It’s funny how high school makes you treasure the simplest things that probably don’t count much out in the proverbial “real world”.
Remember that time we went for weeks without sleeping just to finish up this booth for some project and it ended up not being used at all? Or that time this classmate sawed half his thumb trying to construct a haphazard wooden bed for Sleeping Beauty’s school parade and you suddenly decided he’s probably your ideal guy?
Out of all these nuggets of sentimentality, I vividly recall one school play during my first year. Our class was divided into two groups and each group was given free reign on what topic to choose. So we elected a leader and zeroed in on which plays to use.
Weeks went by without anything special happening. The other group was avidly rehearsing pieces and conducting a lot of methodical acting. (From what I heard that time, they even had this panel of people who forcefully made one single person ‘absorb’ his or her character’s emotions and express them on demand.) Their play was heavy drama. Ours? I can’t really recall our first choice now.
So they had grueling rehearsals and we… well, we waited for an announcement and after every class, it’s always a nonchalant, “We don’t have practice today.”
Hey, it’s not as if we were complaining. Truth be told, we cheered and felt relief that our assigned head was laid-back, foot loose and fancy free. It seemed as if we had all the time in world. A little jealousy and unease maybe that the other group showed intense dedication and were making evident progress. (But who cares, sleep right?)
And then there he goes. Our leader. He up and announces that he switched to the other group.
Good bye, good luck suckers.
Anger, betrayal. It was such a TV cliche turn of events that it was easy to fall into the role of hurt and bewildered subordinates. Then came the panic. The other group- progress. Intensity. Method acting, for fucksake. Fuckfuckfuck- everyone felt it. We were in deep shit.
And here’s the part where I sometimes hate myself: we needed a new leader. (Even a new play. The one we chose proved to be… inadequate.) Groan. I’m not the most responsible person out there. I’m not a leader, not really. I’m a huge control freak and I just love having everything make sense for me. That’s the problem. I’m not a leader and I’m so used to working alone, to having everything in perfect order in my head. So what do I do? Stupid little me assigns all the tasks to myself. They assign two of us as unofficial leaders and we’re already crushed enough that neither of us thought to refuse.
I use this magnificent indie play I heard by word of mouth. I stay up all night, ignoring my assignments to make a script with the scene, the sound, the entrances, the exists, the cast, the setting, the costumes, the stage all specified. I worry over the fact that I might have difficulty illustrating this wonderful play I’ve created in my head to the audience- even to my group members. I add in details. More details. I disseminate the script. I play director. Scream, scream. Cry here. No, laugh. Like this, like this- no! Like this. Don’t recite it, you’re not a fucking robot, say it like you would in any other conversation. Court her. Anger her. Appease her. Slap him. More screams. Go over there and study your script. Wait, what the fuck do you mean you have to go home, we haven’t even finished yet and we’re running out of time, and god, can everybody shut up for a second-!
We rehearse till midnight for the last remaining days.
We argue, bicker, fight. Cuss. Fuck you, fuck this. What the fuck are we going to do. Time time time. Shit.
Despite that, I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world.
We laughed. We had breaks and ate together. We discussed the play itself. We had delirious and jittery fun. There was this instance where, to make the order of the story clear- in my desperation to make them feel, make them see, because why can’t they imagine the soft yellow glow of a lamp casting shadows on the hero’s face and his lover’s tears?- I told the whole story in a narrative form. My voice grew scratchy an hour later. I was afraid they’d get bored. But they didn’t, and even though it didn’t miraculously enhance the acting of some stiff cast members, they listened, and they got it- and that means more to me than anything.
It was stressful, and draining, and fun, and exhilarating- it just made me feel alive.
A sort of pre-presentation event happened in class where we show our progress just to ensure that we’re actually getting somewhere before the actual performance.
I know all my group members would agree with me on this: we performed like crap.
We were half-baked and totally unprepared. Cues, what cues? Script? Positions? What?
We messed up.
Needless to say, the other group performed spectacularly which further buried us in shame. Our ex-leader, the git, was actually a good actor in his own right and it’s like a fucking stab to see him perform so well and amplify the other group’s performance while we writhe in incompetence.
I felt horrible for my group members.
I felt horrible myself.
Troubles just started to pile up from there. The props. The sequence. The time. The members actually having to attend practice, hello.
Fear not, fear not. This is a prompt about triumph against the odds, is it not?
Now imagine this on the day of the performance:
There were three sections with two groups each, so six performances all in all, and whoopdeefuckingdoo, we get the last slot where the panel of judging-youuu teachers are probably sick of all the kids doing their plays and most of the invited students are eager to go home.
I paced and bit my nails. This is it. THIS IS FUCKING IT, GUYS.
God bless one of my group member’s mom, we borrow these glaring stage lights (the warm, archaic yellow I’ve always wanted).
We get curtains (not the splendid ones, but hey, it’s still something compared to the other group’s patchworks.).
The performances drift one by one. There’s a concurrent theme of the TV drama violence, the comical sitcoms- even dancing cats. (Idk man.) They were good. Like, really-prepared-for-this-thing good.
Did I mention that our play, unlike all the others, was a complex faux romance play that actually symbolizes patriotism and sacrifice for our motherland, with a lot of deception and plot twists and screaming and conflict and shit?
Our turn. Ohgodohgodohgod was the general chant.
And then for some insane, magical reason, all that practice paid off and everyone acts like fucking pros on stage with everything they’ve got.
The symbolic intro was a fucking blast that gave everyone chills. All cues followed, all comedic relief scenes go well with the audience, all shouting matches charged with tension… dear god. The intense yellow lights cast just the perfect shadow for a 90’s circa film.
And it’s really fucking great that we were pretty much crap at the pre-play performance because they so totally did not expect this, oh boy. Significance and talent all in one ball.
Every single time I recall how everyone performed out there, I get the shivers and an intense pride for everyone involved.
Then we bowed and smiled, the kind of tired and electric smile you get when you know you’ve done your best and you don’t even fucking care if anyone liked it or whatever they thought about it- you did your best and you loved every moment, that’s all that mattered right then.
Bonus: when the grades came out, guess who got the highest.
Aw yeah, *vague wave in our general direction*.
I can almost cry. (Specially when they all dwelled on the fact that hey, yo, ex-leader could have had the same grade but… oh well.)
(On a side note, like I said, high school has that way of making the most trivial things seem like your life revolved around it. This particular defacto leader of ours is still a great friend at present. Irregardless of the high school drama, he’s a nice dude.)