The InPlay blog contest, Entry No. 8. Meet author Beverly Skoll.
By Beverly Skoll For InPlay Capital Region Read contest rules here
It is the fall of 2010; I have been retired four years after what seems like a lifetime of teaching in Schenectady city schools. My part-time retirement job is at the front desk at the downtown YMCA, entrance off the parking lot on Franklin Street. I peer out the glass doors from time-to-time to watch SLOC move into its brand-new digs, the old St. John the Baptist church across the street. The “marquee” finally goes up. As an avid theatre-goer, I am excited! As a tentative community-theatre-actor- wannabe, I am motivated!
The first show of the first season is Ragtime, a musical with a large cast and several large themes. This is going to be my first audition ever, and all I really want is a part in the ensemble. I download the opening song, “Ragtime,” and play it repeatedly for weeks. I memorize the words and practice singing, in my car, on my daily walks, in the shower. The audition is closed, only l and the director and the music director. I don’t have the sheet music because... well, I don’t know, I’m ignorant about auditions. I smile a lot; I am buoyant; I perform the heck out of that song.
I get a part! I am a Jewish immigrant in the ensemble! I am elated! My ancestors were Jewish immigrants; I feel the awe and fear of my character as we arrive at Ellis Island. (“Amereke”) My ancestors were factory workers; I understand the struggles of the weary workers on the assembly line. (“Henry Ford”) I am a feminist; I empathize with Emma Goldman and the strikers at Union Square. (“Union Square”) We sing, we dance, we watch in horror as Coalhouse’s car is destroyed and, later, when Sarah is killed.
For eight weeks of rehearsals and performances, I am living the exuberance of the show. There is an inexplicable thrill for an actor, waiting in the wings for an entrance, assuming the persona of a character, becoming that person, and looking at the world through his or her eyes. I am hooked on playing dress-up, changing my clothes backstage, having the makeup artist do my face, the hairstylist comb out my wig.
Acting in this show is an experience that changes my life. I have taken a risk, putting myself onstage, where an actor is vulnerable, naked under the lights. Because of that, I am more self-aware, conscious of who I am and of all the amazing things I can accomplish.