Last week my friend from high school posted a "playbill" from the first play I was ever in. It was Oliver Twist and I played Miss Eliza Sellers, a completely made up bookseller in Merry Olde England. I wore a day-glo yellow dress and my hair up in a bun (I wasn't always bald). I even remember my first line: "Wait, stop! Please don't take that boy away! Stop one moment!" I had to burst onto the stage as they were dragging Oliver away and it was simultaneously the most petrifying and exhilarating moment of my 14 year old life. And looking back, if I'm completely honest, I've never felt quite like that since. Like I wanted to both vomit and upstage the entire show by breaking into an off-the-cuff soft shoe. Incredible.
I need to mention here that I was painfully shy at the time. This, incredibly, is the hand-to-God truth. I had one friend (Jackie) who I was completely dependent on. So much so that when she was off due to pneumonia for 2 weeks, I spent every lunch hour until she came back pathetically eating lunch in a bathroom stall, crouching on the seat so that my feet wouldn't show underneath. Like I said, pathetic. When I think of that time I want to shout to my stupid younger self: "GET OUT THERE YOU IDIOT! THEY'RE JUST KIDS!! THEY DON'T BITE FOR EFF SAKE!"
Thankfully my English teacher Mrs. Beiner saw something in me trying to get out. She forced me to do this play and at the time I resented her for it. But it was exactly what I needed to get my head out of my own ass and today I hold her completely responsible (good or bad) for making me the sassy, mouthy, outgoing ray of sunshine you see before you today. I wish I could contact her so I could tell her this. Because if it wasn't for those 12 lines on that terrifying day in March 1982, I wouldn't be me.