Sorry I Can’t Join the School Musical Mr. Truong, I’m Failing Physics.
My senior year, I attempted to juggle Latin-mass choir, on top of a Physics class that I did not take any pre-requisites for. (Long story.)
A fight had happened at my house that left me emotional and desperate for answers and guidance, so I walked to my high school and begged to see my assigned counselor.
I was in full blown, ugly, snotty, swollen-faced tears, when I walked straight into this white-trash, dumbass school. I didn’t give a fuck. If I was able to even look in a Latin priest’s direction after telling him about my “sins against the 6th Commandment,” nothing on Earth could shame me anymore.
My counselor may have underestimated what was going on, being that naturally, I looked like someone who could collapse over the loss of a shaved down pencil. RIP. But he offered some inciteful tips.
1) Just ask your mom for family therapy!
OKAY, THANKS DUDE, THATS AN AWESOME IDEA! THIS WILL GO SO FUCKING WELL. THAT I’M GONNA TELL HER RIGHT, NOW. OH FUCK THIS IS GONNA BE SO GOOD, AAOHDEDSFUCK
But let’s back up- what about the school musicals, isn’t that an outlet? Wasn’t I a theatre nerd?
Not a full-fledged one yet, I lacked the confidence to commit to the diner flash mobs. I had done one small (and lovely) play with the school, and played ensemble for one other musical. My self-esteem was at an all time low, so I felt like I was hardly on the radar for this type of thing. Why I was hunted down to audition my senior year truly confused me. I told Mr. Truong that I had a peak grade of 48 in my Physics class, and that I couldn’t join because I had to spend a good portion of my senior year studying for that class instead.
Plus, the audience and cast members of a high school thunderdome generally felt much more ruthless than say, a community theater.
Luckily, and somehow, I did stumble into a community theater show.
The end of the summer going into my senior year, I was hanging with a few friends during late hours- my cooler, older friends, in my opinion. The cooler part was my opinion. They were factually older than me. And the more I think about it, they probably were not cool.
That’s when I saw a flyer to audition for “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
The story’s theme of finding the value in yourself and in your life was something I needed so bad. I only knew a surface level amount of this movie, but it was enough. The week before my senior year had started, I actively researched every detail about this story, took it all in, and I auditioned. I would’ve been happy to play any ensemble role, or done lights, or been in the audience. But that night of the audition, after everyone had left, I became tearful and overwhelmed when they offered me the role of Mary Bail-
Hey Audrey, aren’t you like, seventeen at this point in your life?
Yes, yes I was. But I was a GROWN seventeen year old. I’m sure I looked much older for my age.
Who the fuck played your husband?
He was 40.
No, we didn’t kiss or tongue each other or anything like that. That was crystal clear. The creative team decided to make this relationship less romantic and more pure and endearing as they possibly could. Good choice. And I was fortunate enough that the man playing George was truly kind and respectful, and probably JUST as weirded out about this. 2012 was a wild time.
And listen. I’m seventeen, impressionable and depressed (I didn’t know that part yet). Let me have this. I’m playing Mary Bailey in my first ever play that I ever really auditioned with. The top of my acting resume boasted “Lead Brainiac” in High School Musical, when I was like, eleven, and that was just a glorified ensemble role they made up to make us feel better. So in the midst of this Sutton Foster style claim-to-fame, this was a very special project for me, and I look back on these memories with such a love.
Zuzu from the actual movie wrote to us, stating that she was happy to hear that we were telling a story so near and dear to her, not just because she was in it, but because all proceeds of our tickets were donated to an organization dedicated to raising awareness and prevention of teen suicide. This actress’s own son took his life. The major theme of the story.
Little did I acknowledge at this time in my life, why I was able to empathize and be moved so easily by her gesture, and the play as a whole.
If you grow up in a family that does not acknowledge how real mental illnesses are, where do you turn if you have one? How do you know?
How do you know what you’re going through, when you can’t even begin to know that you’re going through it?
I didn’t have the emotional awareness to connect the dots in my own mental health, but when I tell you that this show propelled me somewhere beyond anything else I’ve ever experienced, I really do mean that. Theatre and any creative medium in general has the sad tendency to drum up people to who are too focused on ONLY being in the lime-light. Not many of those people get very far in the industry, if their pride even lets them jump into that bigger pond where they are forced to become small again.
Then there are people who aren’t concerned about “getting very far in the industry,” empathetic people who are looking to tell and share stories, and transform. That is the real success of theatre.
Take people much like how I saw myself, unable to escape their situations. They haven’t lived any other life except their own, and they only know the trauma they were taught.
But when one night or one Sunday matinee they set their undivided attention on a story unfolding in front of them, they connect to someone on that stage, at some incredible point that is so undoubtedly familiar. And they root for that character, or they cry for that character. They wish that character would’ve chosen a different path; they defended, hated, loved that character.
Much later after the show is long gone, you’d realize that the person you rooted for, loved and hated so much on that stage is you. And you were shown a way out.
So I’m sorry Truong for not auditioning for the school musical. You were right, I wish I did. The more theatre experiences I could’ve had, the better off I’d be.
I also totally lied about how I couldn’t audition for the musical because I had to focus on Physics. I bombed that class anyways, and wouldn’t have done any worse if I had been in Sweet Charity. Sorry.