Thursday, October 3, 2013

I Could Have Been a Contender...I Could Have Been Somebody...

I'm in a play. I like, I mean I really like being in plays. It's Arsenic and Old Lace and I play one of the murderous sisters. I'm Martha and I mix up the poison. We put lonely old men out of their misery and our nephew Teddy, who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt, buries them in the basement...only he thinks he's burying yellow fever victims from the Panama Canal. It's a zany kind of dark comedy produced back in the 40s. It's funny, really funny...and I love being in comedies.

I've been in plays since I was a kid. I majored in Drama/English in college, but put a lot of emphasis on the drama part. I learned how to be a better actress by my drama professor, John Lee Weldon. I still use some of his methods to this day. At one time, I wanted to be a professional actress. Yep, I really did. I wanted to be a star on Broadway or be in a sitcom or be in one of those detective shows way back in the early 60s. Connie Stevens from "77 Sunset Strip" was my idol back then. She replaced Annette Funicello when I had dreams of becoming a Mouseketeer.

I didn't become a famous actress. I didn't have the drive or determination to reach for the stars. In truth, I kind of wanted everything to fall in my lap. My professor told me I was talented and that meant the world to me. But there are thousands of talented people who have been willing to live in walk ups with no hot water, eat mac and cheese every day, sleep with the director/producer/lead actor...wait tables...But I wasn't willing to do any of those things in order to become a star.

So I became a teacher in a small town in the South. I fell in love with the town and a dark headed dark eyed really cute guy and stayed when I really planned to stay only a year. I became a mother of four beautiful children, now grown. It's been 44 years since I drove into town. Forty-four years since I started my career as an educator. The thing is, I think a really good teacher has to have stage presence because, let's face it, teachers have a captive audience. If they're really good at what they do, the audience doesn't feel captive.

In the process of teaching, I did find another creative process. I became a writer, first at a newspaper when I left teaching for a bit, then as a columnist at another local paper, then as a feature writer at a magazine. I even won an award back in 2006 from the Georgia Press Association's better newspaper competition. I got 1st place in the state for a column that was about my family reunion and a special aunt who attended. Being thrilled was an understatement. I don't win awards or get accolades all that much nor do I really go after them.  So being rewarded for something I wrote was just so wonderful. It's nice to be recognized for a talent especially when it's not expected. My editor nominated me. People called me to congratulate me. I thought it was about something I had taught, but it seems my name was on the front page of the paper I wrote for. I had no idea.

I'm retired now from my teaching career, but not from my writing career. I actually tell people I'm a writer now because I am. Recently, a writer friend's book was picked up by a publisher. It's a collection of true stories that people wrote telling about why they kept something they call a keepsake. One of my stories is in the book. I'm thrilled for her and, let's face it, I'm thrilled for me.

No, I haven't made it to Broadway. I haven't even written the great American novel, but there still may be time for both. Let's face it. I chose to be a teacher. I did it all on my own. I didn't have to compromise my values or my integrity. And, in truth, there's something pretty satisfying about that.


Stella said...

You are somebody... A very special somebody. You have spread Sunshine all over Calhoun. So glad you stayed. You are a great actress, a wonderful teacher, a gifted writer, a fabulous mother, wife, and friend. Wish I could see the play. I have not missed many of your performances. And go ahead and create the next chapter of your life. Do whatever your heart desires. And yes, I will travel to NewYork City to see you on Broadway ! Can not wait ! Love and miss you ,


bellesouth said...

Where is the LIke button?

Coleen Brooks said...

Ah, Stella. You say the nicest things. Thank you. You made my heart grow a bit this morning. I miss seeing you tooling around Calhoun. Love you, too.