Being You

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by Staci Stallings

Recently I had the good fortune of going to see my niece in her high school play. Now you kind of have to have lived with this child for the last 18 years to fully understand this, so let me give you some background.

First, it’s important to note that she is older than my own daughter by about three and a half months. That means I’m not just her aunt who watched her grow up in a dispassionate, stand-offish way. It means, I was right in there as she and my daughter “learned to live” together.

The second thing you have to know is that my daughter is an introvert. Oh, she’s the life of the party around people that she knows, but she is more the one who observes than the one who is observed. She is quiet and not overly aggressive or boisterous.  My niece is the absolute opposite.

In a Hollywood review, she would be the one they would say “stole the show.”

And as they were growing up, that was so true. It did not matter what it was, my niece would be right in the middle of it, overtaking all of it. If they were going to do a “show” for the family, she would be the one who would break into a dance for no reason at all.  If they did a play, her character, no matter how benign in its conception would be the one that would be front-and-center by the end.

I remember a few years ago, she got on an “I Love Lucy” kick that would not end. She watched them and watched them until I’m sure she has many of them memorized. She also loved “Dick Van Dyke.” Of course those were balanced out with CSI and Castle.

It was like she was a sponge for characters.

Then a few years ago, she got into Theatre Arts in high school, and she loved it.  The last couple of years she has often been the lead actress in the plays—both fall and spring productions. In fact, over last summer she went to a college theater camp and after auditioning, every director wanted her for the lead in their play.

Now, before you think I’m just bragging in all of this, hang with me because there is a lesson.

This was also the child that pushed my daughter down repeatedly as a toddler. We couldn’t let the two of them play without watching them like a hawk because my daughter would invariably end up on the ground in tears. As they got older, my daughter would repeatedly get “upstaged.”  And I have to admit, sometimes that was not fun for mom or for daughter.

However, somehow it never destroyed their relationship. Somehow we all loved them both just the way they were so that nobody’s self got demolished.  And so, we enter this phase of life, where both are now starting to find their way into grown up life.

My daughter is going the athletic training route, quietly helping others to shine.  My niece… well, we’ll see. She wants to do so many things, and one of them is be on a stage.

So it was that I went to her play. The play itself is quite funny.  It features Shakespearean characters who have somehow transported to 1950’s Hollywood.  Oberon and Puck, the two characters from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” materialize in the real world, a world that to them seems… rather like a dream.

Think Warner Brothers with Bugs Bunny and starlets, big stars and bigger egos unleashed on the world. And here are these two dropped amidst this cadre of real people playing characters.

My niece played Puck, which was something of a feat, because Puck is not a feminine character. Think mix of Peter Pan and Tinker Bell.  In the play, Puck is Oberon’s sidekick. Robin to his Batman.

Except this sidekick has a knack for being a little outlandish and a lot of trouble!  As the play goes on, Puck gets more and more enamored with all the goings on in Hollywood all the while trying to help Oberon win the love of his life and get even with his adversaries. This character is larger-than-life though at the same time not “large” at all.

By the end Puck’s antics are what drives the entire play. In fact, without Puck, there is no play.

As I watched my niece play this iconic part, not shying away from any of it, I laughed, yes…. Many times. We all said that part was made for her because we have SEEN every face she made in it—cracking the audience up with her over-the-top, boisterous antics.  She was at once Lucile Ball and herself, expertly conveying the craziness while relishing in the laughter and hilarity she was at once causing and trying to repair.

She was, in effect, completely…. herself.

She was who she has always been. The one who steals the show simply by showing up.

The one who whether she is front-and-center or not has you looking at her because you’re wondering what crazy thing she’s going to come up with next.

At one of the showings, she had told one of her cast mates that she thought breaking character the worst thing you could do on stage and that she would never do it.  During the show, as she was running around the stage trying to get away from an angry Oberon, one of the other actors inadvertently doused her with sparkling water from a glass he was holding.

She said later that it stung on her contacts something fierce, but her fellow actor said, “I couldn’t believe it. You literally never so much as cracked. You never broke character. I believe you now.”

I don’t know where her story is going. I don’t know where she will eventually end up. What I do know is I am very glad none of us tried to make her something she was not early on. Through all the frustrations with her, I am glad she got to be who she really is—someone who will embrace the craziness of who they are and just go with it.

I think some of the laughter in that auditorium was that we all wish to just let go and be that crazy once in a while. I’m just glad she got the chance and I got the chance to see it. It was a lesson in learning to let others be who they are… and not try to make them into something they are not.

I’m glad I got that right with her. I’m hoping I’m getting it right with all of them!

Copyright, Staci Stallings, 2016

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About the Author:

Staci StallingsA stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side, Staci Stallings has numerous titles for readers to choose from. Not content to stay in one genre and write it to death, Staci’s stories run the gamut from young adult to adult, from motivational and inspirational to full-out Christian and back again. Every title is a new adventure! That’s what keeps Staci writing and you reading.

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