This morning, I was lying in bed, listening to the kids get up way earlier than they ever really need to, contemplating the day and observing the sky above my curtain rod change colors. I am heading to the school today to teach the fifth grade GT class about characterization for their upcoming Shakespeare festival. All at once, I remembered the time in my junior or was it sophomore? year of high school when my friend Becky and I were once again preparing for speech competition that took place every spring. I attended a small private school and we would compete regionally, then on the state level, and eventually on the national level at Bob Jones University.
(on a side note. I just want you to know that I am savoring the thought right now of the people in my life that just glided over Bob Jones University without a snag versus the ones who just had a small heart attack that I ever set foot on such a campus. Thus the wonderful contrast in my life right now that I find deeply satisfying.)
Anywhoo, Becky and I were competing in the duet acting category with a selection from the desperately dramatic film noir, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. Always fond of a villain role, I played the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers who despises the second Mrs. De Winter who has come to live at Manderly after meeting and marrying Mr. De Winter while he was traveling abroad. In a wonderfully dramatic scene, Mrs. Danvers coaxes the wispy second wife to fall from the banister and end her pathetic existence rather than try to fill the shoes of the striking Rebecca De Winter. Nice part to play for a squeaky clean 16 year old girl-next-door, huh?
For the first round competition, we were set to perform in a cement block, hospital white, basement room with high well windows. My gigantic lion's main of permed hair was tortured into a fierce coif with nothing less than a half a can of Aqua net. A few minutes into our scene, a very large and very loud black buzzing fly...you know the ones that just beg you to smash them into oblivion....found a firm attraction for my hair spray. It landed on my head. Circled a bit and then on my forehead. It was one of those moments when you can be both external and internal at the same time....I didn't flinch. I never broke character. Becky and I could read each others thoughts. And I tried not to meet her eye because I knew as well as she did that she was a giggler. And uncontrollable giggler.
In fact, her eye for humor would devastate us a year later when in the middle of a performance in front of the school, she would become obsessed with the hilarity of my costume being...ahem...greatly enhanced by a box of tissues. She broke down into a severe case of giggles that could find no remedy. We exited stage right that night and burst into howls of laughter.
As my right eyebrow arched upward in my evil delivery, the fly crawled further down my face. I internally decided that after a 26 hour van drive and countless hours of practicing the scene, two rounds of competition at the regional and state level behind us, if I had to, I would eat the fly.
The fly inched closer as I remained encased in the character of a slow moving English housekeeper who never made a loose gesture, even to dislodge a fly from her face. The lines kept flowing from a place so practiced I could say them in my sleep. I inhaled deeply through my nose. The white on the walls was so aggravatingly clean.
And then mercifully, the fly flew away. The scene closed, Becky bent backward over a chair impersonating a banister, me menacing over her. We bowed. Left the room. And muffled screams.
We were put forward into the next round of competition based on our remarkable poise. Sadly, poise wasn't enough to take the national title.