It was during my 7th grade year that I decided upon my answer to the age-old question: “What do you want to be when you grow up? ” Being that it was my first year at a junior high school, I was a little intimidated. I wasn’t fond of making new friends, so I stuck with the people I already knew from the year before. Jonathan, one of my closer friends, was as introverted as I was. He wasn’t looking for a whole lot of attention, but he did want to involve himself in school. Jonathan asked me to join the school’s drama club with him, so he wouldn’t have to do it alone.
I decided to humor him and attend the first meeting one day before school. When I walked in the doors, I saw kids laughing and joking around. It was such a comfortable atmosphere; I barely even felt as if I was still at school. Drama club wasn’t just some club, it was a place for me to be comfortable with myself. It was an escape from the humdrum school days which seemed to get longer as time passed. The drama club was filled with people who weren’t afraid to make fools of themselves and wouldn’t judge me when I did the same. I could let myself be silly and not feel ashamed.
I played games like ‘Understudy’ where a skit is started with a few students, the leader interrupts, and the students are replaced with new ones. The new actors then carry on the same general plot of the skit. It was the most fun I had experienced in such a long time. I caught myself going every Tuesday and Friday morning before school. We even planned to do a play one day after lunch. For once I was hoping to get some attention. I wanted to be seen. I had never wanted something like that before. I always laid low and kept to myself, but now I was on stage reading lines.
The funny thing about all of this was that I wanted to do it. It was my decision, and I was happy with it. I enjoyed myself so much that I wanted to experience it more often, but with no theater in town, it was easier for me to watch movies. I watched more and more, and before I knew it, I started paying more attention to the actors instead of the storyline. I would watch a couple of movies that all featured one actor to see how his or her style would change. One in particular changed my amateur views of acting altogether, Primal Fear featuring Edward Norton who portrayed an older teen with multi personality disorder.
His ability to make 180° turns in a single scene fascinated me. I could compare this to Sally Field’s role in the movie Sybil. I tried to find more movies with Edward that were as mind-blowing as the last. I watched Fight Club and noted that he again played a character with a split personality. Leaves of Grass was next on the list. Edward acted as his own twin brother, one who was a college professor while the other was a drug dealer. It seemed to me that his strategy was to unveil the pencil-thin line dividing good and evil or moral/immoral.
It was amazing to me that I could learn so much about one person by watching him or her portray others. I fell in love with this theory, so I decided to try my hand at them by joining the Teche Theater of Performing Arts. I auditioned for a play named Gypsy based on the life of Gypsy Rose Lee. The role I was given was not very substantial, but it was a role nonetheless. Rehearsals lasted all summer, and I dedicated myself. I showed up early, and I stayed late. I sang and danced after I told myself I would never do that on stage. I realized my motivation was in the applause.
I was looking for a thrill, and I found it in the crowd. I found it in making people laugh. I found it in making friends. Now THAT was different. Now, I was different. I was happy. I used this motivation to better myself. I did more shows at the theater, and I met new people. One of which was Mrs. Diane Wiltz, the main director at the Teche Theater. She would tell me how impressed she was by my versatility on stage, but she wasn’t ever afraid to point out when I was doing something wrong. She taught me to improvise when appropriate, push my character onto the audience, be loud, and overact.
“Don’t hold back,” she would say, “when you think it’s too much, it is just right. ” She also taught me to act comfortable in situations that might not be comfortable. Her advice was not bound to theater. I found that I could incorporate the lessons she taught me into everyday life. I took heed to the advice that she gave me. I did a few experiments to see how I could use these lessons offstage. I started pushing myself to be more extroverted at school by talking to more people, even the teachers. I became comfortable joking with complete strangers.
I noticed that my overall attitude towards life changed somewhere along the way. I wanted to make people feel good. It felt good hearing laughter or applause, so I looked for it everywhere I went. I further involved myself in school and the theater. I took on roles in several more productions at Teche, becoming a regular there. The Teche Theater was like a second home to me by then, and I wanted so badly to do this for the rest of my life. I then decided to make plans to act professionally. I looked into finding a school that would help me get a foot into an acting career.
I stumbled upon a film organization associated with the University of New Orleans. How could I make my way into an organization that I knew nothing about? It would be way over my head considering I knew little to nothing about film, and I wasn’t a student of UNO. I needed to get a little experience at another college before jumping into being a full-time student in New Orleans, so I decided to enroll at Nicholls State University. As of now, I plan on finishing my freshman year at Nicholls before transferring to the University of New Orleans. When I enroll at UNO, I will major in film arts and production.
I will work with fellow students on projects as well as doing a few projects of my own. I will also work to serve as an intern on any major motion picture sets that is offered. Students at the University of New Orleans have helped work on the set of movies like Ray, Runaway Jury, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. These opportunities will hopefully open more doors for me, helping me start a career in this field. I look forward to seeing how I fare in a career that is so difficult to jumpstart, and I can’t help but to think of the people that inspired me and pushed me to be on the path that I am on today.