Laughing Through the Pain

I love to make people laugh. The problem is, I’m not really all that funny. I like to think I’m funny, but I’m sadly mistaken. Fortunately, I love being on stage and performing. Every time I had a speaking part in a play it was always the same type of part. I was the loud, somewhat mean, but somehow endearing, preppy snot. I began to dislike always playing the same type of parts because I wasn’t challenged by them. I thought I wanted to mix it up and do something different. When I finally tried something new, however, I realized why I always did the same parts. They were the smaller, more fun parts that were the most memorable to the audience. The audience always loves that off-beat character whose sole purpose is to make them laugh, and I absolutely loved being the one for the job. The feeling I got when the whole audience erupted into laughter was a high like no other. The only down side, is sometimes the audience is laughing at you, instead of with you.

My junior year, I was beyond excited when I learned our school’s spring musical would be Grease. Grease has always been a favorite of mine and I was so ecstatic I got to take part in it. I was cast as Patty Simcox. Patty Simcox is in the movie, but her role in the Broadway version is much bigger. I was thrilled to be the character whose sole purpose was to make the audience laugh. As soon as I was cast, I was told Patty had to participate in a fight scene at the end of the play with Sandy. I had never done any onstage (or off stage) fighting before, so I knew the fight scene would be tricky. The most interesting part of the fight scene was who I would be fighting. I was fighting with Sandy Dumbrowski, a girl who happened to look quite a bit like me. Our looks were not a coincindence; Sandy was played by my big sister Kenzie. The two of us are very close and were really excited to do a big scene together. The time for opening night drew closer and closer, and we began to worry because the fight scene had not been rehearsed. At all. The night before the show, our directors realized they had not blocked our scene, and so they asked the two of us to stay late so we could block it. After several extra hours of practice, Kenzie and I finally got the final scene blocked. The scene went like this- Kenzie entered from one side of the stage and I entered from the other. We had an argument, then Kenzie was supposed to “punch me in the face.” As Kenzie took a swing at me, I was supposed to punch my hand to make the noise and Kenzie was supposed to swing close to my face, then I was supposed to fall to the ground and give the impression to the audience that I was in pain. I didn’t have to do too much acting on being in pain once I hit the ground, because I dropped full speed ahead like a rock to my hands and knees. The next 24 hours came and went and it was time for opening night. We had worked so hard and it was time to turn our hard work into memories we would never forget. The curtains opened and everything was running seamlessly. Act One came to a close, and we were quickly approaching the only part of the play that made me nervous. I was so bruised from practicing, but we had never run the fight scene with the entire cast, so I knew it might be rough around the edges, but I was not prepared for what was going to happen. My stomach was in my throat as I entered the stage for the fight scene. We said our lines and Kenzie looked me in the eyes. She was as nervous as I was, but she rared back to swing and my stomach flew up to my ears. I knew I had to swing and make the noise for the punch. I swung for my hand. There was a reason I was an actress; my coordination leaves something to be desired. I missed my hand and I punched myself square in the face. For the first time all night, the crowd was no longer laughing because of me. They were laughing at me. I laid on the ground for a few extra seconds as the entire crowd laughed. I had an internal argument with myself over whether or not they were laughing at the script and my character or me personally. I realized I had to get up and keep going, even if my eyeball felt like it was on the verge of falling out of my head. I had truly underestimated the strength beneath my punch. I got up and continued with the scene; my portrayal of a whiny girl in pain was a little too realistic. At the end of the play, the director allowed me to move up in the curtain call order. I was coming out right before the lead roles. The whole audience began to cheer as I came out with a bruise that was already starting to form around my left eye. I didn’t know if the audience was cheering out of pity, or if they actually thought I was funny. I knew it didn’t matter. I was happy with the performance I had given, even if the ending wasn’t quite what I (or my eye) expected. I knew I had to live in the moment and laugh through the pain.

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