I walked out from behind the curtain, found my mark on stage and delivered my line. As I turned to take my exit, the audience broke out in laughter. I was paralyzed. It was the first time performing for a live audience. I wasn’t prepared for their reaction.
I played the maid in George Washington Slept Here, the basis for the television show Green Acres. I was comic relief inside a comedy.
Summer Theater was a six credit course at Central Michigan University. Two directors were staging three productions. They required every student to work on two shows. We submitted our credits and read some lines.
I loved my backstage experiences, making sets, sewing costumes, calling light cues from the booth, and changing sets between scenes. I had no desire to perform on stage.
Assignments were posted on the bulletin board. Stage Manager for Our Town, that makes sense. (Jeff Daniels played the lead.) But my name next to a stage role, surely it was a mistake. My eyes flew open, I held my breath. Dr. Smith, the Director, can fix this, he must fix this. I begged, pleaded, bargained. It was not optional. He wanted me for that role.
In George Washington Slept Here I had maybe two lines. No big deal, until the audience reacted. I knew then, for certain, that the theater was not calling to me. It was my first last and only acting experience, or was it.
In my career(s) as a trainer, consultant, yoga teacher, fundraiser, and community development speaker I put myself in front of one audience after another for decades. It may not qualify as acting, but I was most certainly always performing a role.