Tuesday, September 11

Zoom In On My Empty Wallet

Pater Major went on a little scholarship rant and it got me remembering… Papa G and I drove to Santa Fe, NM from Columbia, SC when I was 17 and completely positive that one day I would be the best actress this country had ever produced. I knew I needed training- serious training because I was going to be a serious actress. I was worried about class sizes and placement percentages (the % of students who graduated with agents or jobs). Papa G wanted me to get a good liberal arts education and he didn’t want to bankrupt the family doing it.
We had an appointment to meet with the head of the Theatre Department at CSF in the morning. I had three pieces prepared and another in my back pocket just in case. I also had a song and a dance routine ready. I watched TV, fought with Papa G more for form than anything else, and went to sleep. The next morning I forced myself to eat and my hands to stop shaking. There are some colleges in the US where you can be accepted to the college and then choose the Theatre Department. CSF is not one of those colleges. You had to be accepted to the Department based on your audition and even then you could be dropped from the program after your sophomore year.
I could tell you about how beautiful the campus and the theatre both were but I would be lying because the truth is that I didn’t see anything that morning. The campus and the desert I came to love did not register as we made our way to Weck’s office. All I saw was a massive portrait of Greer Garson smiling down at me from the lobby wall. Of all the things I remember about CSF, that portrait remains most vivid in my mind.
We met in Weck’s office first. Papa G and I sat on the couch while he and Weck (Dr. Weckesser) proceeded to ignore me for the next half hour. My father was trying to talk to Weck about scholarship money and Weck was gently, but firmly, ignoring him. Finally he invited me downstairs to one of the rehearsal rooms. It was a dance studio with a wall of windows and two of mirrors. There were two chairs. Weck sat on one side of the long room and motioned for me to take the other chair. I was halfway through my second piece when he stopped me and gave me an adjustment. I can’t remember what it was now, but I knew then it was a test- to see how well I could take direction, keep my nerves under control and do the work. Less than ten minutes after we left Papa G we were back and Weck was ready to talk scholarship money.
No matter what I’ve lost over the years I will always have those memories. Weck’s face as he nodded at me when we left the rehearsal room, the quiet respect in his eyes and something almost proprietary. My father’s face as we walked back into the room and Weck announced that CSF would be lucky to have me and why don’t we see what we can do to make this affordable…it was priceless. Priceless to me because for the first time in my life I had done something that he couldn’t do, he couldn’t comprehend a world in which my talent meant more than the SAT scores he had sweated over (and made me retake three times). He saw a bright young woman, but he never saw an actress until that day. He never really believed in me that way, never believed as I did, but that day is undeniable proof that I was more than good, more than a bright young woman. That scholarship meant more to me than I can express even now. There were other auditions after that. There was NCSA, Julliard and Carnegie Mellon; there were agent auditions and show auditions. That scholarship audition is still, for me, proof and validation. For a moment in time my father saw me as I was instead of as he wanted me to be. That moment has never come around again, but once in a lifetime is … enough.

10 Comments:

Mayren said...

Thank you for sharing that moment with Papa G and the Scholarship.
That's a very nice memory to hang onto. It could be used to inspire you forward into better things still.

*huggles*

WNG said...

It is a very nice memory, Mayren, and huggles are always appreciated!

His Sinfulness said...

In addition to being a great memory, it's a well-written post as well. A Papal salute to you, miss.

WNG said...

I'm blushing, Pater. Thanks!

Susan said...

That's wonderful...sometimes on moment is more than enough.

WNG said...

Thanks Susan. I need to remind myself of that sometimes.

James Burnett said...

Very cool memory, and well told. I felt like I was in the room w/Papa G and the doc. Good stuff.

WNG said...

Wow - I passed the ettiquette test!
Thanks James ;)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I'm so glad that your father was able to see you in your full glory. That is perhaps the best part of this recollection because you already knew you were a marvelous actor.

This wonderful post brought back memories of my audition for The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC. I had wanted to be an actor since the age of five, and it still thrills me to have attended that school.

WNG said...

My memories of Santa Fe are golden in too many ways to count.I'm glad there are others out there who understand.