When I was a little kid, as far back as I can remember, I wanted to be famous. I wanted to sing, and act, and be a movie star. For a brief period of time when I was ten, I wanted to be in adult movies, which in my mind meant that I wanted my acting career to take off when I was already an established age, like Anne Hathaway, rather than some Disney star who starts young. It wasn’t until I shared this dream with an older neighbor at a block party that I was told to rephrase my dreams, sweetheart, or I’ll end up in porn.
My best friend Lauren and I were always on the same page. We had very similar dreams, which we would share with each other during sleepovers which consisted of a lot of embarrassing, make-believe scenarios. But, what else do you do with someone you’ve known since you were born? Many a time, we would put on ridiculous outfits from the dress up bins (and when we were tweens, we would use our real clothes, but somehow fashion outfits that we wouldn’t be allowed out of the house in) and prance around. I recall quite clearly that my boyfriend was Zac Efron for a while (I still approve of this choice), until our tumultuous breakup by cell phone, when I would confess my infidelity with Joe Jonas (even in my own kid-fantasies, I took the heat) and was resultantly forced to shield myself from the paparazzi. Lauren was always courted by much classier men from the Broadway stage, like Santino Fontana, or other guys I’d totally pretend to have heard of. It’s not that I wasn’t interested in Broadway— Lauren and I have shared a passion for musical theater since our separate wombs, and that has not left me to this day. However, I never did imagine it to be my claim to fame. In other words, I wanted the glamorous, paparazzi filled, can’t-go-to-Whole-Foods-without-being-mauled kind of life at the time, and Lauren was always much more logical and reserved even in our younger days. She astounds me.
Lauren and I went on to act together in Sacramento Theater Company in high school, even though we attended different schools. It became our main way of keeping in touch. Sophomore and junior year, we carpooled either every Monday night for acting class, or every single day if we were in a show together, and became closer than we had ever been, since we were old enough to discuss real ambitions and talk about things that mattered. Sophomore year, I was still full speed ahead with my dreams to major in theater in college, and start a scrappy, bohemian lifestyle in Los Angeles (since it’s so cheap, obviously). I got cast as the female lead in the first show I did there, and I was feeling pretty confident about my talents, even among a sea of people who I knew in my heart were levels above me. In reality, they were all getting cast in the main stage shows that ran for a month and were advertised in the newspapers, whereas I was the lead in the Young Professionals Conservatory show which had a four day run, two of which were performed by the other cast.
It was not until my junior year that I realized how in-over-my-head I was in the talent department, and started exploring other options for my future. However, my blinded sophomore year experience was phenomenal. I costarred in Pippin as Catherine, and met one of my best friends to this day, Justin Baker, who starred as the title character. If you don’t know much about it (I feel like only a very niche audience does), Pippin is a Commedia dell’arte style show about a man who is guided through phases of his life by characters and scenarios, in a Truman Show sort of fashion, in his search for happiness and fulfillment. After being a war hero, ruling the people, pulling several one-night-stands, and deducing that his life is not really all that, he is introduced to his love interest— enter, me. Their love and affection is very theatrical and over-done, and during one of the love songs, we are sitting criss-cross-applesauce (I’m 5, okay?) and facing each other, holding hands, singing about things we love that aren’t actually each other. You can imagine that Justin and I had the time of our lives rehearsing it all. If you’re a Broadway junkie, picture Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff in Spring Awakening. Now, take away all the professionalism, and you’ve got me and Justin.
At the end of the song came our on-stage kiss, which we only actually rehearsed once; the other times, when we were sent off to the dressing room to practice our big scene, we would run through everything except that final moment, when we would instead lean all the way in, look into each other’s eyes, and then start over. (It’s super weird to rehearse a kiss if there’s no director there. Also, we were usually laughing too hard at each other already from the actual scene, and we decided it would be fun to take a chance and hope it went well when the time finally came).
So, we saved the big one for the first production. I should mention that Justin, lovable bastard that he is, never learned this song. Oh, he could fake it all right, but he did not know the words and he will openly admit that. So, the whole time, we were on such the brink of laughter that it became hard to sing theatrically while staring into each other’s eyes and reveling in the wonders of love. Finally, it was over and we did the kiss, which turned out to be extremely awkwardly placed; the audience had already started clapping for our outro of the ballad-- then they stopped momentarily when they realized what was happening-- and then resumed after only about two seconds, since that’s approximately how long the big kiss was. I recall that this only tickled us further, and we were forced to cheat away from the audience to let out our laughter before the applause ceased. After all, we were nothing if not young professionals.