Looking back at my high school theater career

By: Kelly Branco, Art & Music Editor

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My last high school production closed and I’m still processing what happened. It still baffles me that I wont be coming back next year to do another show on the stage with my closest friends and Mrs. Platko as the director. I’ve learned so many things in these last four years and played so many fantastic roles. I’m going to miss the theater department here at CHS.

Freshman Year: You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown

Photo Credit: The Declaration Staff
Because of the type of show, the cast was mainly freshman.

It feels like just yesterday was my freshman year audition for the musical. I always loved performing in musicals and singing and dancing. In middle school, I did the musical and finished off my eighth grade year playing Edwina Spoonapple in Dear Edwina Jr. After watching my friends in the fall play, I was so ready to do the musical in the spring. My co-editor, Jada Davis , and I were the only freshmen to show up at prepared auditions. I was singing one of my favorite songs, Morning Person from Shrek the Musical. I was so enthusiastic that I think I scared our music director when I slated. A slate is basically what you start of your audition with: “Hi, my name is ______ and I’ll be performing _____ from ________”.

Then I got a callback for the show, which was You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Following callbacks, I ended up being cast in the ensemble. I thought I knew so much about theater, turns out I didn’t. I had so much to learn. And thus, began my journey, I was launched into the theater world once and for all. A theater kid I would forever remain.

That year was a lot of fun, I made lots of friends and I created a name for myself. Maybe I shouldn’t say “name”,  but I started to sprout out and show people what I loved to do and what my talent was. Then the musical ended and I wasn’t ready to see my senior friends go, I don’t talk to them much anymore, save for one.

Sophomore Year: Gypsy

Photo Credit: The Declaration Staff
Because of this show, I learned how to put on a wig the right way.

Again after another gruesome year of soccer in the fall, I started to want to do theater again. Spring rolled around and our musical was Gypsy. I only wanted one part and one part alone, the supporting character June. She was the happy persona on stage but behind closed doors hated that her mother was controlling her life. I connected to June; that fall I didn’t have a really good experience playing soccer. I wanted to quit but my mother told me that I had to play or else I wouldn’t be allowed to do theater. The sport I had once had a love for was losing its magic and performing was starting to become my passion.

I auditioned for Gypsy and I ended up being cast as June. This show was when I learned how to actually put on a wig with pin curls and a wig cap. I also found out that I don’t look good as a blonde and I learned how to twirl a baton.

This year was the turning point for me, I ended up realizing that I wanted to do theater as a profession, much to my mother’s dismay. I realized I wanted to become a professional actress.

Junior Year: Arsenic & Old Lace

Photo Credit: The Declaration Staff
Did you know: plays are actually called “straight plays”?

I took example from June and took control of my own life after Gypsy and I quit the soccer team and auditioned for the fall play. I had never done a straight play before so I had no clue what I was doing. But sure enough, I got the role that I wrote down on the paper. I had no clue who Elaine Harper was but she was a younger character so I went for it. But, my best friend since we were 6, Ryan Campbell was cast as Mortimer. Mortimer is Elaine’s fiancee and they had to kiss in the show. That was an experience, let me tell you. I ended up falling in love with plays and classic playwrights because of this play.

I absolutely loved this role, I got to play a sassy and straightforward character. It was new and different than what I was used to. This show also was very close to me as closing night I went to the hospital to find out that my  grandfather had cancer. I went to the cast party after seeing my grandfather and my cast mates were there for me. They were my support, something I didn’t experience on the soccer team. From that moment on, I knew that these were the people I wanted to surround myself with.

Junior Year: Hairspray

Photo Credit: The Declaration Staff
Because of this role, I gained lots of friends and learned to embrace myself and my personality. Tracy helped me a lot, in more ways than one.

This was my favorite role/musical I have ever done. Auditions for this show was very stressful. I wanted to play the one and only Tracy Turnblad, a plump quirky girl who fights for integration in segregated Baltimore in the 60’s. Ever since I was a young girl I’ve loved Hairspray and I’ve wanted to play Tracy. This was around the time I saw my first Broadway musical (which was Book of Mormon).

I ended up getting cast in one of my dream roles and it was phenomenal. This was the year we had a new choreographer and he didn’t come to play. Hairspray is a very big show, very dance heavy and lots of heavy vocals. For people who don’t know, dancing at full energy while singing is hard, very hard. And I had to do this whole show in a fat suit. I ended up losing 15 pounds from this show.

This show also had the best cast, I became so close with everyone that I didn’t want my senior friends to leave. Some of these people I had been performing with for over 6 years. This was the year I also got pre-nominations from all of the Papermill Playhouse Rising Star Judges. I didn’t end up actually getting nominated by knowing that they acknowledged and liked my work made me feel good about myself.

Community Theater: Romeo & Juliet

Photo Credit: Metuchen Living
Community theaters are a vital part to the theater community. They give local actors a chance to shine and play the roles they want all while having fun.

After Hairspray I wanted to do another show so I looked into community theater. I’ve never actually done community theater before so I was a bit nervous. I auditioned for a big theater near me, Plays in the Park, I got a callback but I didn’t actually get cast. This was new to me, I had never been rejected before, I took it well and I went to the next audition. I got rejected from a couple of other community theaters and I felt defeated. But an e-mail came in my inbox for an audition for Romeo & Juliet. I just went because I wanted to be in a show, although I’ve never done Shakespeare before.

I was cast in the ensemble and started out with no lines. There were points where I didn’t want to go to rehearsal at the beginning of the process. Eventually, I got to learn how to sword fight, played 4-5 roles and had more than 30 lines. I learned from that experience that I loved performing Shakespeare and that no matter how small the opportunity in theater make it the best.

Senior Year: Our Town

Photo Credit: Photo via Lors used with permission
Portraying such a complicated role was one of the most fun experiences of my high school theater career. Emily was the best role to end the fall play on.

This was my hardest role to play.  Our director cast me as Emily Webb in Our Town. For people who aren’t familiar with Our Town, this show has no props, it’s all pantomime. And it deals with the topic of death and living your life to the fullest. Emily Webb is a very hard character to play, she cries a lot in the last act of the show. Serious roles were not something I was used to playing. This was a new challenge for me. Putting myself in the headspace for this show was hard. I loved performing in this play and getting to do it alongside my best friend was amazing. A great way to end the fall play season senior year.

 

Senior Year: Chicago: High School Edition

This show was the hardest show mentally for me. I cried a lot. Chicago is one of my favorite musicals of the Golden Age. I didn’t receive the role I wanted and had a hard time embracing it. My senior year was supposed to go out with a bang.

Photo Credit: The Declaration Staff
I learned the biggest lesson playing one of musical theater’s most wackiest characters. “There’s a little bit of good in everyone and everything”.

Eventually, I grew closer to my cast and poured my entire heart into the role I received. I played Mary Sunshine, a very gullible reporter who believes that everyone no matter how criminal has a little bit of good in them. This show still doesn’t feel like my last show, I still feel like I’m going to come back next year and perform another show. I think I cried the most the last show when that last note played signaling the end of my high school career I lost it in the wings. All of the memories flooded back, my eyelash glue gave up on me because I cried so much that my eyelash fell off on my final bow. I wouldn’t want my senior year to end any other way, looking back.

Final Thoughts

Photo Credit: Kelly Branco
Confidently, I am proud to say I’m pursuing my career at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Florham Park, New Jersey.

These last four years I’ve grown a lot. I’ve grown as a person and a performer. I’ve learned to appreciate my craft and I found my career and my passion. I will be attending Fairleigh Dickinson University in the Fall with a Musical Theater major. I have made so many friends and learned so many lessons. Each show, character, and performance holds a place in my heart and I’ll miss the countless hours I’ve put into this program. I can’t wait to come back and watch next year’s shows: Little Shop of Horrors and Maybe Baby, It’s Me.

 

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