Learning to live

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Your first time ever on a stage. The lights are on your face and everybody is staring at you. They're all waiting for you to start. What now? This is a record of my experiences on the stage. Not on a professional one, never in front of anybody but our parents and the school Principal. But that doesn't make it any less frightening or vivid to me. These are the times I participated in our school Drama Competition, and it was a new and strange experience for me, so different from what I was used to. But somehow I ended up loving it, and each year I would promise myself to go for it next year. I see no future on the stage, but I still find it thrilling and exciting to participate. And the knowledge that it was me, that I helped my house to win, is the sweet, sweet reward.

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The First Time

I went to the auditions because I was tired of being a nerd.

Tired of being alienated from everybody else when the exam results came and pushed away from their last-minute studying because I was, apparently, too smart… so smart I would never belong with other kids.

Would they believe it if I told them that the feeling of belonging was all I ever wanted?

I felt it, at first, last year. My monthly test marks were skyrocketing, and suddenly everybody was filled with awe……. but not friendliness. Nobody wanted me is their team in rugby. Nobody would let me in on the secret stuff they did in class because apparently I was nothing more than a teacher’s pet. All I had for friends were quiet kids who read all the time and wore glasses.

I liked them a lot, sure, but they weren’t my type. They would go and sit in the library studying on the last day of school when everybody else was running, jumping, fighting outside. Every instinct screamed at me to go join the mad mass of kids below, but I didn’t.

I didn’t understand for a long time. The teachers led me on, told me I was doing excellently and praised me so often in class that I let it go to my head.

All the while, the mad, impulsive, bright, lively kids were sneaking treats, playing jokes and enjoying their lives while I sat there copying the teachers’ registry books. I’m serious.

But this year…. I walked into class and the teacher was young, bright and open-minded. She saw me and I felt that she was disappointed. I’m not surprised. She saw a scrawny girl who was thin and bookish and resembled a fifty-year-old librarian.

She told me that to my face. She encouraged me to do sports. She made sure that I had every opportunity to go for events and new experiences and told me what another teacher wouldn’t have said- your schoolwork is not your life. Go out and live. Go out and have fun.

She told me that because she cared, cared in a way no one else had bothered. She went out of her way to make me go for competitions, tryouts and sports. But I knew it was never unfair- she did it for everybody, tried her best to give us what we needed.

I wanted to please her. She was a star that shone in a dark night, a bright soul among a hundred thousand.

I went to the auditions for the drama competition hesitantly. I knew there wouldn’t be any of my friends there-it was not their type of thing. Five girls from what I like to think as the ‘popular’ cliché were there. I knew them, but not well.

Three of us got together and auditioned, and the next day there was a notice on my desk that told me that I had been selected for the drama of Aquila house (which is my house). I went for the first practice afraid. I had never acted before and I had no idea how. I wanted to have a good role in the drama but I didn’t want to do it badly and let everyone down.

I practically sobbed with relief when I saw that I was a narrator, a role that was utterly perfect. I had an OK voice and I would not have to act.

My partner was a girl in my class. She was ‘popular’ but I knew her. We’d done a project together and knew each other well. We got along as our drama slowly started coming together.

There had been a call for script writers, but I hadn’t gone. I liked writing but I hadn’t liked the particular topic and given up. So the script we used was written by an Aussie girl older than me who was Deputy Captain of Aquila House. It was OK, with some good bits in between.

I have a good memory and I got to know all the actors very quickly. We worked well together.

Soon there was a problem. As we practiced the drama again and again, the original script was edited and refined. The final draft ended up with almost nothing for a narrator to say. It was useless having two narrators when there was so little to be said, but no one told either of us to get the hell out.

My partner was also acting as a student in some scenes of the play, and as a drug dealer in some others. She had quite a big part but only one line or two as narrator. I guess I really liked her because I felt sorry for her and gave her my main part- the opening line. It was important and I had been hoping that I might get a special award or something if I pulled it off, but I told her that she could say it, no problem.

Now she was left with a good bit of narration, a role as student and a scene as a drug dealer, while I had only five lines of narration in the middle of the story that was hardly likely to be noticed.

I did regret giving her the scene, but it made me kinder, it made us warmer towards each other.

And I am something of a control freak. I was constantly directing the play, considering new ideas and adding scenes. But I was a nobody and the girl who wrote it. She was good, but I kept interrupting her with new stuff. My stuff wasn't that bad, but one day she just lost it and yelled at me to shut up, nobody wanted to hear what a narrator had to say when there were so many more important characters around.

I was mad. I kept on doing the directing thing a bit quietly, because I knew what I was doing. She shot me spiteful glances now and then, but kept her mouth shut.

Drama day. My partner was wearing full black and I full white, sort of a Black Knight and a White Knight. We were ready to go. Our Deputy Captain/directress was acting as the grandma in the play, and she came up to me before it started and told me she was sorry for being so mean and I apologized for usurping her play. We called a truce.

We managed to do the drama well. I missed my cue once, and my voice may have shaken, but I was doing my best. Our play worked out, but so did the plays of the other three houses-Cetus, Cygnus and Ursa.

It was a painful hour of waiting as the judges deliberated. Fingers crossed. The prize giving finally started.

Our Deputy Captain won the Best Script Writer award.

Our lead actor won best Actor.

The guy acting as Father in the play won Best Supporting Actor.

And Aquila House won First place in the Inter House English Drama Competition 2018.

We were screaming, we were shouting we were cheering as we ran up onto the stage and held up the shining Cup as confetti fluttered down.

I was smiling, I was screaming in exhilaration. This was something I had worked hard for, and it had paid off.


In that moment, life was a beautiful myriad of stars.

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