My sophomore and junior years of high school were strange and wonderful times of change for me. I was a cheerleader, on the basketball team, in a play at the college, and in advanced high school classes and was taking some college level classes, too, as I found out that college classes would count as both high school credits and college credits. I took acting, directing, English, humanities, and college psychology and sociology classes, getting mostly all A’s.
Surprisingly, Cabell did cast me as one of 8 characters in a Moliere-esque comedy called the Heir Transparent. It was written in rhyme and was delivered quicker than an audience could keep up, but I was cast as the almost silent ingenue, Isabelle. It was a thrill for me to play in a show with some very talented actors from the college and community. Though my character had very few lines until the end epilogue, it was an experience which taught me so much about having a real work ethic in theatre. The actors in the show were first rate and the pace of the rehearsals and performances filled me with purpose and excitement.
I went on a massive diet to lose the weight that Cabell asked me to lose for the role, 30 lbs, so that I would fit the 17th century garb and look the part of the lovely maiden. I think the diet was Nutri-Systems, a prepackaged food program which offered astronaut-like portions of dehydrated food which resembled and smelled much like Gravy Train dog food once water was added to it. Still, I stuck to it and got fast results. Rehearsals were nightly after school, mostly 5-6 days a week and I loved almost every minute of it. I remember the cast being relatively harmonious and supportive considering it was theatre. After all, they don’t call it drama for no reason!
Despite my troubled home life, my mom came to nightly rehearsals and sat way back in the audience to watch. She came to almost every performance, too. She was my biggest fan and even with all the problems she had personally, I always felt loved and supported. It was one of the frustrating parts about loving Charlotte. She loved so fiercely, but was so sad and it seemed nothing could help that. But she did love watching me perform. For a few years, she and I were best friends. I worked after school at her uniform shop and we’d drive home or to my practices together. We spent a lot of time together and I remember those times quite fondly now that she’s been gone for 16 years.
The Heir Transparent was good….very good. Ed Cabell decided to send us to regional and national competition as a group, which was a big deal for a small community like ours. It was in one of the Eastern coastal states, which I can’t remember now, but we traveled together and put on a great show among the region’s best talents. The top 5 of the competition would go on to the National finals and though we only placed 7th and did not go on to the finals, I felt so gratified to be in the company of some really talented people.
Being cast as Isabelle was a dream come true in some ways. I was able to be the comic relief because as beautiful as she was, Isabelle was as dumb as a post and had a lisp, all of which was somewhat hidden until the end of the show. But, the main benefit to being Isabelle was that I was considered beautiful in a time when I did not at all feel beautiful. I felt judged solely on my looks and while Isabelle was no departure from that, for once, I fit the mold. I could wear the suit. I think it helped my confidence as a performer and brought me to a place where I could accept myself as an ingenue, or leading lady…at least for a day.
But other changes were right around the corner and real drama ensued.