Authors: Laurie Gray
“My parents read to me.” My words had a defensive edge to them. I took a deep breath and remembered sitting on my dad's lap reading book after book. “My favorite was
Harold and the Purple Crayon
. Only my dad always read it
Sandy and the Purple Crayon
. He read me the story a hundred times before I realized that my name started with an âS' and there wasn't a single âs' in âHarold.'”
“I remember Harold.” Shanika laughed. “That crazy bald kid who drew his own adventure.” She stood up and stretched. Then she looked down at me just long enough to make me uncomfortable. “I like Harold,” she said finally. “He had almost as much imagination as Grace.” And with that she walked away.
I watched Shanika make her way through the crowd. She never did tell me what part she was really trying out for.
When you do dance, I wish you
A wave o' the sea, that you might ever do
Nothing but that, move still, still so,
And own no other function. Each your doing,
So singular in each particular
Crowns what you are doing in the present deeds,
That all your acts are queens.
âThe Winter's Tale
, Act IV, Scene iv, Lines 140-146
AMILTON RAN AUDITIONS
by classes rather than parts. He started with the seniors and worked his way down to the freshmen. He said it showed respect to the upperclassmen and was good “reality therapy” for the underclassmen. As a freshman last year trying out for the
Cat in the Hat
, I was one of the very last people to audition. Watching the upperclassmen go first actually helped calm me down and give me confidence. There were some people who were freaking out by the time it was their turn, though, and even some who just left and never tried out at all.
I went down to the front of the auditorium and signed in under sophomores. We had to give our first, second and third choices for the parts we wanted. I looked through the sign-up sheet and found
Shanika's name. Tiger Lily, Captain Hook and Peter Pan. I flipped back to my name and put down Peter Pan, Captain Hook and Wendy. Some dopey freshman named Gavin had written Peter Pan, Peter Pan and Peter Pan. I laughed.
No freshman is going to steal my part. Poor Gavinâyou're destined to be a lost boy for sure.
I made my way over to Mrs. Shields at the piano and told her that I would be singing, “I've Gotta Crow.” Unlike the local youth theater where you never sang songs from the actual musical for auditions, Hamilton subscribed to the Broadway tradition. We each had to commit to a specific character and perform a song from Peter Pan. Mrs. Shields nodded and made a note to herself. Then I went back up to the very back of the auditorium and waited. It wasn't long before Hamilton called for order, gave us the instructions and wished us all good luck.
“All of the parts, including understudies, will be posted outside the auditorium on Monday morning,” he said. “Do not call me or e-mail me or text me over the weekend. If you see me, you can smile and wave and say hello, but don't ask. In fact, you'd be better off not talking to me at all between now and then. If you can't wait to find out what part you got, you'll have no part at all.”
He meant it, too. Last year Camden Reynolds' mom called Hamilton after auditions to tell him that Camden didn't test well, but would be perfect for the Horton the Elephant part. “I'm sure he would,” Hamilton told his mom, “but too many directors spoil the play.” At least that's Camden's story on how he ended up doing costumes and make-up.
I was singing quietly to myself along with the seniors trying out for main parts just to warm up my voice. Then Shanika came out. She took a flash drive to the sound guy and went to the center of the stage. Dressed all in black, she looked strong and confident.
She crossed her arms and nodded. The sound of beating war drums filled the auditorium. “I am Tiger Lily!” Shanika cried. And she began to dance.
She was good. Really good. Not only did she do cartwheels and all of the regular Tiger Lily moves, she added several back and front walkovers and two back handsprings followed by a back aerial. She even did the splits. “I am Tiger Lily!” she roared.
I felt sorry for every underclassman who signed up for Tiger Lily. How could anyone compete with that?
When the music stopped, there was a moment of silence as Shanika once again stood in the center of the stage with her arms crossed. Then the hushed auditorium exploded in thunderous applause. Arms still crossed, Shanika gave a formal bow before strolling back over to the sound guy to collect her flash drive.
Up until Shanika, I felt like I could do at least as well or better than every senior that auditioned, regardless of the part.
Maybe she's the one who should be applying to Juilliard.
I had enough rhythm that I could handle simple dance steps. With a little practice, I could probably do a decent cartwheel. But a back aerial? The splits?
Hey, you're applying to the Juilliard school of DRAMA, not dancing. Nobody expects you to dance like that.
My mom's lawyerly voice of reason. Great for her clients and the courtroom. Not much help when it came to tryouts.
Shanika slipped into the seat beside me. “What do you think?” she asked.
“I think you're amazing,” I whispered.
Shanika beamed. “You got that right!”
“So where did you learn to do all that?” She wasn't a cheerleader. I didn't think she was on the school gymnastics team, either.
“Taekwondo,” she replied. “You should see me with nun chucks.”
“Do you break bricks with your forehead, too?” I asked. I slapped my palm on my forehead.
“Not bricks,” she responded. “Just wooden boards, and only with my hands, feet and elbows.” She extended her left hand, palm out, in front of her and cocked the heel of her right palm in by her side. Then pulling her left hand back in, she snapped her right palm forward with enough force to flatten me if I'd been in front of her instead of beside her.
I nodded. “Remind me never to pick a fight with you.”
Shanika laughed and shook her head. “Sandy, I can't see you whoopin' anybody's butt anywhere but on a stage.”
“You got that right,” I agreed.
And with that, Shanika disappeared.
By the time it was my turn, the crowd in the auditorium had dwindled significantly. There was no applause from the audience and nothing but a nod from Hamilton, but I was pleased with my performance all the same. I was better than any of the seniors or juniors who tried out for Peter Pan. And I was the only one who sang, “I Gotta Crow.” Everyone else did “I Won't Grow Up.”
Attitude is everything.
I thought about sticking around to watch Gavin-the-freshman crash and burn, but decided against it. I walked back to my locker and then down by the gym to see if Cassie was still there working out in the weight room. She was already showered, and it looked like the only thing holding her up was Aaron Jackson, the school's star wrestler. He had a full-ride scholarship to some Big Ten school in Michigan next year.
“Hey, Sandy.” Cassie greeted me. “What's Shakin'? How'd the audition go?”
I gave her a thumbs up. “The world's mine oyster.” I looked at Aaron, but he was totally ignoring me. He had his arm on the wall over Cassie's shoulder and looked like he was ready to pin her if I hadn't showed up.
Cassie nudged Aaron. “You know Sandy, right?”
“Right,” Aaron grunted, but he still didn't look at me.
“My dad will be here at 5:00,” I said to Cassie. “Want a ride home?”
“I'm her ride,” Aaron snorted.
I gave Cassie a “what-the-heck” look, and she just shrugged.
“We'll pick you up around 6:30 then,” I said. “We've got reservations at the Greek place for 7:00.”
“Today's Sandy's birthday,” Cassie explained to Aaron.
Aaron mumbled something that faintly resembled the words, “Happy Birthday, kid.”
“Thanks,” I said. “Thanks a lot.” I waved to Cassie. Once again Aaron was totally ignoring me. I stuck my finger in my mouth making silent gagging motions.
Cassie giggled. “See ya, Sandy.”
I waved to her again over the top of my head as I walked away.
Prepare for mirth, for mirth becomes a feast.
, Act II, Scene iii, Line 7
HEN WE ARRIVED
at The Palace Athena, Troy was there waiting. Nikos, the owner, greeted me with a warm, European hug and kiss on the cheek and a lively “Happy Birthday, Sandy!” He shook hands with Dad, clapping him on the shoulder and nodded politely to Troy and Cassie. “Welcome,” he said. Then Nikos reached for my mom's hand and raised it to his lips, planting a big ol' Greek kiss on her knuckles. “How's my favorite lawyer?” he asked.
Before he opened The Palace, Nikos was a used car salesman. He and some distant cousins in New York and Chicago were all indicted on federal fraud and conspiracy charges for rolling back the odometers on a bunch of vehicles. Mom represented Nikos, and the jury found him not guilty on all charges. Everyone else went to prison.
“You will sit at the best table!” he cried and led us toward the back wall with a huge mural of the goddess Athena standing in front of the Parthenon dressed like a warrior with an owl on her shoulder. Her face was the perfect reflection of my mother. When
Nikos said Mom was his favorite lawyer, he wasn't kidding. He pretty much worshipped the ground she walked on.
“Drinks on the house!” Nikos proclaimed as we each found a seat at the round table. “What can I bring you? Some Ouzo to start the festivities?”
Mom laughed and shook her head. “Soft drinks for the kids, Nikos. And I'll have an Alpha.”
“Make mine a chardonnay,” said Dad.
Nikos nodded and began handing out menus. “What soft drink for you, Sandy?”
“Club soda with lime, please,” I said. Troy ordered a Mountain Dew and Cassie asked for a Cherry Coke.
“Very good,” said Nikos. “I bring you pita and tzatziki to nibble. You need anything, anything at all, you just ask Nikos.”
When a waitress returned with our drinks and appetizer, we took turns digging our triangular pita pieces into the yogurt and cucumber spread.
“No double dipping, Troy,” Cassie announced.
“Man, I love this stuff,” Troy replied through a huge mouthful. Cassie nodded, licking the corners of her mouth and reaching for more.
Dad ordered the Greek Feast for five, family styleâplenty of kalamari, spanakopita, souvlaki and feta fries for everyone.
Next came the Greek salad. “Who doesn't want their banana peppers?” asked Cassie. She collected Dad's and mine, squeezed the stems off both and popped them directly in her mouth.
As we were finishing our salads and the last of the tzatziki, Mom pulled a brightly wrapped package from her purse and placed it on the table beside me. “Do you think there's time to open a gift now?” Mom asked, surveying the empty plates.
“Yeah,” replied Cassie, “but can Sandy start with ours? Better save the best for last.” She handed me what was obviously a DVD wrapped in shiny, red Happy Birthday paper.
“It's from both of us,” Troy added.
“Thanks, guys,” I said. I shook the package. Complete silence. “Should I try to guess?”
“Nah,” replied Troy. “Just tear it open.”
I lifted one taped end and let her rip. As the paper fell away I recognized the movie instantly. “The Blu-ray version of
with Kenneth Branagh and Kate Winslet! This is great!” I exclaimed. “Exactly what I wanted. Do you want to go back to my house after dinner and watch it?”
“No thanks!” Cassie and Troy nearly shouted in unison.
Mom and Dad laughed. “I thought you three were going out to see a movie afterwards,” said Mom. She poured the last of her beer from the bottle into her glass.
“We are,” said Cassie. She turned to me. “Maybe we'll get snowed in at your place before the winter's over and we can watch it together then.”
“Right,” I said.
A busboy began clearing our salad plates as the waitress filled the table with steaming meat kabobs, spinach pie and other succulent dishes. “Looks like we'll have to save our gift until dessert,” said Mom. She passed the chicken souvlaki to me. “Your favorite. Happy Birthday, Sandy.” Then she turned to a server. “Could we get more of the tzatziki, please?”
As we were passing the dishes and filling our plates, Nikos reappeared. “You like?”
“Everything's perfect as usual, Nikos,” my father replied. He put all of his fingers and thumb together on his lips and made a
soft kissing sound and released the kiss gently into the air. “Efharisto,” he said. “Thank you very much.”
“You are very welcome,” Nikos replied. He put his hand on my shoulder. “Eat up, and then I bring you special dessert.” True to his word, toward the end of the meal Nikos arrived with a large plate of Greek honey puffs. “Loukoumades!” he declared. The plate was covered with a mound of little pastries kind of like fried donut holes dipped in honey, rolled in cinnamon and sprinkled with walnuts. “Happy Birthday” was written around the edge of the plate in chocolate syrup and a cute little Greek flag flew proudly from the top puff.
All of the restaurant staff gathered round to sing “Happy Birthday” and added a loud “Opa!” at the end. As the staff cleared, a belly dancer slithered up to the table with little clanging finger cymbals, a beaded headdress, flowing scarves and lots of rings, bracelets and bangles. She danced with her palms together over her head and then with her palms out, shaking her hips so that all of her glittery fringe and tassels shimmered with her. Next she took me by the hand and pulled me up to do a belly dance with her. I followed her lead, throwing in a few shimmies of my own. I must have done a pretty good job, too, because everyone applauded. Then the whole restaurant roared with laughter when Nikos joined us.