By staff writer Simonne Cullen
December 17, 2006
One semester down, four more to go before I have to accumulate another sixty grand in collegiate-debt and a piece of paper reassuring employers I have graduated and possess the expertise in musical theater performance. Admittedly, it’s been an intensely challenging semester, especially at 8am jazz classes where a man named Hector and his incredibly thin eyebrows choreographed an abs-routine that rivals most military schools. Seriously, I’ll stop strangers in the street and show them my new upper abs defining line where my Wisconsin beer belly used to be. That’s right, I’ve turned into the collegiate’s biggest loser.
I think I’ve learned more about people’s personalities than anything else this semester. Musical theater people: where can I even begin to describe them? They are most definitely a different breed of human. When they’re happy, they’re up. High, high up. They’re doing a tap routine, sipping on their huge bottles of smart water, talking over their friends because what they have to say is much more important. But when they’re down, it’s like a whirlwind of dramatics—and for bystanders there is nowhere to seek shelter.
For you regular non-dramatic college students, try and imagine the pressure of finals multiplied by twenty. Never in my lifetime would I ever look back and yearn for the days of quietly going mad in the library trying to memorize theories. Now, finals are physical, so it’s clear within the first fifteen minutes whether you’ve been doing your homework this term. There is no open window of opportunity for bullshit, it’s either, “Turn Turn Kick Left Pop Head Again. Right Turn Shoulder Pop Thrust Pelvis,” or not. There is no middle ground. And yes, I have seen students run from their demonstration to go vomit and occasionally even pass out. I’m pretty sure none of you have ever looked at your written final and thought, “Geez I hope someone has the local EMT on speed dial.”
“Don’t even think of performing your jazz routine to Grease while I am eating my egg salad sandwich.”
No one is immune to anxiety though. Not even me. Everywhere it’s alphabetical order, and you’d think with the letter “C” I’d be close enough to the beginning not to get bored, and far enough down the line to see everyone else make the mistakes so I can get it perfect. But not in Tap. In Tap, the guy before me alphabetically never shows up and consequently, I go first. Well, being the first in a line up gives me the sweats and anxiety. It’s awful. The instructor gave me a simple combination and I just stood there frozen in time, kind of like Paris in her porn. And I’m pretty sure the instructor thought of me the same way he would her: not attractive with the deer-in-headlights look, and lazy as fuck.
One perk of musical theater is that there is a lot of nudity. You straight men really have no idea what you’re missing out on. Girls don’t have a choice but to become comfortable with their bodies. The quick costume changes and everyday work in a tight leotard forces you to not to care what the hell anyone thinks of how big or small your tits are. The behavior in a woman’s dressing is like a cheaply made soft core porn: all the girls are running around jokingly grabbing each other’s boobs and slapping each other’s butts while the guys ignore the giggles and check each other out through the mirrors.
Aside from the nudity perk there is the overwhelming sensation of obnoxiousness. You can be reading audition roles on the callboard quietly minding your own business, when out of nowhere one of your classmates will stroll up to you singing at the top of their pretty little lungs. And they always expect you to play along with the little fantasy they’re starring in, in their head.
It’s as if they expect you to know the complete choreography of the obscure song from whatever musical they’re singing. When I first got there I used to humor them, but now I just shoot the aspiring Pavarotti a look that’s says, “No. Don’t even think of performing your jazz routine to Grease while I am eating my egg salad sandwich. I don’t even like watching John Travolta do it. What in the world would make you think I want a free preview of you?” It was a hard look to master but it’s recognized now throughout our theater community and quiet time has increased by a whole 3% since.
Still, I’d take the American Idol audition any day over those that cry in class. People crying before finals or midterms is just ridiculous. You’re not going to be terrible if you studied even a little, I promise. There’s no need to turn on the waterworks for any academic reason unlessyou lost both your legs and want to be a race car driver. Then you can cry. But it’s a drama school, and drama students are genetically enhanced with more emotionaldrama while in the womb than non-drama babies. So when you get overwhelmed and have to let out a sob, do it at home, do it in your room, or save it for the phone call to your mom, but don’t cry in class. There’s nothing more distracting than a red-snot faced audience member curled up in the fetal position just aching to be aborted.
There’s this disease that travels within the musical theater community (MTC) called the “Cassie Syndrome,” derived from a character from A Chorus Line who was such a great dancer that she couldn’t perform any dance combination without a little flare. And I’ve never thought anyone I knew had it. I just thought the guy loved dance so much he couldn’t help but shake his ass like a salsa dancer. It wasn’t until the head of the dance department called him out of it that I realized he had the disease. But not once had our instructor ever said anything about it—probably because he clearly enjoyed watching salsa-ass too much to make him stop shaking like a broken washing machine.
I remember having this problem at Lawrence where the school provided everyone with private sound-proof practice rooms and still the girls next door to Meghan and I would insist on practicing their French horn in their dorm room. And who doesn’t enjoy a French horn solo at 10am on a Sunday morning?Probably the same people who don’t enjoy listening to the entire Rent soundtrack from 7 to midnight every night.
Everyone loves Rent; it’s a great musical. It’s a fantastic rock opera and has a really moving storyline. But I’m the only one who sees the comic genius in the Lease scene in Team America, and that’s just sad.
No one apologizes in Musical Theater. It’s not like we weren’t raised to have good manners, it’s just that we’re so consumed with ourselves that we didn’t notice that your Nalgene bottle spilled all over your lap when we knocked our dance bag into your head. But we saw our acting coach and wanted to ask him if our slight overbite would prevent us from having a lucrative film career, and that seemed way more important than our friendship at the time. Don’t worry, a quick boob grab in the dressing room later and everything will be back to normal. Promise.