It Was Just Preparation


A few weeks ago when I screwed up my blog, I compared it to feeling as if I were standing on stage with my pants around my ankles.  Dear Reader, perhaps you thought that was an odd comparison, but if you know me, you know I was only comparing it to my reality.

I grew up doing theater.  I got my initial break at age eleven in a community show of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.  But my big break came when I was cast in Northern Indiana’s first production of the musical Annie as Pepper the orphan.  Annie was hot off the press from New York, and once it opened to the rest of the country, regional theaters snapped it up in hopes it would draw a large crowd.  And it did.  Aside from the 400 little girls it drew to auditions, it also drew packed houses each performance, and the theater added additional shows.

Acting, then singing, then dancing.  That’s my theatrical skill set in order from best to worst.  And so during one of my worst moments, which involved the bane of my existence, ballet, (why in the world orphans were dancing ballet during the Depression at an orphanage in the 1930s only a “unique” choreographer knows), the orphan behind me stepped on my ballet slipper.  Probably because I was in the wrong spot.  That orphan’s foot sent my cheap Sears ballet slipper hurtling into the audience.  I truly wanted to be a seasoned pro, even at age twelve, so I finished the rest of that number with a smile on my face, pretending I had nary a care.

But I had a big care and it was called, “How-in-the-world-am-I going-to-get-that-ballet-slipper?”  Thankfully, the audience members had passed my errant slipper up row by row and there it lay resting peacefully on the edge of the stage.  I just had to make a break after the song and grab it.  Unfortunately, the woman who played Miss Hannigan, Darleen, had an immediate entrance and she was to chase all of us off stage.  Darleen was good.  Really good.  She was so good, she scared me.  She was as sweet as pie off stage, but man, when she was in character, no one had any trouble believing she absolutely hated little girls.  “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” ended with me smiling but not fully dressed.  The audience clapped.  The pose broke.  Miss Hannigan flew onto stage in a tirade, and I made a mad dash for my slipper.  I was fast but not fast enough.  Orphans scattered, but the oldest orphan didn’t make it.  And Miss Hannigan literally caught me on stage, picked me up, and hurled me into the wings.  I was shaken, but it was a good reminder.  No matter what happens in life, it all goes on.

The next year I was in the least favorite show of my life.  It was in Fort Wayne, and I was in the chorus, an Indian-type chorus where we sat on stage and sang snippets of the show the whole time.  It wouldn’t have been so bad if the music had been enjoyable, but trust me, Rodgers and Hammerstein this was not!  At one point in the show, a moon descended from the sky and the gal’s line was literally, “Oh moon!”  And nope, you can’t make up this kind of stuff, just as the gal sang out her line, a friend of mine suddenly realized his Indian pants had dropped to his ankles.  Throwing all desire to be professional to the wind, I buried my face in my lap right there on stage in my little chorus spot to keep from totally cracking up.  My friend hurriedly pulled up his pants, and for the rest of the run of the show, whenever that line was spoken, I don’t think there was a straight face on stage.  I’d thought the ballet slipper incident was bad, but I learned the shocking truth from the whole moon incident: If my friend’s pants could fall down on stage, maybe mine might too someday.

Fast forward to the next year.  This time I was playing a teenager from a large family in the 1920s.  I loved the role and the production.  It was time for my big date in the show, and that necessitated a costume change into a cute mauve flapper dress.  I climbed the stairs backstage, so when I entered on stage, it would look as if I was coming down the stairway from the second floor of my home, when, BOOM!  In front of an audience of 800, I missed the top step, rolled down the entire stairway, slid across the stage on my hands and knees, and came to rest in front of the woman playing my mother.  Neither she nor I missed a beat.  She told me I needed to stop being so clumsy.  I apologized for not being more careful.  The show went on, but I could barely stay focused.  I had minimal undergarments on under that flapper dress.  The dress flapped.  The audience saw it all.  I was absolutely mortified.  It was a very humiliating and real lesson about what it felt like to be truly embarrassed.

Little did I know these embarrassing moments on stage were just the beginning and would prepare me for a whole lifetime of embarrassing moments.  Isn’t that the value of life experiences?  To keep putting us in a place so the next time something wonky happens it won’t be our first rodeo with that type of scenario?  While I certainly wasn’t laughing about it at the time, I learned to laugh about the horrendous flapper dress incident later.  So that’s what I keep doing with my mistakes in life.  I’m mortified at first, but then I relax and laugh about it.  And frankly, I’ve encouraged my children to do the same.  Laughter doesn’t change the situation, but it sure makes it more bearable!  Funny, what I thought was a disaster at the time actually wasn’t a disaster at all, and it ended up being helpful down the road.

I’ve had to remind myself of that lesson multiple times in my life!

I still say the Annie choreographer should have ended the dance with a kick line rather than ballet moves.  A kick line would have brought down the house, just sayin’!

Until next Wednesday, Lord willing, when I will talk about walking at graduation – never to be taken for granted.