Monday, April 7, 2008

Save the Drama for ….the Popular Kids?

I was in every play in high school from my sophomore year on. I remember how excited I was to get cast as the lead in my first play over Starr Easterday, a really outspoken senior who, frankly, I was a little bit scared of, and had been acting a lot longer than me. As it turns out, despite my oh so convincing audition, I had a long, long, long way to go before I got even kind of watchable. That first audition was my ticket into the high school drama world though. No matter how big or small my part, I loved every crazy four hour rehearsal and even the constant angst-filled asides from the really intense kid. I made friends plus I got to flirt shamelessly with all of the cute clever boys, most of whom inevitably turned out to be gay.

I went on to play a sickly sweet flapper girl with a serious crush on a guy named George and the maid in You Can’t Take It With You. In the script the character was supposed to be black, but I gave her an Irish accent. Sometimes. I was the stage manager in Gammer Gurton’s Needle with a monologue that ended with “God Save the Queen! Huzzah!” You can never say that too many times. I was the understudy for one of the princesses in Love’s Labour’s Lost, my favorite Shakespeare comedy ever, and would have gotten to go on when one of the princesses ran away from home with her boyfriend had her costume not been a size 2. In my very last performance as the celebrated fashion designer Bibi Cavendish in a British murder mystery I actually felt confident in my improvement. Even my Mom, who came to every performance and kindly encouraged me through my mediocrity couldn't hide the hint of surprise in her voice when she said “Jessi, that was actually really good!”

What can I say? It takes a while.

So it hit me the other day, with the High School Musical movies capturing the rapt attention of all of the teens and ‘tweens of the nation. Are all of these kids now trying out for their high school musicals?

Instead of drama being the place for marginal kids who are drawn to acting because its not so mainstream, I wonder if stages are now being overrun by the would be cheerleaders and football players. And think of the competition… I might have edged out Starr Easterday, but I don’t know if I ever would have gotten the chance to get on stage with 20 mini Vanessa Hudgins running around. It would be pretty sad for all of those kids who are hopeful and whole-heartedly ready to make complete fools of themselves in the quest to get better like I was to miss out on their chance.

Any high school drama teachers out there who have seen a massive influx of auditioners of late?


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