The curtains open. Ten-year-old me sits in the audience, waiting for the eighth grade musical to commence. The music begins, then the singing.
"Alice in Wonderland. How do you get to Wonderland?" And so on. The show continues. "Zippity-doo-dah, zippitty-ay. My, oh my what a wonderful day..." They only show a sample, but I come back for more that evening.
"I want to do that," I say.
A year later, the curtains open again. Eleven-year-old me is excited. This year is one of my favorite shows: Beauty and the Beast. The music begins again, then the singing.
"Little town, it's a quiet village..." The singing, the dancing, the acting continue. "Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, Beauty and the Beast..."
This year they show the whole thing; no need to come back for more.
Another year later, the curtains open one more time, and, again, there I am, twelve now. The music starts, then the singing, as always.
"Come find your baby... maybe..." Annie. The old classic which never gets old. The show continues, me watching as the ordinarily shy actress cast in the title role comes out of her shell entirely. The show goes on... "You're never fully dressed without a smile!"
And now... it is the year of my show. Eighth grade. We're doing The Little Mermaid- not one of my favorites, and Ariel has the least personality of any Disney princess, but I've been waiting for this for years. I'm not quitting now.
We prepare for auditions. I drive my family crazy practicing, and they tolerate me quite well. I audition, barely nervous, though I am the day the cast list is revealed. The girl with long, wavy, blond hair is cast as Ariel, as we all knew. I'm hoping for Ursula, but I don't have a chance. I do, however, apparently fit the description of the chef, who is named Louis, but my director renames me Louise. I refer to myself as Louis for the duration of the show, however.
Once auditions are over, we get into the phase of nothing happening. Unless you're a lead, which I'm not, you are incredbly bored, which I am. Things don't pick up until the end, when my scene is blocked. I'm in the first song, of course, and I'm a member of a four-person sea creature chorus. Two of the other members have choreographed a dance for "Under the Sea". I'm a horrible dancer (I signed up to sing), but I enjoy it.
Once we get in costume, the whole thing gets better. The director has brought a fork from home for Ariel to be fascinated with, and it's what I use to chase Sebastian. I manage to scare the actor playing Sebastian out of his wits, and I have fun chasing him around the stage.
Finally, the performance.
The curtains open. Thirteen-year-old me stands backstage. I'm missing a performance of Macbeth, in which I play the first witch, for this. After all this waiting, I'm not nearly as nervous or excited as I thought I would be. The music begins. "I'll tell you a tale of the bottomless blue..." I don't go on right away, and when I do I lie on my stomach with the other sea creatures, kicking my legs and tilting my head. We're front and center, but we're not the focus of the scene. That would be the prince and Ariel. My song doesn't come until page seventy of the script, but when it does, I shine.
"Les poissons, les poissons, how I love les poissons! Love to CHOP and to serve leetle feesh."
I do it in a really weird accent, since Chef Louis(e) is supposed to be French, and I let my bloodthirsty side show.
Now, much later, I remember my every line (there were two) and my every lyric. And somewhere, the actor who played Sebastian is very, very afraid of me.