A Character Sketch of the Thespians of High School X

April 28, 2010
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The theatre often has glamorous connotations of beautiful starlets, audience adoration, and backstage intrigue. It is quite unfortunate that this glowing fantasy does not manifest itself in the reality of high school theatre (although I’m sure that the business of Broadway does not live up to this dazzling image either). Ideally, high school theatre would be where students bring together their mutual loves of showmanship and technical precision to create delightful entertainment for the local community. Instead, it becomes a stage for the petty teenage dramas of social rejects and “artsy” youth. It is on this stage that a host of characters enacts their high school tale of hierarchy and romance.

I came to the theatre program at my school as an impressionable young girl looking for artistic expression and self-actualization. What I found was a complicated production already in full swing before my arrival. The plot was already so thick and the principle roles were already taken, so I assumed the supporting part of critical observer, constantly conflicted between scoffing at everyone else and wanting to be like everyone else. For some unfathomable reason, I was sucked in by the charm of a crowd of people passing judgment on you – and only you – while you sweat under a hot light. However, after three years of making a fool of myself in public on an elevated platform, I have realized that I am better off playing a minor part rather than getting mixed up in the center stage action.

Center stage of the local high school thespian social scene is dominated by the overpowering presence of the egomaniac. The program will read “cast list” but he will see the words “me featuring everyone else.” He assumes correctly that he is beloved by many – while incorrectly assuming that this love is untainted by dislike – because he has a big personality that can outshine the brightest spotlight (or the dimmest and least talented cast member). His attention grabbing antics – such as his constant commentary and exaggerated facial expressions (I think they’re meant to be amusing) – cause a general annoyance among the cast members. And yet, despite the sometimes overpowering force of his character, the egomaniac manages to earn forgiveness for his minor faults and wins over everyone with the charismatic charm of a leading man. He expects to be adored, but in turn he gives the world the benefit of his witty stand-up and never ending good humor. When this critical young author directed the funny man to insert his abundant supply of confidence up his posterior, he good naturedly replied that this was precisely the reason he had such abounding self-confidence; there was a firmly embedded and constant supply of it to his bloodstream.
The egomaniac actually maintains the inflated state of his pride through a series of assumptions: that he is talented beyond belief, that every female in the immediate area secretly wants him, that he is strong and good looking, that he’s amusing and clever, and that people will always want to hear what he has to say (because his conversation about intriguing and unusual topics is just so fascinating). The facts that he always gets the lead in every production and that girls with lack of taste will give him a show on command, only serve to further entrench these presumptions in his mind. Armed with an ego of steel, the egomaniac feels entitled to his place in the limelight. Consequently, he feels no need to work for anything and his greatest vice is laziness. Ask him to perform a task not explicitly required (or one required, for that matter) and he will whine about being assigned extra homework. He should realize that outside of high school there is no homework, just work that will put a roof over his head. And yet, in defiance of all my snide comments about his lack of work ethic, he remains a pleasant colleague to collaborate with on performance projects due to his never ending energy and creativity – his tendency to not have his lines memorized notwithstanding. One can only hope that when the curtain falls on the final graduation scene, this poor misguided soul will let a hefty dose of reality save him from himself. For he is far from being the prime male specimen he sees himself as and his talent is only bright because of the utter lack of competition. Of course, with his unshakeable cocksure attitude he could just as easily end up as the star of his own police drama complete with heroic drug busts and beautiful women.
If you let yourself be dazzled by the egomaniac’s self-assured aura, you can easily miss some of the unusual characters further upstage (concealed by a strategically placed piece of scenery). One such personage is the hapless queer constantly seeking love and attention. His high, breathy voice tickles your ear with playful flirtation like a subtle breeze. He almost redeems himself from strangeness when his eyes sparkle beautifully like a warm amber stone whenever he greets another fellow thespian. He is not the most graceful or talented of actors and is one of the reasons everyone thinks the egomaniac is so great, everyone else is so undignified. And the hapless queer is most undignified when he crawls up to anyone nearby begging for a hug. It is much like having your leg assaulted by a whining puppy dog in that the situation is distasteful and pitiful. All he wants is someone to say, “I love for your beautiful soul” and to hug him 50 times a day. He doesn’t think he’s asking for much, but I find it difficult to fathom why anyone would want to be so physically close with someone who likes to kiss strangers on the shoulder.
The character types on our school stage vary widely, but they all have one trait in common – everyone loves everyone. Actually, a more accurate statement would be everyone loves a lot of people, because such a utopian concept of universal love is simply unattainable. Inside the cast there are multiple love trysts, triangles, squares, and multi-person polygons. An audience looks at the stage picture and sees an assortment of youngsters with plastic smiles and choreographed poses. However, if you look closely you will notice that the kid in the bear costume and elephants #1 and 2 are standing suspiciously close, the boy wearing tights is surrounded by five angry looking female birds, the lion and elephant #3 have disappeared mysteriously somewhere back stage, and the little woman wearing yellow is exasperated from fighting off sticky fingers and too many bodies on a crowded stage. But however difficult performing is with these characters, it is definitely more exciting than being a passive audience member. Despite all my scathing comments, acting on stage (with egomaniac and the polyamorous creatures) – while exhausting physically, emotionally, and psychologically – can be extremely interesting recreation.

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