Earlier this fall, we took out my parents for their 35th anniversary. Since my whole family is sort of the worst at birthdays and other Hallmark milestones, we made sure to plan something well in advance. My eldest sister Robyn came up with the idea of dinner at a show (The Matchmaker) at the Stratford Festival. Stratford is a beautiful town in Southern Ontario, mainly recognized for its Shakespeare festival and spawning the Biebs.
I love the theatre. I really do! Every time I go, it feels like a very special occasion. I have a certain level of respect for it, even: it sort of demands that one dresses up. This event was the perfect time to bust out the two new thrifts. The main player in this outfit is this vintage dress ($6.99). The inserts almost look like leather, and it’s just my kind of cut. The supporting role is this vintage London Fog trench coat ($14.99). Both items felt sufficiently classic and dramatic enough for a night in front of the stage.
The other thing a trip to the theatre always does is reopen the long-repressed drama geek inside. I never was a leading lady (well, maybe one time, but I was more a leading man – I’ll get to that) but my life has been peppered with moments on stage that I’ll always look back on with a misty lens.
My first performance was a tall one – I was cast as Mary. As in Mary: the mother of Jesus. I should add, though, that every other girl in the kindergarten was also cast Mary. Right before my Christmas debut, I overheard another girl profess something called “stage fright”. I hadn’t heard that term before, but I had a feeling it would get me off of the stage. So, I told my teacher I too had “stage fright”. She then made a promise that if we made it through the performance, she’d give us fuzzy stickers. So, we trudged our terry cloth hinnies back out there for an adorably-bad performance of Feliz Navidad. However, I never got the stickers. So I didn’t really learn anything about conquering stage fright, but I did learn a healthy distrust for teachers.
My next big break didn’t happen until grade 7. But what a break it was. Our school put on a play called “Hans Bronson’s Gold Medal Mission”. The plot centred around a vain, money-obsessed Olympian from somewhere in Europe that produces Schwarzenegger accents. I wanted the role of the plucky, pretty reporter who teaches Hans to stop being a big jerk and love Jesus instead, but since we don’t always get what we want, I ended up as Hans.
Thankfully, The teachers in changed Hans to Hannah, but I still had to talk like Arnold and tape fake muscles inside my windbreaker. Sadly, my teenaged self destroyed any and all photographic evidence from this event, so I don’t have any visuals (GDCS alumni, consider this a call for photos!). But the good people of Youtube have provided a clip of a school (much wealthier and larger than ours) performing some numbers from this gem. Their performance is totally amazing because—for reasons I can’t fathom—they cast a GROWN UP MAN as Hans. Which somehow makes it SO MUCH CREEPIER. That dude must live if fear that any woman he meets will eventually dig this up, and be like “Hey, uh…why are you singing with all these children?”.
Oh, and I have to mention the lyrical rewrite that came out of this, courtesy of some boys in my class. The original lyrics to the main number went like this: “Hannah Hannah Bronson / She is so brawny and strong / Hannah Hannah Bronson / Our nation’s great favourite gal”. The rewrite? “Hannah Hannah Bronson / She is so scrawny and weak / Hannah Hannah Bronson / Our nation’s great favourite geek”. OUCH. MY FEELINGS. Man! Kids are the worst, am I right? Put this scenario in 2012 TV land and you know I’d be hit with a slushie. Drama geeks: The original gleeks.
The only other story-worth role I’ll share with you today should really be told by my older sister Robyn, but she doesn’t have a blog so too bad. In the 9th grade, my high school mounted a production of Pride and Prejudice: The Musical (because whenever I read Jane Austen, I’m always thinking: “This could use more musical numbers!”). Robyn, in her final year of high school, longed for the leading role of Elizabeth Bennet. She’d spent the last four years working her way up the drama ladder, so she was overdue for a leading role.
But another very important factor in her quest for the spotlight centred around her main crush at the time: Brandon. Brandon was a shoo-in for the Darcy role. For one, teenage boys don’t usually flock to be a part of the school play (which is stupid, because they could meet tons of girls). For another, he was really, really good. Me? I just wanted a part, any part.
The cast list went up a few days later. Brandon was cast as Darcy. Robyn snagged Elizabeth, and I was cast as Kitty Bennet, Elizabeth’s flighty sister. It was the BEST possible outcome. I was thrilled to have a role in which I could wear pretty Jane Austen dresses instead of track pants, and I could also squeal and giggle anytime my sister and her crush were on stage together. Well, kids, in something out of Taylor Swift video, those two crazy kids FELL IN LOVE FOR REAL! Isn’t that the best? Robyn and Brandon, as Elizabeth and Darcy, started dating later that year, and they’re now married and parents to three beautiful girls (and my guess is their bound for two more to complete the Bennett family).
Thus, when my nieces are old enough, I can tell them I witnesses their parents’ first awkward kiss, because it was on stage during a dress rehearsal, and I ran out of hair and make-up to make sure I saw it (…is that weird?).
While there were a few other fun memories in my theatre career, none of them really warrant a retelling. I did get to play a wolf in a production of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, but those photos have gone the way of Hannah Bronson. While I might miss the camaraderie of a cast and curtain-call applause, I can still channel that dramatic spirit any time I want, with some red lipstick and a long trench. After all, all the world’s a stage, right?