Regret, Nostalgia and the Stage

ImageI regret very few things in life because I believe that everything happens for a reason and without some of the strife we go through in life we wouldn’t achieve the things we appreciate the most. It’s a philosophy that’s done me fairly well over the last decade, especially throught the most challenging situations in my life such as my divorce and the time I’ve spent apart from my daughter.

By getting a divorce, I was able to be myself again and find my self worth as a separate entity from my relationship with him. By not fighting him on custody and letting our daughter live with him rather than me, she gets to be with her sisters through his second marriage which I believe is crucial. I grew up an only child, always wanting siblings and I feel her bond with them is extrmely important. Plus, she’s able to be within a better school district where he lives. I can find a positive in nearly every situation.

There are two situations in my life that I’m having trouble justifying though. I can find the positives in them, but it still doesn’t feel like a good trade off. No, that’s not the right wording either.

One issue is that I gave up performing for my ex husband. When we met, I was at a point in my life when I had been going to Los Angeles and attending movie premieres and after parties with some of my friends. I made a lot of connections with various people in show business and it was something I enjoyed a lot. I gave it up because he got jealous and he didn’t like me leaving all the time. He supported it with passive aggressiveness and I felt bad and just quit bothering. I was young, only nineteen and naive. I thought it was love, because he couldn’t stand to be apart from me. We spent all our time together. We moved in together a month after we met, we were engaged five months later.

To sit here and say I can’t see a positive in this would be cruel. Without giving that up in order to strengthen my relationship, we would have never gone through a lot of what we had which eventually led to the birth of my only child and I don’t regret her one bit even if it’s impacted my life in some ways that I don’t like. She’s perfect. I also wouldn’t have written my novel series. He got in a car accident and almost died, we separated after that for eleven months and we got married when we got back together but that experience triggered enough emotion for me to write my books and I still consider it the best writing I’ve ever done. I’ve been writing stories since I was twelve, when I rewrote Romeo and Juliet because I hated Shakespeare’s ending. But, there’s been nothing I wrote that has been as intense and theraputic as those books.

It made me realize this is something that I want to do professionally and I’ve stuck with it over the last eight years. I have four completed novels and I’m about a third of the way through a fifth.

But regardless, my craft has always been acting, or performing in general.

I started in sixth grade. I was involved in dance, baton and choir when I was really young but my first acting role was a reed in the story of King Midas. My only line was “The king has donkey ears!” and I spent the whole performance sitting on a wall painted in green and glitter. Then, because we were lacking boys who were interested in theatre, I played Sir Gwaine in The Knights of the Round table. That was the role that made me decide that this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

In seventh grade, I did a theatre course during Spring Break. I don’t remember the role or the play. Something about a dragon but the following year I dropped art and shop class to take Oral Expression which was as close to theatre as we had. I kicked ass at giving speeches, which was ultimately what the class was for. To help students get over the fear of speaking in front of a class. So we wrote speeches, had debates and the last quarter we did Cinderella. I played one of the evil stepsisters. We travelled to various elementry schools, which is exactly what I had been interested in doing because I always envied the junior high and high school students that would come to my elementry school to put on performances.

Opening night at the Chandler Center for the Arts, everything that could go wrong went wrong. It’s like a theatre curse but it was the first time I had to improv because I sat down to try on the slipper and the chair broke from underneath me. There was an indescribable adrenaline rush of being on the spot and having to continue to the show without missing a beat. It happened again with the school talent show. I audtioned with a friend, but the teacher pulled me aside and told me she would prefer it if I sang the song by myself.

It was a bitch move on my part, I admit. I agreed and dropped my friend from the act. And like karma, every rehearsal, the notes wouldn’t come out. It was the first time I truly experienced stage fright and my vocal chords tightened and refused to work. My teacher had faith in me and told me she knew that I was going to do fine on performance night. She put me last, because she said I was going to be the best performance of the night and I nailed it. I don’t know how, but once I got up there on the stage rather than just singing in the choir practice room, I hit every note of “My Heart Will Go On” and received a standing ovation. In hindsight, I call it my Rachel Berry moment.

So, the first thing I signed up for when I went on to high school was beginning theatre. I was addicted. The stage was the only place I felt comfortable and the only place I could escape everything else that was going on in my life. I also stuck with dance.

Beginning theatre was disappointing. It felt like we spent an entire semester on Shakespeare. Despite my obsession with Romeo and Juliet, which had more to do with Baz Luhermann’s interpretation, I grew to loathe everything about Shakespeare. We read A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Comedy of Errors. I grew to appreciate both plays later in life, especially the former after watching The Dead Poet’s Society. But I bitched and complained all through Julius Ceasar in eleventh grade and despite my enjoyment of both the most recent rendition of The Tempest and then BBC’s The Hollow Crown, I have a severe love/hate relationship with Shakespeare. I also didn’t audition for either of the plays we did that year, because I was more involved with my friends outside of school. It was my pot smoking phase where I didn’t really give a shit about anything.

I got into a fight with a girl outside of the drama room during my first semester. She was the friend of someone who was constantly threatening to kill me in junior high. I’m not even sure why, to be honest. The girl I originally didn’t get along with and I were always at ends in band. We both played flute. I was better. I had a higher chair. It’s the only reason I could think of that she’d have anything against me. I didn’t even like playing the flute. I broke mine twice on purpose so that I would be put on percussion. The only real enjoyment I got out of band was when I played good enough to be put on piccalo because it’s probably the most annoying instrument. But, this girl decided to finish what her friend started and we both ended up expelled. Bullshit, if you ask me, because I was supposed to just let her beat me up. I fought back.

During my expulsion, my parents let me spend a week at a performing arts school down in Phoenix. This is where my biggest regret is. I was immensely happy at that school. My parents will willing to help me do whatever it took to support my desire to perform. I was accepted. I turned it down. I wanted to go back to my high school and had them convince the principal let me back. The only reason being that I didn’t want to leave my friends behind. I turned down a performing arts school for people I wasn’t even close with by the following year.

Now I’m left wondering how different my life might have been had I gone to performing arts school rather than public school. By junior year, I almost completely quit going to school. I was bored. I was failing because I never did my homework. I was able to pass the tests without studying. I made life long friends at my high school. I continued to do theatre and was involved in the drama club. My theatre teacher put me in one of the school plays without an audition. I joined choir my junior year. Though, I spent most of that year not even in choir class, but finding excuses to not go so that I could hang out with my theatre friends in the sound booth of the auditorium or in the drama room. I got accepted my senior year into advanced drama without audition as well. I would have gotten into Advanced Vocal Ensemble if my attendance had been better. I stayed after school or came in after when I ditched to work with stage craft. I was also in dance all four years. So, it wasn’t as if I gave up performing entirely. That and English was pretty much all I did in high school, the only classes I bothered to show up for.

I found out my senior year that I didn’t have enough credits to graduate because they lost my records from the first semester of Freshman year, when I had been expelled. Something I still don’t understand. They wanted me to repeat my senior year and all my freshman classes again to make up for it, and that’s when I basically told the school to fuck off because I wasn’t going to stay if I wasn’t going to graduate with my class. The smart thing to do would have been to just test out of all of it, but my mindset wasn’t there at the time. I was dealing with misdiagnoses on my bipolar and on so much medication that I was hardly human. So, I dropped out of high school, quit taking my meds, went Buddhist and changed my entire prospective on life.

I don’t regret dropping out because it saved my life. But, I regret not giving the performing arts school a chance. So much so, that recently I’ve realized how bitter I am with myself over the matter.

My best friend, Drew, was someone who I had met in theatre. We, plus a handful of others were the people that everyone knew had the potential to become something. We were the “New Directions” of Mesquite High School during that time. Our school was absolutely terrible at sports, so our school pride clung to our arts. I left as a triple threat, doing well in theatre, dance and choir. I auditioned for Cinderella my senior year with Emma Stone at Youth Valley Theatre, but I wasn’t prepared (my friend literally hit me up after school and was like “come with me”) and I completely bombed the audition.

After Drew started attending ASU as a theatre major, I’d go with him to Improv nights and open performances, but I let go of theatre in order to persue the idea of film then as I wrote, gave it up for my ex husband.

I’m feeling the itch again, in the worst way. I’ve recently become extremely intrigued by the actor, Ben Whishaw. After reading a few of his interviews about theatre and seeing just how incredibly talented he is in such vastly different roles, I started remembering everything I loved about it.

That’s something I’ve always envied about the British. You really aren’t anyone in the UK unless you’re also doing theatre. It’s not like that here in the States. You have Broadway. I love Broadway, but so few film and tv actors actually do theatre as well. I think it’s so important to the craft. There’s no do overs. It’s live. Real actors can act without prompts and Hollywood kind of makes me sick because there isn’t much talent in American movies and TV.

Drew and I have been talking about going back to theatre. I’ve been off the stage now for a decade. It doesn’t sit right with me. We just missed auditions for the Phoenix Theatre company. They’re doing Rent, Les Mis, 39 Steps and Avenue Q for the 2013-2014 season. I’m so angry at myself for missing that opportunity. We did songs from Les Mis in women’s choir my junior year. I know everything from that and Rent by heart. I know most of the songs from Avenue Q. I’m going to have to wait a whole year now to audition and it won’t be any of those shows, that I love with a passion. But, I am going back to the stage.

I almost feel like I was sabatoging myself on purpose in my youth. Insecurities and a fear of failure. I think now that I’m more comfortable with who I am, I have a lot more confidence in my abilities. I should have listened to the people around me when I was younger. I have remarkable talent and a deep understanding of provoking emotions, which I’ve also done through my writing, I’m just out of practice. I guess the good in missing the auditions is that I have a whole year to prepare and I need to stop letting life and the people around me distract me and pull me away from what I really want to be doing. I need to stop using life as an excuse to bail on what I need to be doing. Same goes for my writing.

I’m only twenty-eight. I’m not a teenager anymore, but I’m not too old either. Now is better than never. I need to change my path in life so I can quit regretting my past mistakes. The only person I have to blame is myself and I don’t accept the idea that I’ve missed out on all my opportunities and closed all of my doors. I know how to get what I want and I need to put that forward into being where I want in life. I know that if I’m regretting something, I can change that. Not only my prospective but the consequences.


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