So when I was very young I moved to the town I grew up in. My mother wanted me to start getting to know some kids before I started school, so she signed me up for a summer theater production. At the time, I was less than thrilled but figured I could meet some kids this way.
I was promptly cast as the donkey in the Bremen Town Musicians play.
I was the Donkey, who has a lot of speaking lines!
At first I was just like any normal kid back then: too cool to act in front of a lot of people. It was just probably awkward for me – yet I was somehow given a role with a ton of lines. Maybe that’s what sparked my initial interest for being on stage. I did feel rather proud of the fact that I’d be able to speak and interact with others on the stage in front of my family.
That love slowly manifested itself in the summer plays, which I joined every summer since then. It just felt like a great way to have some structure to my summer and to express myself creatively on stage as some other character. I didn’t always get big roles like my first summer, but it was enough to get me excited to come back.
Throughout the years, I finally dragged my friends in slowly: I got my friend Justin to join for one summer since he was bored and then I got my friend Juan to join when were getting a bit older.
It all culminated when we got to high school and Juan wanted me to try out with him for the play 1984. We were only freshmen so I wasn’t expecting to make such an intense play but we tried out. As we arrived at school the day of the announcements, I was very surprised to see my name on the list… and Juan’s not on the list.
I was cast as big brother himself. It was both a moment of joy that they liked my voice but also a moment of odd sadness since Juan did not make it. He was the entire reason I was even considering doing this thing and yet here I was roped into the commitment and him being turned away. Definitely was a rough blow for both of us in different ways and I considered dropping out.
Yet I didn’t – do to a mixture of shaming Juan’s efforts more and letting down the production.
My face when.
I remember a few select moments during this production. The first was when they were considering filming my face and putting on a projection screen for my lines. That didn’t pan out so unfortunately I wasn’t able to weasel out of practices. I then moved up in the world and they put a static image of me on the screen while I read my lines on a microphone. I guess the best part was I didn’t need to memorize my lines.
That play came and went but Juan and I still had a long road ahead of us on our theatrical performances. Up next: the play that changed it all. The Crucible.
Let me know if this sounds familiar to you: Juan convinced me early in our senior year of high school that we should try out for a play. I was hesitant but decided it would be a fun experience. At this point we were driving to school in a car pool together and so when he wanted to stay after school to pre-read the script I was drawn into the same habit.
We went to try outs and absolutely had a blast. There were people from all walks of high school involved in this play and it felt like this was the first attempt at a male heavy production the school was putting on. Exciting news for males.
This time, we checked the casting list and much to our eager expectations, we both made the play and landed big parts. Juan was the “esteemed” Reverend Parris and I… was John Proctor.
It was the first time I had a huge lead in any play and when I started looking at how many lines I’d have to memorize I began to sweat. On top of that, they were not exactly the easiest lines to just commit to common tongue. Thus our journey began.
The funniest things happened during our time. We developed crushes simultaneously on a few of the girls in the play: I was taken with the girl who played Mary Warren and Juan liked Elizabeth Proctor… my wife! Can you believe a Proctor would ever have eyes for another? Unbelievable, right?
Our cast got very close knit – so much so that we were able to do our theater warm ups within about 10 minutes when we got good. It involved us standing in a circle and counting to 20. Anyone could say any number but if a number was repeated or said at the same time you’d have to go back to 1. We got to 20 so fast it was like we were in unison.
I remember various times I got in trouble for hugging Mary Warren far too quickly after the scene where I was supposed to be inconsolably angry at her. I mean, what are you going to do, right?
Then came a huge scare for the production. Yours truly got swine flu just 3 weeks before we were to go live. I remember being so sick that in the middle of practice, I just collapsed and laid on the ground. My part came up and I was knocked out sleeping. They sent me home and I nearly crawled to my car. The panic was real seeing as we had no understudies – so I was very well watched after by my cast and director. Then my friend Mysh, who played the role of Judge Danforth, came down with the same symptoms. He wasn’t given quite the same treatment (much to his chagrin).
There were so many fun moments within the play. I remember getting to call our close friend who played Abigail Williams a whore in front of her parents. Much to my parents great shock.
After that play, we felt like it was one of the best performances put on in any of our careers (pretty weak coming from high school kids but still!) We all ended up trying out for the musical that spring, Cinderella. That time, a lot of the girls wanted to be the lead so it felt like half the class tried out. Unfortunately our tight group was burst in half as some of the girls didn’t make it do to “letting others enjoy the theater program.” Juan was cast as the prince and I the king. That’s right, even back then Juan looked up to me as a father figure (now he does so when we play games together. Watch and learn, Juan).
Either way, the theater programs have been a huge part of becoming the man I am today and it’s always nice to go back and watch those productions.
…and no, I don’t remember almost any lines from the Crucible by heart. I have no idea how I managed to do it back then, certainly would take a long time to do so now. Impressive, past me. You had homework and band on top of all of that. Probably busier than I am now. Sucker!