This Post by Abbie Johnson Taylor
I was born in New York City to want-to-be actors who realized the importance of having a day job. That didn’t stop them from acting, though. We moved from New York to Colorado, Arizona, and finally Wyoming, and in just about every town, my parents became involved in local community theater.
As a child, I watched, fascinated, as they rehearsed. Alone in my room, I acted out my own scenes. In Tucson when I was eight, I got my first role, a small one, in the local theater guild’s production of Lysistrata by Aristophanes.
Despite my limited vision, I was able to acquire minor roles in high school and college plays. I was also active in the speech team where I performed interpretations of drama and poetry for competitions. I even won a few awards.
Therefore, when I attended my first Wyoming Writers conference over ten years ago, I was not daunted by the prospect of two open mic sessions. In these activities, writers are encouraged to read their poems, stories, or book excerpts in front of an audience. I wouldn’t win any awards for my performance, but it would be a great way to share my work.
The first night, I read an essay about how I thought my parents’ fights were plays they were rehearsing. After the first few paragraphs, the audience’s laughter nearly knocked me flat on my back. I’d spent months polishing the piece and reading it for practice and forgotten how funny it was. I managed to get through the rest of my performance and keep a straight face, and many people afterward told me how much they enjoyed it.
Since then, I’ve usually been one of the first to sign up for open mic sessions at workshops and other events. Because I love to sing and have been told I’m good at that, I enjoy sharing poems I’ve written that incorporate songs. You can listen to an example here. This past summer, friend and fellow writer Christine Valentine and I brought down the house in Riverton during this year’s Wyoming Writers conference with our rendition of Christine’s poem, “Driven Insane by Mitzi Gaynor,” which uses lyrics from South Pacific and Brigadoon. Christine has written another poem she thinks we can do together so maybe by next summer if not sooner…
Instead of being on a stage under bright lights strutting someone else’s stuff, I’m in front of a lectern in a meeting room, sharing my own work, promoting my books. As I’m sure you know by now, my latest, a memoir, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, is now available from Createspace, Amazon, and Smashwords. I look forward to sharing my work at future open mic sessions.
Have you ever acted in community theater? Tell me about it in the comments field.