What would Wannabes do without community theater? An essay on having the best of both worlds.
Give My Regards To Broadway
I've been thinking a lot lately about women's dreams. What are the things we long for? What are the vaulting ambitions that grab us early on? As I thought about this I realized there's no way I could generalize about my gender, so I narrowed the scope of the questions. What dreams have I harbored? What dreams have I realized?
At a seminar not long ago, Dr. David Potter of Delta State University made this statement: "We each have the capacity to live many lives, but we end up living only one." The decisions we make along the way are not always easy. Each choice leads us on new paths. This is a story about the path I once yearned for. A foreign path for a little rural girl. A path I didn't take.
As a youngster I was determined to have a career on Broadway. No Bette Midler was I, but music was my passion. I lived and breathed it. From the time I could warble a tune I sang and danced and acted. My sister Kathy and I sang everywhere as preschoolers (whether people wanted to hear us or not). "Dear Hearts and Gentle People," "Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy," "O, You Beautiful Doll," "Mairzy Doats." Name a song from the '40s or early '50s, and we sang it in little community shows, at parties, in front of restless captive audiences at family reunions.
A plain little girl, I stood for hours before my dressing table mirror, and, accompanied by my record player, I tossed my pigtails and sang my heart out. Sigmund Romberg's "It" and "I Love To Go Swimmin With Wimmen" . . . Rogers and Hammerstein's songs from "South Pacific" and "Oklahoma" . . . "Kismet" . . . "Showboat" . . . I knew the words to every song in every album. Ahhh! The stage. I couldn't wait to get to the big lights. My family endured the racket and patiently gave me privacy as I bellowed from my bedroom.
By the time I was in high school I was participating in summer theater at the University of Southern Mississippi. We did Gilbert and Sullivan's "Gondoliers," then "Paint Your Wagon." I was hooked. I chose my college (Millsaps College) because of the excellent theater department. While there, I was in a student group which toured France/Germany for the USO and had a romp as Molly in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown." Theater was definitely my passion, but was it really what I wanted for my life?
You see, there was a minor hitch. I also had dreams of spending my life with Gerald--hubby now for almost thirty-five years. No way would he follow me to the Big Apple, a city as foreign to us two provincials as Budapest. What should I do?
I tried to sort it out. I'd always yearned for Broadway, but I knew dreams were often more attractive than reality. The answer was to revamp my dreams. I could continue my music as a hobby and have G-Man too. Thank goodness, I chose wisely. And you know? Broadway never missed me.
G-Man and I have had a wonderful life in our little community. Over the years I've sung almost everywhere a tune was needed, including those quiet moments as I nursed my four precious children. Life's been good. No dream could be better.
Two falls ago our Community Theater did "Nunsense" and I played Sister Amnesia, the goofy one--the one who has the most fun! This was a challenging role involving everything from ventriloquism to hitting notes I haven't hit in years. Afterwards, son Will said, "Mom, I didn't know you could do all that."
Well, son, it's like this. There are lots of things about mamas and our abilities that are not generally known--even to our families. Mamas are good for more than folding clothes and throwing a roast in the oven. And while your mama is sweeping the front walk and humming a tune, sometimes she's not there. Sometimes she's far away. On a stage. And the people are clapping . . . and clapping. But Mama hums and smiles and knows she was lucky, immature as she was, to have chosen the path that led her straight to a most satisfying and blessed life.
Jacks writes for children's magazines, literary journals, and ezines.
Her work has been accepted for publication in LADYBUG, HOPSCOTCH, SHINING STAR, KIDS' HIGHWAY, BOYS' QUEST, LIGHTHOUSE STORY COLLECTIONS, WORKING WRITER, THE BALANCED WOMAN, LONZIE'S FRIED CHICKEN, DEVO'ZINE, CHOCOLATE FOR A TEEN'S HEART, CHOCOLATE FOR A WOMAN'S DREAMS, STORY MATES, STORY FRIENDS, U.S.KIDS, WEE ONES MAG, and NORTHWEST FAMILY MAGAZINE.
A weekly personal essay columnist for the Bolivar Commercial, she has also published one book of creative non-fiction--GRIT, GUTS, AND BASEBALL--a story of sports and race relations in the Mississippi Delta.
Jacks is a full member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).