What we remember from childhood we remember forever — permanent ghosts, stamped, inked, imprinted, eternally seen. ~Cynthia Ozick, American writer
I’ve long been fascinated by the theater.
The excitement of opening night, the pageantry, the costumes and props, the music — all of it struck me as a mystery that somehow came together to please both audience and troupe.
When I was a working journalist, part of my “beat” was reviewing local theater productions.
Realizing that these were amateurs doing plays strictly for enjoyment, I couldn’t bring myself to pan even the most awful performer. And seeing the productions first — before opening night — made me realize how lucky I was to live in a community that valued the arts.
Going back farther, when I was in high school, many of my friends were involved in drama club. I was far too shy to appear onstage, but I volunteered to be part of the backstage crew.
Helping paint backdrops, selecting accessories, and moving furniture between scenes satisfied my need to be with my friends and gave me a sense of belonging.
And that was enough.
Until one summer, when I went to band camp out of state. Every evening’s activity was scheduled with an eye to entertaining and educating youngsters from junior high through high school age.
One night, we kids were to perform a series of one-act plays for each other and our counselors, and I was chosen to appear onstage.
How it happened, I don’t recall. I do know I didn’t volunteer.
Our skit was taken from a long-ago ad for Shake ‘n Bake chicken, and I played the little girl. The one who “helped.”
Looking back, I imagine it had a LOT to do with my (then) Yankee accent being such a foreign thing to my fellow campers’ Southern ears.
We rehearsed over and over, making sure I had just the right twang. That we all were enunciating clearly so folks in the back rows could hear.
And that night, we were seated at a table, just like in the ad. The “mom” said her line about only using Shake ‘n Bake, I shook my pretend bag, and we sat down to dinner with the “dad.”
He bragged on the fried chicken, and just as I started to say my one line, the electricity went off.
We froze in darkness.
Counselors scrambled for flashlights and tried to keep the littler kids from panicking.
Just like in real theater, the show must go on, so with flashlight in hand and upturned toward my face, I finally got to say my line.
It got the giggles it was intended to, too.