Last night I watched a young woman -- who at our first meeting was mommy-ing her little brother and sister with a seriousness of responsibility that belied her preteen years -- own a theatrical stage.
She's a dancer, so the majestic quality of each step, each movement was no surprise. I've seen her perform in ballets, modern dance, a couple of musicals and once, she even held her own above the crowd in a cirque de soliel type of acrobatic display using ribbon-like ropes. Every time I've seen her with stage lights shining in her face, she glows. The artificially induced wattage has nothing to do with it. She simply has a smile that brightens people's day and has a an energy of its own. Add that to the sparkle she can manifest in her eyes -- on cue ... and well, she is, as they say, a natural.
The beauty of the performance last evening was that her role -- though very substantial since she served as narrator -- was a balancing act. The other high school performers were playing over the top caricatures of middle school stereotypes -- the Eagle Scout, the Forgotten Child, the Sloppy Fat Kid (which in a delightful turn became the romantic lead), the Over Achieving Depressive, the Airhead Creative, etc. While they twisted, twitched and agonized as part of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, she played the mature long-ago winner, still dedicated to introducing children to the power of the bee.
Even though a few were outstanding in their solos, what made my young friend command the stage was her understanding of it. She knew the power of a smile over a guffaw, a slight touch over a hearty slap on the back, a raised eyebrow over an glaring sneer. She performed as though this were her birthright.
I pray that's true. That her desire becomes her destiny. That's the plan -- an education where her love of the arts can be nurtured as it has been here. And I want it for her. I want the dream to be a reality, and practicalities like rent, insurance, and paychecks to be delayed for just a little longer. Because the world needs artists like my friend Audrey, who believe ... and for a few moments can make you believe as well.