Of course I said yes, even though I had never before had any interest in going on stage. It wasn’t every day that I was asked to participate. Usually it was the popular kids who got to perform. I certainly didn’t qualify.
But Liza was in charge, and Liza was my friend. Liza was also the tallest kid in 6th grade. I was the third smallest (Betsy and Annette were smaller, if you’re wondering). So I was perfect for the part of George Washington’s granddaughter. Liza, the playwright and tall person, would play General George Washington at the end of the Revolutionary War.
We were set to perform Liza’s play in front of the 4th, 5th and 6th graders on the big stage in the auditorium. We were even allowed to open and close the stage curtains!
My part was small, but important — General George Washington’s granddaughter, Nelly. This is how my big scene was supposed to go.
Following a couple of battle scenes, General George/Liza appears in the living room of his granddaughter, Nelly, who is delighted to see him. Nelly/Elyse runs up to Grandpa/Liza, and jumps up to give Grandpa a big hug, and say:
“Grandpa!” Then I was to slowly get down, looking at how Grandpa George/Liza is dressed — in civilian clothes, and continue: “Where are your pretty soldier clothes?”
“I have put them away for good, Nelly,” Grandpa George/Liza responds. “The War is over.”
It didn’t quite go that way during our performance, though. Because you see, I was a little bit over excited. So when it was time for my big scene, well …
The curtain opened…
“GRANDPA!” I screamed, and I ran at Grandpa George/Liza like a ball of fury, and I jumped!
I jumped so hard, in fact, that Grandpa George/Liza dropped me on my butt before falling on his.
You know the adage “the show must go on? Well I’m assuming I’d never heard it. I was quite young you see.
I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to deliver the rest of my lines. Liza managed to choke hers out, somehow. We were greeted with riotous applause when we did our curtain call. I’m pretty sure that the kids in the audience liked the improvised version better than the original.
It was years before I would get up the courage to get on stage again. And while I never again literally fell flat, I did have additional humiliating experiences, so obviously my fear was justified.
I tell this story because someone who followed me in school, and performed in my high school acting group just hit the big time. And not with her butt.
Alison Porter, who won The Voice last night, also grew up in my hometown, Westport, Connecticut. She is wildly talented. And upright.
Of course I have never met her, or seen her perform in real life. Still, it’s good to see a hometown girl make good, standing on her own two feet.