January 26th, 2023
I was drama club president.
This probably comes as no surprise to you.
I have but a few more essays for Origins month, and there’s no way I can talk about where I came from without mentioning the theater.
For most of my school career, I was a little lost in the woods. I had participated in various groups and sports (shut up, there’s photos, it happened), but I didn’t really fit into any of those organizational shapes; in fact, I was generally the wrong shape for most doorframes I encountered. I didn’t have a flight plan; I was less Peter Pan, more lost boy.
Halfway through my sophomore year, my teacher/director Paul Johnson told me that I, based on my various traits, most of them disruptive, should try out for the children’s play, a show put on for all the elementary kids in the area.
I auditioned, and I got my first big role: Bob, the Tickle Monster. The subsequent rehearsals and production started a years-long affair with the stage, which was the single most important part of my high school experience.
I gained confidence, I found friends, I made enemies, I created rivals, I learned how to do things I had always wanted to do. I acted and directed and put things (poorly) together; I sang and I danced and I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. I was introduced to art and culture: pop, high- and low-brow. I entertained people, an addiction I have never fully kicked.
More than anything else, though, I didn’t feel so lost.
This particular image is from the year we brought the Variety Show back, with myself and Brandon Pofahl as hosts.
This is the outfit I wore to school which caused so much controversy; the one that got me called to the principal’s office, and it was pointed out to me that “my tallywacker was sticking out.”
Because of this diaper and wings, I was radicalized; I saw the value in shock and making people talk. It was a revelation. This bled into who I was for the rest of high school, into my twenties, and there is still some of it left in me today. It’s in my work and my words and, while I have tried to liberally apply the balm of kindness to what I do, it’s an undeniable, uncomfortable truth of me:
I need attention, all of it, and I will go to dramatic lengths to get it.
I participated in every show I could until I moved out. I taught and directed theatre for children, writing my own plays, over several summers. And, yes, I became drama club president during my senior year.
Towards the end of high school, my interests shifted to music, where there was less Shakespeare, but more of that individual validation I so desperately craved. (I’ll be covering The Next Step in the month of May.)
But I owe theater a lot. It was a place I felt safe, where I could explore and discover parts of myself. I met the best people in that black box, and they made me feel far less alone. It was a formative community.
And with that community, I became more than a lost boy.