My mentor is known affectionately by all of her former students as Mrs. K. I still cannot bring myself to call her by her given name. She taught algebra and pre-algebra at my high school, and she directed our high school musicals. Mrs. K. was my champion from the moment I walked onto her stage at the tender age of six. I was auditioning for the role of Gretel in the high school’s production of Sound of Music. I lost the part to a friend of mine who was in second grade. I was in first grade. Five years later, I was on her stage again. This time I auditioned for the role of Ngana in South Pacific, and I got the part.
One of the biggest comforts to me in entering high school was that I would know one teacher and some of the seniors that were in South Pacific with me. Mrs. K. challenged me to dig deep into my characters. Her assignment for each show was to create a back story for your character. I was part of the chorus my freshman year because I was too intimidated to audition for anything other than bit characters.
Sophomore year was when I got to be the lead in Annie. I panicked after taking the role because I was afraid of dogs. What was I thinking? Mrs. K. listened to my all fears, and we found the right dog for the part. She recommended that I see her voice professor at our local college for private voice lessons to hone my vocal skills. I gave a much more prepared and confident performance thanks to those voice lessons.
The following year I tried out for the romantic lead, Hope in Anything Goes. I lost out to my sister. I instead was given the part of Bonnie, the comedic character actress. I was so upset with my sister that she had the audacity as a freshman to try out for roles that should be for upperclassmen. Mrs. K. listened again to my ranting and raving. She told me that I had the talent and the ability to really own this character. She told me that I needed to be in a role that challenged me to my fullest potential. Bonnie required someone who was a triple threat – actor, singer and dancer. She was right. I loved that role, and I dove into it with a passion. In fact I still have the saunter that I cultivated whenever I’m chomping on my gum. The character of Bonnie allowed me to work on my comedic timing and my ability to be comfortable with my sexuality on stage. Bonnie is a gangster’s moll for the those of you not familiar with the show. Moll is another word for a mistress.
My senior year was Fiddler on the Roof. I played Hodel, one of the daughters. Ellen allowed me to be a leader for this cast. I in fact berated my fellow senior members of the cast who were Golde and Tevye for not taking the show seriously. I talked to the underclassmen about the traditions of our high school’s theatre program. After my very public chastisement of my fellow seniors, Ellen pulled me aside to calm me down. She told me that I seemed so much happier that year than I had in prior years. I ended up crying to her how miserable I had been playing high school basketball. I was finally enjoying my high school career just as I was about to leave my safe haven. She gave me one of her comforting hugs. When I graduated, I do not know who cried harder. I treasured her guidance, her faith in me, and her positive attitude. She made me believe in myself and gave me the tools to be confident in my abilities. I am no longer performing in theatre because my girls are so young. I hope to introduce them to the wonderful world of theatre that helped me develop poise and self-confidence. Thank you Mrs. K. for helping me become the woman I am today!