My daughter is knee deep in try outs for the spring play. Her school is putting on Peter Pan, which I think is lame, but she is totally jazzed to get the part of Smee, Captain Hook’s little toady.

Her chances are good – she’s a senior and they usually get the better parts as a sort of farewell to high school drama. Plus, she’s got stellar memorization skills. I’ve seen her get 4 paragraphs of dialogue down pat in a matter of hours.

All of the above means that mom will also receive a role – the part of after hours chauffeur. I now get to look forward to months of putting dinner on “warm” and driving out to the high school to pick her up from practice, which can end anywhere from 5:30 to 8 pm, depending on how close they are to show time.

While this sucks the big garbanzo bean, I’m really happy she’s taking part in some sort of school activity – especially one her dear old mom took part in. God knows my kids aren’t particularly athletic. I don’t think I’ll ever sit and watch either of them compete in a school sport, but at least I’ll get to see my oldest on the stage.

I was always in the school play. The acting bug began early for me. My mother was a member of the Leonia Player’s Guild – an acting troupe that still exists today. They put on 3 plays a year, and the summer production was always their big blowout musical. The play was held outdoors in the park, and they always needed plenty of extras.

When I was around 11 I took part in “The Music Man” and loved it. There were tons of songs involving the townsfolk; Iowa Stubborn, Trouble, Wells Fargo Wagon – I got a ton of stage time. I adored being in that play and I still love watching the movie and singing along to the bazillion songs – I’ve blogged about that before.

But once I got to try out for school plays, I realized there was a horrible imbalance in the Leonia High School casting process. From 8th grade all the way to my senior year, I was mainly cast in the chorus with two exceptions. I was given one of 3 roles in a one act adaptation of “Vanities,” and I got to play Ursula in “Bye-Bye Birdie”, but only for one scene…we didn’t do the whole play, just “The Telephone Song” and “Sincere.” But I can still remember my one line:

“Speak to us oh beautiful one…tell us how you make that glorious sound. That even know, in anticipation of it all, has reduced me to a snarling, raging, panting jungle beast.”

The problem? All the shows were directed by the same woman, and she played favorites. The same dude got the leading male – he was handsome and had a good voice. And there were 3 girls who rotated between leading female and every other good role. That left nothing but chorus for the rest of us. “Pajama Game,” “How to Succeed in Business;” I was nothing more than background noise.

The seniors put on their own play each year. We were doing a play called “Stage Door” when I was a senior and unbeknownst to me those plays had a different director. I didn’t look at it as any sort of opportunity to finally get a good part – I was so conditioned to getting some miniscule, 2 line role that didn’t imagine anything better.

The play was about a bunch of actresses who live in a boarding house together. I read for a few different roles, and was expecting a small part playing one of the many would be actresses.

Instead, I got the second female lead – the role of Jean Maitland, the gal who leaves the Broadway stage, heads to Hollywood and comes back a star. Talk about a shocker. I was a nobody in school and I had a leading role.

It was a serious boost to my confidence. All those years where I did nothing but react to the main characters and sing along with the crowd? I thought it was because I sucked.

The play went well, I didn’t forget my lines or fall down. But life felt the burning desire to hurl one more spitball at me. When the yearbook came out in June, they did a 2 page write up of the play. Not only did they not put a picture of me, but they didn’t even mention my name.

In the plot synopsis, after each character was introduced, they would put (played by Jane Doe) in italics after it. So my sentence read:
“And the beautiful and glamorous Jean Maitland who heads to Hollywood to become a star.”

The (played by Tracy Bucek) was missing. Or omitted. I’ll admit it, when it comes to these mishaps, I’m always positive there is a conspiracy behind it. Just like when I was captain of the JV Volleyball team; the yearbook mysteriously left my name out of that caption too. At least my photo was there.

Now it’s my daughter’s turn in the spotlight. She’s had some solid roles in the 2 years she’s been participating in drama – way better than I got at her age. It shows what an equal opportunity director can do for a gal.

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