with each other. Mary leaves after slapping Jared. Julie is repulsed that she almost had sex with a married man and left him as well. All the while Cameron gets the promotion that Jared had been wanting. Jared is fired as a result of him not pulling his weight. Jared has officially lost everything in his life.
As the scene progressed deeper and deeper into the story, the audience continued to get into the plot and became emotionally invested. They loved the part when Jared brought Julie to his home and Mary found them. Despite the insane number of cliques from both sides of Jared’s life (his personal and professional sides), I got a lot of good critiques and I could see myself actually becoming a director for a career. Before I left for college, I obviously wanted some experience directing to see if I actually liked it; I didn’t want to throw thousands and thousands of dollars at a school for something that I wound up hating. My high school’s drama program wasn’t offering a student-directed show that year, so I signed up to be the Assistant Director for the Spring Play, A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream (AMND). AMND was an absolute monster to understand and work through. I regret not actually reading it before auditions started. I wished that I had gotten more hands-on experience while working that show since I felt like I neglected as a student and an artist, since I was only able to consult on two scenes out of the massive show. But I stuck out through the show and it came out quite nicely.
Alyssa and I caught up recently, thanks to Facebook, and we were laughing about how we were acting back then. She claims that there had to be several conversations between teachers just about the two of us and how we were destined for each other back then. I mentioned that most of the students felt that way, like we were actually Troy and Gabriella from High School Musical. She then asked me for some help describing Glee to a friend. I said that Glee is a more mature High School Musical or a musical version of Degrassi. She agreed with me. We talked about what would have been, if she didn’t move. I then mentioned the school that she would have gone to, the middle and high school that I went to. She was afraid of that place and I couldn’t blame her. Alyssa told me that through us performing together way back when, she participated in cheerleading throughout middle and high school.
Now at this point of my life, I’m pretty happy with most of my decisions that I made. The only I would regret is not being true to myself and finding a way to bring that creativity forcefully back into my life. I’m proud of my decision to study theatre and truly find that creativity that I will always need in my life. It would be sad if I wound up being one of those retirees who had those big Broadway dreams, and they’re doing a Neil Simon comedy at some poor community theatre. Who knows? If a career takes off for me, I’ll direct the piece that founded my dream, directing. Maybe I’ll even write it.