A Little Bit of a Prologue

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.

On the Whole Acting Thing, and Ending Up Where You Didn’t Want to Be

I was fifteen the day I decided to be an actress. It was over spring break of my first year of high school, and I was in the car with my dad when I announced that I really wanted to pursue this thing that I loved so much. I then followed that by saying I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get a lot of parts, considering my appearance (seriously), and he replied by saying there were parts for almost everyone. I texted my mom to tell her, and she told me to be brave. I was, but I really wasn’t sure how to approach this newfound dream. I kept having a picture in my head of me collapsing to the floor in tears after rejection after rejection.

Soon after making this decision, I got the brilliant idea of going to La Sierra University (which is near Los Angeles) so I would have a place to live and a cafeteria for food, and then get an agent and go to auditions before eventually dropping out (I assumed after a year) to do acting full time. If my life was a movie, this is where there would be a jump cut to me and my mom driving through the middle of nowhere last September to drop me off in South Eastern Washington. There would probably be the sound of crickets, too.

Walla Walla, Washington is a very different place than Los Angeles. It’s a town, sure, but it’s in the middle of nowhere. Still, it’s full of art and creativity and people who love art and creativity. While here, I’ve worked backstage in a community theatre, and been as involved as possible in my school’s drama department. I’ve made progress in my dream, even if I’m not living in Los Angeles. Since being fifteen, I’ve learned it doesn’t matter where you are, but rather the people you’re with and how hard you’re willing to work.

In the past four (almost five) years since deciding to pursue this, I’ve been fully rejected from two auditions, put in the ensemble in two musicals, and cast as a character with a name in two productions. I’m pretty even, and although I hope it doesn’t stay that way, I’m sure there will always be lots of tally marks under the line that reads rejections and the line that reads kind of/kind of not. That’s just what happens in this world, and that’s okay. I’ve learned that you always get the parts you’re supposed to have- the ones that will teach you the thing you’re supposed to learn.

I’ve played characters I love, and I’ve played characters I hate (though I always end up loving parts of them in the end. Darn my empathetic nature). I’ve been given scripts that lead to rehearsals where I need to cry or yell or kiss or say things totally apart from who I think I am. I’ve forgotten lines on stage and had to be saved by my scene partner. More often than not, I’ve worn my own clothes as costumes. I’ve met my best friends, learned to think outside the box, and challenged almost all of my beliefs. I’ve had to be super vulnerable with directors and other actors, whether with words or actions. Because of the whole acting thing and ending up where I didn’t think I wanted to be, I’ve grown up. I am very thankful I found a soft place to land.

Me, at fifteen years old, the same day I decided to be a little bit brave.

Me, at fifteen years old, the same day I decided to be a little bit brave.

Space

It has been exactly five weeks since this show came to an end, and it has taken me that long to process it enough to be able to say goodbye in this way. Last week, I visited the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, and was stunned to remember how much of "A Wrinkle in Time" is spent referencing science, math, physics, and other things that I always avoided paying too much attention to. Of course, there were also a myriad of references to literature and language, creation and communication, but Meg, a character so close to my heart, was of course a lover of the logical. In many ways, Meg is the opposite of who I am. She can get angry in an outward way. She can understand how a tesseract works (and even though I sat through a monologue about it dozens of times, I still don’t fully understand it). Meg loves logic. By playing her, part of me learned to appreciate the beauty in math, in science, and, yes, even in logic. But Meg taught me so much more than that. She taught me what it looks like to believe in something so strongly that you forget about yourself. She showed me what it looks like to love deeply. Meg gave me so much. But all you of gave and taught me things, too.

You taught me what it looks like when a group of people become a family. In many ways, you showed me what love is. Before “A Wrinkle in Time,” I wasn’t used to friendships this deep. I am thankful to have found such wonderful friendships in so many of you. I am so lucky to have worked with all of you. In your own ways, you each made me a better actress, a better Meg, and a better human. Before I went onstage each night, while the movement piece was happening, I would pray that God would give me the words. That this show, and the words we were all saying, would reach people so that they could see God through us. One night, after a particularly bad day and before a rather rocky show, I prayed it harder than usual. At the end, someone came up to me and said, “I saw what you were doing, I heard the message. Thank you.” Collectively, we made something beautiful. I don’t think I will ever be able to fully express what this show meant to me.

This story, which I was given at eleven years old, means a great deal to me. To be given the opportunity to bring it life with so many people that I love is not something I get to do every day. I was so lucky to have the chance to spend seven long, intense weeks with so many talented individuals. Emma recently said something that stuck out to me, and I hope she won’t mind that I’m stealing it. She said (or, rather, wrote), “The universe is a very vast place and at least when you look at it, you find pieces of home or at least stories that feel like home.” The story of “A Wrinkle in Time,” and the stories that came from this play that I will be telling for years upon years all feel like home.

I won’t be able to thank you all separately, because then I would cry more than I already have, but I hope you all know how much I still treasure those weeks. For all the ups and downs they brought with us, I couldn’t choose a better group of people to go through it all with. Those seven weeks were my lightyears. They flew by so quickly. They burned brighter than the sun. They taught me so much. As Madeleine L’Engle once wrote, “Believing takes practice.” Thank you for giving me a space to practice believing, and for helping me grow into this. Thank you for holding my hand, hugging me close, and, simply, believing in me. You are all my darlings, and my dears. The lights of my life, and the treasures of my heart. Truly- I love you, I love you, I love you. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I love you all to Ixcel and back. 

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