Friday, September 2, 2011

Chapter 4: How Theatre Began (Part 1 of Good Things)

Just to get it out of the way - yes, I will insist on spelling it theatre. Even though Chrome says it's wrong, theatre is the proper way to spell it, and that's what I'll stick to.

I went into my high school the other morning and walked down to the drama room, as we call it. Everyone else calls it the dance room out of habit, but us theatre geeks have long since claimed it. I walked over to the corner of the drama room where there is a small office. Usually it is shut, and the only indication you have of its use is a large poster on the door that says "Save the Drama for your Llama." Welcome to the Cary High Theatre Department.

I walked through the door and saw a few fellow theatre geeks. I don't know what they were talking about when I walked in; my mind was on the looming auditions. The day before I had to move my audition time from 3:00 to 6:25; later I realized that I had Calculus class at State around that time, and I would be unable to audition then. So the first thing I asked the drama teacher when I saw her that morning was:

"Did someone take my 3:00 slot yet?" I held my breath in anticipation.

"Yup," she said. I cursed in my head. Now I was a man without an audition. I explained my predicament to her - how all the time slots I could do were taken - and she said the best I could do was wait and see if someone else dropped out.

The play we're putting on - And Then They Came For Me - breaks a few records for the Cary High Drama Department. For one, it's the smallest play any of us can remember putting on. It's also the most dramatic play we can remember ever doing. It's about the Holocaust, focusing on the story of Ed Silverberg, Anne Frank's first boyfriend. It has about four male parts.


In every other play I've tried out for, I've felt slightly confident in getting some role, be it major or minor. But in this play I have no room to just slide in due to its size. I have to nail the audition if I want to get in at all. It's that fact that's got my nerves on edge; this mess I had made of my audition time slot has done nothing to help.

So I'm sitting in this office, contemplating what the future will hold - whether this will be the first semester since freshman year that I'm not in the production - when another friend of mine walks in, who I will call J out of respect for his privacy. J comes into the room and immediately draws all attention towards himself (it's not his fault, it's his personality). We joke around for a while, and J notices a tape sitting on a nearby desk titled "How Theatre Began" and starts painting with words a mental image of 2001: A Space Odyssey, where instead of the monkeys learning how to use tools they learn how to act. Soon after the bell rings and they all walk out to go to class, while I'm left contemplating how theatre began for me.


I don't remember why my Dad was home that day. Perhaps my brother was sick. Whatever it was, if it hadn't happened, I don't know what life would be like for me now. Would I have ever gotten involved in theatre? Would I be anywhere near as social? I can't know the answer to those questions; all I can do is be happy Dad was home that day.

I had gotten off the bus and walked home, going up to the front door and inside. My Dad was sitting doing work at the computer and asked me what I was doing home so early.

See, I was supposed to go to this cast read-through of Wizard of Oz, the musical I had miraculously made it into despite the fact that I bombed the audition. I had tried out for the play at the urging of my friend J, who at every point made sure I'd do the musical no matter how much I wanted to back out. He even signed me up for auditions when I had decided not to. There was no way I could have passively backed out trying out. I told my parents the day of the audition, and they drove me up to the school in utter confusion. I got halfway through my monologue, asked to start over, and sang horribly out of key. But despite my failures, the play's size meant that the director couldn't be too picky, and I got in.

But there were many reasons not to continue. For one, I was planning on taking Greek classes every Tuesday afternoon during the next semester; the play would interfere with that. In general, however, it was something new - something uncomfortable - and something frightening. It would be much easier to just not go to the mandatory read-through, and silently drop from the play.

My Dad wouldn't hear it. This was an exciting new opportunity to stretch myself and I probably wouldn't make it through another semester of Greek anyways (this was not an unreasonable statement; I had struggled with juggling Greek with my other classes last semester). Who knows what could happen if I just gave it a shot?

Despite all the conditionals that led up to that point - what if J hadn't signed me up? - what if the director hadn't let me in? - what if my Dad hadn't been home to refute my decision? - I found myself finally having to make an active choice. Because I couldn't passively give this opportunity up. Inaction is an action itself. Though I greatly feared stretching myself into a world alien to me (I had acted in church before, but this was a new level) I couldn't ignore that world's existence.

So I decided to go. At least I could give it a shot. So my Dad drove me up to the school. I walked into the building, went down to the chorus room where the read-through was taking place, and opened the door.


And Then They Came For Me is as far from the Wizard of Oz as one can possibly get. It's got a tiny cast, which meant I couldn't slide in with a bad audition. That was okay; I had gotten much better at auditioning since my first try. It's also dark and intense, stretching my horizon beyond the comedic (though I never thought I was that good a comedian anyways).

I would not passively slide out of this audition. I probably worried too much about having a time slot, moving from inconvenient time to inconvenient time. Far from the boy who needed his friend to sign him up.

I would not mess up the monologue. I practiced it a few times every day, and performed it in front of friends, family and teachers, seeking their advice. There would be no restarts.

And today, at the end of school, there wasn't even a question of whether I'd go to the mandatory read-through. Having received the role of Mr. Silverberg, the main character's father, I began the long trek along campus.

Whether you like it or not, life is full of decisions. I think decisions can be especially difficult for people with Asperger's. If we care about the decision, we obsess over the possibilities and can't see a clear winner. If we don't care... why make the decision? It's easier in the end to be blown about by other people's choices, and passively achieve our goals. But this doesn't work - because in the end, we must all make a choice. I can't remember the exact quote, but I recall a statement from the movie Temple Grandin along the lines of life being full of doors waiting for us to open them.

So today I walked all the way across campus to the drama room, where the read-through was taking place, and opened yet another door.


  1. (You used J's real name a few times.)

    I'm glad to see you use the term "theatre geek," though. A friend of mine once got rather angry at me for saying "drama nerds." Now I feel validated. (Although he got a better role in Robin Hood than Josh did, so perhaps his opinion has more weight-lol).

  2. Curse me and my indiscretion... thanks for that. Fix'd.

    Yah, I originally typed "theatre nerds" but then I realized that most of them seem to prefer geek over nerd.

  3. I use the terms interchangeably, but apparently there's some subtle difference. Then again, the definitions of both have changed so much in the past 5 years that you can use either for practically anything and still get away with it.