The Fifteenth Year-When Theater Stole Her Heart

2001-02: Fifteen Years To Date

There was a box of doughnuts on the table just outside his office. People were arriving and dropping odd little packages on the “Secret Pal” table. Others were laughing and calling out to each other as they headed downstairs to the dressing rooms to change or crossed the stage to finish painting another set piece. The orchestra was warming up, the curtain had to be closed, and I … well, I stood there, eyes wide, taken aback by this world I had suddenly entered.

And like love at first sight, every night after that for a week, I was spellbound, mesmerized, drawn in to a world I had never known before … a world that would never let me go. The world of musical theater.

I was only the little backstage girl. The one who tried to catch every glimpse of the show that I could through peeks of the curtain. Whose breath was taken away by those whirling dresses and dancing feet. Who scurried around pushing this set piece or that one in between scenes. Who patiently washed the plates and forks after each performance in the utility sink using cold water and her fingers (SO sanitary!) … because yes, they did eat real cake onstage each night. I was the one nobody really knew except for three or four who smilingly took me under their wing and ushered me into the realm of theater at the high school.

This is what I had always longed for. And it was every bit what I had dreamed it would be. I memorized the songs as I listened to them every night … and to this day, when I hear “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun” or “I’ve Got the Sun in the Morning” those high school thrills come back – of the old, scratched wooden stage, the massive curtains that I helped to pull, the circular metal staircase that descended to the green room filled with old couches, the dressing rooms on the other side … cold November nights where the audiences would come out to the show and laugh and cry and applaud – but I, for the very first time, I was on the other side of that curtain. And it was the most thrilling place to be. To see all that they never knew happened back there … the way the boys would laugh and joke with us right up until they had to mosey onstage … the way that we would mimic (or mock!) the songs being sung … the way we would panic because we didn’t have enough people to turn the train set around in time – this was the true theater experience, and I soaked in every single moment that I could.

Over the next three years, I would come to memorize every single nook and cranny of that high school stage, auditorium, and theater. It summed up my high school experience, along with the best friends I could ask for and a drama teacher who taught me all the “essentials” of theater. And the memories … more than I could possibly recount from three beautiful years on that stage. Ten shows, hours upon hours of classes spent in that auditorium, tears, laughter, pranks, sleepovers, long conversations, the stretching of our acting ability …

… that is where I fell in love with theater. And it all began that fifteenth year – on the Shadle Park High School stage.

My “Legacy Brick” downstairs in the dressing room area

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