I looked out into the dimly lit auditorium and tried to focus on the woman with the clipboard sitting and frowning in the front row. I tried to ignore the scattered assortment of my peers occupying the other seats and laughing behind their hands; whispering to each other as I made my way to center-stage.

"I am trying out for the part of Lucy...or any other female role."

My voice was quavering from nervousness. The lady sitting at the piano looked up at me from her position at the foot of the stage and asked, "High or low?"

High or low...high or low...I had no clue! My singing voice had a pretty wide range, so I opted for high. The piano began the now familiar theme song from the musical I was desperate to get a role in:

"You're a good man, Charlie BROWWWWN..." So far so good...until the woman with the clipboard said, "LOUDER please."

Ugh. My voice cracked on a particularly high note and my voice trailed off. Stern woman with clipboard said "Thank you. NEXT?"

I slunk off the stage to scattered mock applause and giggles.

And thus ended my one and only time I mustered enough courage to try out for a school musical. Ah, if only I had selected LOW and showed off the lovely Alto vocals that earned me a spot, years later, in the prestigious Regis College Woman's Chorus. (My roommate twisted my arm to try out for that one based on hearing me in the shower and singing along to the radio with her.)

Ah well. At least I tried. I had a major crush on one of the boys who was trying out for the part of Snoopy. David Pepper...he was soooo adorable and popular. I didn't have a prayer of gaining his interest, not as the awkward, chubby, and socially rejected Junior High Schooler I was. But if I had a role in the play, at least I could hang around near him a lot.

Naturally, my name was not on the cast list posted on the announcements board the following week...but there WAS a signup sheet for volunteers to help out with the backstage work. I put my name on that list. I ended up with a very important job as curtain manager.

There were three tiers of curtains that needed to be opened and closed at various points during the performance. I had my own copy of the script with my curtain cues highlighted on each page and I sat high up in the scaffolding to work the ropes. What an excellent birds-eye view of the performance I had!

Working with the rest of the cast and crew for those weeks leading up to performance night was the most fun of my entire time at John Glenn Jr. High. Kids who had never given me the time of day in the past were suddenly waving to me in the hallways. I was so happy I felt like I could fly.

In a rare display of support, my parents actually allowed me to stay with friends, rather than go on a planned family trip, so I could be there for Opening Night.

The show was a smash hit. What a great group of talented kids! And I performed my curtain pulling duties flawlessly. At the cast pizza party, our music teacher had a large series of color and B&W photos on display. He had an order form and each photo had a number associated with it. We could get prints of any photos we were interested in. I promptly ordered several that featured glimpses of me in the background and loads of photos of David. *sigh* He was soooooo cute. I still have those photos...somewhere.

A few years later when I was in high school, I ran into a former Jr. High classmate. He was surprised at the changes in my appearance (I was now tall, slim and pretty). He gave me his phone number, but I never had the nerve to call him. Doug Smith was the one who gave me the devastating news...David Pepper's dad Tony, a semi-famous news anchorman in Boston, had given his son a fast red car for his birthday and David had wrapped his shiny new wheels around a tree in a fatal wreck.

Lessons learned from these experiences?

     * Never be afraid to try out.

     * Support and encourage your kids to spread their wings and try new things.

     * There are many ways to participate.

     * The awkwardness of your pre-teen and early teen years is temporary.

     * Don't give a sports car to an inexperienced teen driver...they are much better off with a large, used and slow-moving vehicle to start with.

     * Life is too short.


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