In hindsight, it shouldn’t have surprised me or anyone else that I’d end up wanting to be an actress. My entire childhood was made up of only a few things: American Girl dolls, notebooks with book ideas scribbled inside, and short plays I’d put on in my living room. The first house I remember living in had an arch between the living room and the entrance to the garage. This arch was just wide enough that my seven year old arms could reach from end to end without stretching to meet the wall. Whenever my parents had people over (usually my mom’s parents), I’d run down the stairs to the arch, put my arms out, exclaim “Ladies and Gentleman! Boys and Girls! Presenting… ME!” and run out into the middle of their conversation to perform whatever song, dance, or stand-up comedy I’d prepared only minutes before.
My grandmother says that when I was a baby and family would come over to visit, they’d sit in a circle with me in the middle because I was “so entertaining.” As I got a little older, I’d read books with my parents and memorize what they were saying and when they would turn the page, and then trick people into thinking I could read by myself when really I was just acting. I learned the lines, memorized the motions, and then performed my part.
I was eight years old the first time I ever found myself acting with an actual script and real people around me as opposed to improvised stories and stuffed animals in my bedroom. I was taking ballet classes (more on this later) and the dance studio I went to had a director come in to have two of her original plays performed. The first was her own version of the Cinderella story, and the second was an island mystery of sorts. For Cinderella, I played both Lucifer the cat (who, in this version, was actually very nice and was one of Cinderella’s best friends), as well as one of the evil stepsisters (who was still an evil step-sister in this edition). These parts required quick changes, more lines to learn, and possibly made the story more confusing, but I loved every second of it.
When the time came for the second play, I was given the part of Emily. Emily was the hero. She solved the mystery, got to faint a couple of times, and had to say “oh my gosh!” which was a phrase my religious upbringing didn’t allow (more on this later, as well). I loved playing the main character. It wasn’t that I needed to be front and center, in fact it was quite the opposite. I loved the challenge. I loved learning more lines and I loved being in more scenes so I could be with more people. When the plays were over, I was sad but didn’t really think about it too much. What I remember most from the whole experience is overhearing the director tell my mom I was a good actress for my age. When I heard her say that, something struck a chord in me. I realized that I liked what I was doing, and someone thought I was good at it. It would be four more years before I’d act with a real script and real people again, and it would be an entire decade before I’d venture out of school productions into a theatre internship. But the time didn’t matter. The light bulb had been lit. I was officially hooked.