It was less than an hour until our Grade 12 musical debuted on the cafeteria stage. As I stared at myself in the looking glass, adjusting the strap of the fluffy bunny-ear hood I was wearing around my paint-smeared White Rabbit face, I decided to abandon my dream of going into musical theatre.
Not that I could sing or dance or act well enough to ever be cast in a Mirvish production of, well, anything, but up until the embarrassingly half-assed adaptation of Alice in Wonderland my school barfed onto a stage that year I had at least found theatre fun and exciting. But being ordered to drive my 1984 Chevette in full rabbit regalia, accompanied by a six-foot-tall caterpillar, the King and Queen of hearts and a Dormouse who looked like she was wearing blackface, to the local mall to spend an hour loitering by the food court handing out jaggedly cut flyers didn’t exactly sell the dream. It instead gave me a glimpse into what many working actors end up doing – wearing a Best Buy mascot uniform handing out coupons at Blue Jays games in exchange for $30 and a slice of pizza.
So now, instead of being an understudy for Scarborough Theatre’s production of Brigadoon, I have a job that allows me the luxury of sitting at a desk all day being as un-creative as possible. This is great because it pays me more than $30 and when people get pregnant we get lots of free pizza. It also means, however, that without creating my own opportunities on the outside I would slowly lose my mind and end up renovating my bedroom into a theatre for my eight Persian cats so I could dress them in Winnie the Pooh costumes and have them reenact the Disney movie over and over until they got it right.
This need to create my own opportunities means I never rest, rarely sleep and will likely die of old age before I turn 50. But the long nights of taking classes, writing sketches, doing shows and
being drunk networking are just so gosh darn fun. Not having the training or the skills to play Sally Bowles in Cabaret – despite my striking resemblance to Liza Minnelli – means I get to write my own lines, make my own character choices and work with who I want (MANDY!). It also means the laughs I get are mine – ALL MINE! (Except for the ones that are Mandy’s.)
If I had never been forced to play the White Rabbit in that travesty of a musical (which included a dance choreographed to a remix of TLC’s “No Scrubs,” a set made of painted trees with compact discs glued to the branches, and four girls in school football uniforms dancing to “All in the Golden Afternoon”) maybe I would still have had hopes and dreams when university application time came around. Maybe I would have gone into a musical theatre program, would have never been quite good enough and ended up dressed as the Snuggle Bear handing out buttons to desperate children at The Ex. Instead I gave up on my goals early, which has proved to be one of the best choices I ever made. Thank you, (name of director withheld), for your exceptional lack of inspiration.
Seriously, though – that play was a piece of shit.