Monday, February 2, 2009

Theatre History, Part 2

College was a revelation to me. No, make that the Theater Department at the University of Southwestern Louisiana was a revelation to me.

There I was, each weekday morning, by 6:00 AM, trundling down Highway 90, sitting behind old man Chick Barnett, who was steering his little yellow school bus, which had been the general mode of transportation to USL for us country kids from Crowley for years and years. My brothers had ridden that bus. Driven by old man Chick Barnett. There was a history there. Written on asphalt by old man Chick Barnett.

My first few days on campus, of course, were confusing. Nobody had told me how to do college. And I was disturbed to learn I would have to take a public speaking course. I knew there was no way I could stand up in a room and speak extemporaneously or with well-researched notes inked legibly on index cards arranged just so. I would have to find a way. But I managed. I had no choice.

I wasted no time, however, in auditioning for my first play, Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children, in the Bentley translation. I knew I could be wild and free speaking words already written.

I won the part of Eilif in Mother Courage, and that was the first role in the first play that I had ever done - other than the roles I'd acted in my mind.

Unlike all the other people in the cast and all the others who'd auditioned for all the other roles, I was the one who had never set foot upon a stage before in my life. I think the seminary might have had a senior play once a year, but I hadn't made it to my senior year there, and no one at my high school in Crowley would ever have dreamed of putting on a show.

In Lafayette, though, in that theatre at Burke Hall, at USL, I knew I could do it, get it - that part - and play it. None of my hometown people would ever know about what I was doing or see it or anything, so I had nothing to worry about.

At the audition, I discovered I was as competitive as any of those high-school football-team classmates who'd ever humiliated me, as lethal as they could be, and as famished with blood-lust, something I had never known about myself or experienced within myself before. Something I would never forget.

I positioned myself to read toward the end of the evening and was able to sit and watch the others and pass judgment on this or that of what each one was doing. And find ways to improve on what was going on ahead of me.

And all the while, a voice was murmuring in my head, "I can do that. And better."

And damned if I couldn't.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...