Suffolkian follows her dreams

Published 5:00 pm Friday, July 22, 2011

I remember very clearly my “I want to be on Broadway” phase. It was sandwiched somewhere between my “I want to be an equine veterinarian” and “I want to be a crime scene investigator” phases.

Like every kid, I was feeling out what might be required of these jobs, should I some day work in those fields. I gave up on the veterinarian when I figured out all the math and science involved in getting that degree. It was a similar reason that knocked out my dreams of CSI glory. But it was a very scary experience that killed my longing to take the stage — namely my stage fright.

It may surprise you to learn that I was quite a vocal child. I sang all the time: at church, at school during choir, at home while mowing the lawn or taking care of the dogs. But when I was alone on stage I lost my voice.

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When I was ninth grade, I auditioned for a role in our school’s annual play, “Annie Get Your Gun.” I remember preparing with a few lines from the scene where Annie first meets her love interest/nemesis Frank Butler. I remember memorizing the melody to “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” And I even remember walking on stage when my name was called.

After that is a big, white blank. If I managed to squeak out a song, I don’t remember how it went, and that’s probably a good thing, since it likely was a horrible rendition.

I was also not surprised when my name didn’t make the call-back list. It was one of the more mortifying experiences I’ve had. It was also one of the best, since it led me to fall in love with the aspects of theater that did not involve putting myself on stage. From light design to set construction to props, I went on to spend many good years backstage.

I did not, however, make it to Broadway.

But, I still get a sense of nostalgia when I read about others who are on the road. Such as a 9-year-old Suffolkian who got the chance to pick the brains of a few Broadway performers during her stint in “Free to Dream: New Songs for the American Journey” in Williamsburg this weekend. I can’t imagine what Elainey Bass must have felt during her debut performance Friday night, or what she’ll remember most about her next two performances today, but her responses in an interview earlier this week lead me to believe that she won’t be giving a second thought to stage fright.

And I, for one, hope she soaks up these moments so that she can remember the first step she took on the road to her dreams.