“The Play’s the Thing”
Much Ado About Nothing launched me headlong into the world of acting. I was 15 and didn’t have a clue what the hell I was doing, but I was having the time of my life.
The show was cast in the fall of my 10th grade year, and we started blocking the play and rehearsing it up until Christmas break. We spent most of November in the so-called “attic” of the school, more like a a glorified storage warehouse with steel girders, concrete floors, sheetrock walls, and an abundance of junk and clutter. After I graduated, the area was made off limits because somebody told the school that rehearsing up there was a complete violation of fire-code restrictions. I like living life on the edge.
I was not the only member of the cast experiencing my first play. Many of the students were theatre newbies, but we were all equally excited about the process. The senior who I have referred to before (let’s call him Bill) took things perhaps a little more seriously. He had been acting since he was quite young and wanted to do this for a living. After high school, he was accepted to a quite prestigious conservatory acting program.
The directors of Much Ado About Nothing were a husband and wife team who (I would later find out) had actually been quite accomplished actors in their own right in the 70’s and 80’s, working in regional theatres and eventually living in New York. The fact that they were now at this small Christian private school in the middle of nowhere was an unforeseen blessing for me, and most likely countless other students at the school. They would go on to become my mentors and two of my best friends, which they remain to this day.
At 15 I was tall, awkward, and super dorky looking. I was 6′ 1″, weighed maybe 160 lbs, and had only just started wearing contact lenses instead of glasses. Oh, and I had the worst haircut in the universe (although I’m known to exaggerate from time to time). But, as my directors seemed to realize, I did seem to have a little bit of natural ability when it came to the stage. Looking back on it now, I’m sure I over-acted something terrible, but I did have something that couldn’t be taught – passion. I would blaze through Shakespeare’s text in the opening scene of Much Ado, probably only *truly* understanding about 1/2 of what I was saying, and yet somehow it would make sense. And I cared about what I was saying. And what an empowering thing, for a 15 year old with Asperger’s Syndrome who had never stepped on stage before in his life to suddenly portray Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon! I was psyched!