Confidence and The Stage

For my first two years of high school, my I was a theatre kid. I mean, I was never the type to watch Hamilton or Dear Evan Hansen, but I had a place on the stage. Going into high school, I wasn't quiet, but I was shy, and I was bad at public speaking. I would rather be caught dead than perform on a stage. I asked to be placed in the photography class for my elective, solely because they got to roam around downtown and pretend that they were being productive. The class was to full to fit me, though, and I was enrolled in the Modern Acting and Theatre course. I refused to give my 100%, because I was scared of being embarrassed, and I was already convinced that I would never be good at acting. This marked me as a "bad egg" in the class, and my teacher even admitted that he didn't know how he was going to turn me into an actor.

Then, something clicked. A few weeks into freshman year, I switched friend groups. My new friends were much more outspoken and confident than I was, so I guess it rubbed off on me. The next time we were in the class, I was assigned a scene from the movie "Zoot Suit". We'd watched it for another class, so I knew what I was supposed to be going for. I actually tried this time, and I nailed it. It was so incredibly satisfying to receive praise for something that I thought I would never be good at.

After I earned an A+ from the Zoot Suit scene, we were casted for the plays that would be in our end-of-the-year showcase. I was given the part of a German therapist. The play was a comedy about embracing teens' sexuality, so it was more funny than it was heart-warming. According to my teacher, I did an amazing job of understanding a Jewish woman in the Zoot Suit scene, so he wanted to see how I would tackle a character with an intense and ridiculous German accent. Every word I spoke made the class laugh, but I wasn't ready for that kind of attention yet. I wanted a role that would make people take me a little more seriously.

A week later, I got exactly what I wanted. The play was canceled due to complaints from parents who doubted the appropriateness of the play. I was assigned the job of being the understudy for a girl in my class who was set to play a Japanese woman in an American internment camp. The thing is, that girl was at the same place that I was a few months ago. She was shy, and she wasn't familiar with the stage. While she ran through her scenes, I sat next to the director and gave my opinions when asked. I didn't have any other roles to occupy my time, so I stood in for her when she needed to see the stage from a different perspective, and I ran through the script with her and her co-stars to make sure that we all had it memorized. Eventually, she asked the director to give me the role instead. I don't blame her; the role was tough enough with my newfound confidence, so I couldn't imagine how hard it was for her.

For the next few months, I was officially Ismene of Antigone's Red. My teacher even called me by "Ismene" instead of my real name. I was also roped into participating in another play. Granted, I was an extra, but I was the most important extra on the stage. The script specifically called for a "gorgeous Asian actress" to walk in front of the actors, and for some reason, the director had me in mind. I had very specific tasks. Step one: act like the life of the party in the background. Step two: pretend to be interested in one of the actors. Walk in front of him and give him a flirty wave. Step three: walk back into the party and get wine thrown on me by the actor's girlfriend. Step four: get escorted away by security. Okay, so it wasn't a role that I was used to, but since the actor's "girlfriend" was my best friend, it was really fun to pretend to fight her.

I wasn't part of the production team, but I helped out a bit backstage. I did my part of handling props and cleaning up the dressing room. The friend that I mentioned earlier also happened to be in charge of costumes, so I spent a couple hours under the stairs with her while we took everyone's measurements in private.

I hated memorizing scripts and I hated trying to understand my character, but I loved the stage. I loved running around behind it, being as loud as I could, and feeling like I was one of the reasons why the show went on. At the beginning of the year, I swore to myself that I would never, ever step foot on a stage again. But after the showcase? Man, it would be hard to drag me away.