Is All the World a Stage?

So if it’s Thursday, I must be writing about Zumba, right? We had a wonderful class again last night, and, in the midst of our stomping and twirling, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. You know what? I look stupid doing jazz hands. Seriously stupid.

I wrote last week about how amazing it is to dance like no-one’s watching. It truly is. I guess that’s the important part: I need to make sure no-one’s watching, and I don’t want to watch myself either. How embarrassing!

I’m not much of a performer, I guess. I love nothing better than to tell a story or share a joke and make people laugh – my heart leaps when I am able to do that. I’m not shy. And I have done loads of public speaking. But to perform in front of an audience, like to dance or sing or act, would cause me to cower into a shivering heap. Or to go and hide under the nearest bed. An audience of one, in the mirror last night, was enough to cause my cheeks to burn crimson.

I did plenty of amateur dramatics as a little girl. I am the youngest of four, and my performances usually took the form of hands-on-hips tantrums at my older siblings to take me seriously. If they tried to applaud any one of those performances, they would have instantly regretted it.

My sister was always something of a thespian. Her favourite activity of a weekend was to write, produce, direct, narrate and star in a play for my parents. I remember one of our family homes had sliding glass doors that separated the lounge from the dining room: the dining room became our stage, the sliding doors our scarlet, velvet curtains. The audience, usually of two, relaxed in the royal box that was our lounge.

I was always a useful prop. I remember having to put on my school tracksuit – it was olive green – and stand with my arms in the air for the duration of one play.  In the closing credits, I was allowed – as the tree – to take a bough bow.

Occasionally, when the demands of writing, producing, directing and narrating were too great for my sister, I was given the title role. I remember being cast as Rapunzel and having to sit on a chair on top of the dining room table and let down my “golden hair”.

Let me digress here to tell you a bit about my hair. My parents believed in common-sense economy and their approach to life was typically post-war: no nonsense, no frills and definitely no long hair. Every time my sister and I went for a haircut, I’d long to have a word in private with the hairdresser, so I could ask her for “a trim”. It never happened. My mom would always insist on a “good haircut”, which meant that – yet again – I would walk out of the hairdressing salon looking like a boy.

So, golden locks were not in abundance in our home. I am blonde, but short hair that did not quite reach my collar would not do for Rapunzel. We twisted a yellow and white striped towel that tumbled from my head like a really heavy plait, and my handsome prince duly climbed that to reach me in the tower that was the top of the dining room table. I think we might have used a chair or some other hidden device, but it all ended happily.

Another time, I was cast in the role of Queen Victoria. Gordon, a painfully shy and obnoxious little boy who was the son of my parents’ friends who were visiting that Sunday, was cast as Prince Albert. He did not want to be in the play. His older sister threatened him with something, so he duly obliged. We sat on chairs next to each other, as husband and wife usually do: I had a doily on my head, and he was biting his foot.  I banged on about how much I wished we had a baby, and he nodded and chewed his foot and closed his eyes. The curtain went up.

“Three weeks later!” announced the narrator, my sister. The curtain opened to reveal a scene in the home of Victoria and Albert. With doily-decorated head, I lovingly cradled a baby doll in my arms. Albert continued to bite his foot. An immaculate scene indeed.

At high school I had the excruciating experience – as house captain – of having to direct and act in a house play. I had no intention of appearing on stage, but as the date of our performance neared, several cast members got ill, broke their legs or lost their voices. The play was called “Ants” and I had to play the part of an army ant, dressed in camouflage fatigues. I wouldn’t let my parents come and watch the play, and my time on the stage features among my worst, most sweaty-palmed and agonising moments of my life. I was certainly not born for a career in theatre.

So, my stupid jazz hands are not going to hinder me from going to Zumba classes. I’ll continue to shimmy and twirl and stomp my feet to those crazy Latin beats, but I’ll sure as heck step away from the mirror. Well away.

Sunshine signing off for today!


22 thoughts on “Is All the World a Stage?

  1. ah, this post makes me smile.
    I can act in front of a crowd, all by myself, but quiver at the thought of doing a solo song. Huh.
    I can give a speech…but would hate to debate.
    I can dance…
    but I hope no one EVER sees me.
    great post…
    I “found” myself in many of your reflections…

    1. Thanks, jane – glad to make you smile! And glad you could see yourself too…
      Where were you when I was looking for cast members for Ants? huh? I could have done with some acting talent 🙂 xx

  2. Hey, Sunshine, I remember haircuts like that — only with mine, it was bangs (or fringe). The lady in my neighborhood who cut hair never seemed to get the bangs straight — she’d whack one side, step back and look, notice it was way higher than the other side, and start over. Before you knew it, you had no bangs! Shudder….

  3. Your post reminds me of the scenes in Little Women where the March sisters put on shows for each other very similar to what you described.

    PS – I always wanted that Farrah Fawcett look which was so in style when I was growing up, but my curly hair just wouldn’t cooperate! My mom would tell me to be happy with my curls because people paid to get perms to have what I had naturally, but I just wanted straight hair. A case of the grass is always greener, I suppose.

    1. We had fun – and it’s fun laughing about those times with my sister (who I adore, by the way)!
      It’s true what you say about hair – I hope you are happy with your curls now? I had a Farrah Fawcett haircut at one stage – my fringe was such that I called it “the revenge of Farrah”! xx

  4. In my family, I was the older sister, so I was the one writing, producing and directing back yard productions and convincing/threatening my younger brother and his friends to be in them! I feel a blog post coming on…

    Another fun post, Sunshine!


  5. I’m afraid I was the bossy one, as well–oldest of four! But also have to admit, I had hair issues as a child. My mother was like yours–no long hair allowed! But ultimately I prevailed by promising to take care of the “lovely” locks myself–no help from mother needed. However, I have “bad” hair–thin, fine–and have learned as an adult that relatively short hair does make it look better, fuller, thicker. So when I look back at photos of myself as a child trying to do long hair, I cringe at how horrible I looked. The photos scream, “Get that girl a hair cut!” Great post, Sunshine—
    Hugs from Haiti,

    1. Thanks, Kathy – glad you enjoyed this. And as for the hair – you had to go through all of that, but at least you were able to decide for yourself that short was better! xx

  6. What a rollicking read, loved every word.
    Won’t comment on the hair … I was the child of a hairdresser … too many ‘hair raising’ tales to recount!

  7. Your post bring up all of my contradictions. I adore acting and I’m pretty good at it, but I have terrible stage fright so the thought of actually getting out there is terrifying. I will do or say anything if I’m in charge of a group, but if I am in an audience I will almost never even ask a question. I am fearless when I see myself as set apart, like when we have book events. I will march up to anyone and talk, even on the street. But when I see myself as part of a group, like being at a party, I hide. None of it makes any sense to me.

    1. Nor me, Renee. But I do admire someone who can act – I would imagine you’d be brilliant. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made – no wonder we don’t understand ourselves! xx

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