There is a time in everyone’s life when they can look back and see all the moments that led them to become the person they are today. I am no exception. I can identify exactly what led me to teaching, what led me to become a writer, and the stepping stones to my lifelong vocation as a theatre lover. All the signs were there, even in childhood. No one could tell you better than the people who watched me blossom into the theatre nerd I am today: my family.
Here are nine times my family knew I was destined to become a theatre nerd:
1. My parents spent an entire summer listening to my sister and I sing the entire soundtrack from “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” on our numerous four-hour drives to the cottage every weekend. We would always fight over who would get the only female singing role and see who could belt louder during “Close Every Door.” The following summer, my father insisted the cassette tape had mysteriously worn out.
2. Family friends came to visit once, and I coerced them into being a part of an elaborate production of the musical numbers from “Pocahontas,” staged in my basement. Our costumes included a dress I made from a burlap sack and an unfortunate selection of vests I owned (give me a break, it was the ‘90s). A baby carriage doubled as the canoe in “Just Around the Riverbend,” and my sister was pushed around in it while using a broom as a paddle. The others held up a blue bedsheet that acted as the river while also hiding the wheels on the stroller. Needless to say, the show opened and closed the same afternoon.
3. My first crush was Lt. Joe Cable in the movie-musical “South Pacific.” We spent a month one summer visiting my father’s aunt in Prince Edward Island. She lived in the tiniest town, where the video store doubled as the gas station and convenience store. They had five kid-friendly rentals available: four Rodgers and Hammerstein movie musicals and a Shirley Temple flick. I watched a lot of “South Pacific” that summer.
4. I saw “Wicked” for the first time as a teenager when the touring cast came to Toronto. I loved the show so much that I bought the CD soundtrack afterward and became obsessed. After discovering iron-on transfer sheets for the printer, I bought a plain tote bag and ironed a print-out of the musical poster on the front of it. I got strange looks from the cool kids when I carried it to class, but to the theatre and music kids, my bag was hot. I walked into those arts classes with my bag like Tyra Banks on a catwalk. Yeah, you know it.
5. My family owned a camcorder, and I loved filming music videos and fake reality shows with my friends. They were works of art, with synchronized dancing, poorly chosen hairstyles involving far too many butterfly clips, baggy neon wind pants and crop tops we created by folding up the bottoms of our tank tops and tucking them underneath, just like Britney. I still have some of those videos and recently joked about showing them at my theatre friend’s wedding. She threatened to kill me if I ever showed them in public.
6. My parents put me and my older sister in charge of babysitting my little brother one Saturday afternoon while they were out. My brother ended up running into a wall and getting a big bump on his head because we stole his stuffed animal and made him chase us around the house to get it back. My parents were livid. We were supposed to be the older, responsible sisters. Most kids would be grounded or have their television privileges revoked, but we had our theatre tickets taken away. A friend had given our family free tickets to see “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” the following weekend. My parents gave the tickets away to my aunt, and I was crushed. We did get to see the musical a few months later, but I always remembered how I would have preferred to lose the television.
7. I essentially pestered one of my middle school teachers into directing a school play. Extracurricular activities in the arts were hard to come by where I grew up. To my surprise, I did not get the lead role. Gutted, I withdrew from the production entirely in true dramatic fashion. When my mother finally convinced me quitting was not the mature thing to do, I crawled back with my tail between my legs and took the only job that was still available, leading the choir. So, what I imagined to be my big moment as a star was not quite as I pictured. My theatrical debut was not even onstage, but rather on the floor to the left of it.
8. In my youth, I had a habit of dramatic, huffy exits followed by the slamming of my bedroom door whenever I had a disagreement with anyone in my family. After one particular set of fits, my mother had my father remove my bedroom door from the hinges and put it in the basement. Shrewd move, lady, but I could play that game. I proceeded to sing at the top of my lungs for the entire house to enjoy. This went on for about a week before the door was returned.
9. For two years, I forced my mother to let me attend a local theatre camp for three weeks in the summer. My second summer, they were putting on a production of “Alice in Wonderland,” and I was hell-bent on playing Alice. Much to my disappointment, the part went to a boy, and the character was renamed “Alex.” Instead, I got the part of the Queen of Hearts, who only appears in the second act. She is supposed to end up with a cake getting smashed in her face, which our director decided would be fake. However, I wanted to Daniel Day Lewis the shit out of that part and insisted the week before the show that the cake be real for each production. The director eventually gave in. The cake was smashed, I acted my heart out and soaked up the cheers and laughter as icing and cake ran down my face. I worked at that camp every summer after for seven years.
These are only a few of the charming anecdotes my family loves to regale my prospective mates with at holiday dinners. Jokes on them, though, because I expect these stories will provide excellent material for my future memoir, which will obviously skyrocket me to fame and later become a major motion picture. Does anyone know what Anna Kendrick’s schedule looks like in the future? I’ll have her people call my people.