Chapter 3

Here is the third chapter of my novel For Two. If you haven’t read the previous two chapters, they are somewhere in my previous posts.

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Jean opened his eyes the next morning to find himself still on the floor, lying by his wife. He pushed himself up, and felt the soreness from the night spent on the floor. His wife and son were both still asleep, his son blissfully unaware of his father’s predicament, and his wife’s face pleasantly content in the oblivion of sleep. He didn’t know whether he should wake them before he left, or just let them find him gone when they awoke. Finally he decided it would be far less painful for him to slip out without them knowing.

He walked to the cupboard where they kept their meager supply of food and took just enough food for a breakfast on his way to the castle. He then grabbed his extra pair of clothes and wrapped the small lump of bread and cheese in them. Walking softly across the floor so as to not disturb his sleeping family, Jean approached his young son’s little bed and stared at his sleeping form. His face was peaceful, his blonde hair obscuring his forehead. Jean bent over and lightly kissed his forehead, knowing he would never see his son again. “I love you,” he whispered as he straightened up.

Elain was soundly asleep on the floor, no doubt exhausted from the night before. Jean kneeled and caressed her long hair, then gently picked her up and carried her over to their bed, kissing her lips as he laid her gently onto the mattress. She did not wake.

Walking to the door, he cast his gaze one last time upon his family before setting out for the castle.

It took Jean over an hour to reach the main road, which eventually led to Amsbury’s castle. Once he had reached the wagon-rutted dirt road, he walked for three or four hours without incident. Around ten in the morning he stopped to eat his meager breakfast. It was still nearly six miles until he would set eyes upon the castle, and he would arrive before noon even with a break for breakfast. He ate glumly, reflecting on his imminent death and the hardships and pains awaiting his family after his death. As he sat thinking, anger swelled up in him, anger at his situation and anger at those who had put him in it; he chewed his bread ferociously, his teeth snapping together with every bite, frustration mounting in his body.

Jean finished his breakfast and resumed his brisk pace. The repetition and movement of the energetic walk calmed him down, and he felt his emotions subside somewhat. Desperate thoughts still weighed on his mind, but did not overcome him with their weight. A cart came down the road, the lazy trot of the horse slowly bringing the cart up even with Jean.

“D’you mind if hitch a ride in your cart?” Jean called out to the driver, indicating the nearly empty cart bed and hoping to distract himself from his thoughts.

“Be my guest!” The driver bellowed back, a slightly portly and good-natured fellow. “The horse won’t mind much, and I could use the company.”

As Jean climbed into the wagon, the man asked, “What business brings you this way?”

Jean settled down on the little bit of old hay in the bottom of the cart and though for a moment how to respond the jolly fellow. “I have business at Lord Amsbury’s castle,” he replied amiably, not willing to spoil the driver’s mood with his own sorrow. “What’s your business around here?” He asked, taking the focus off of himself and his miseries.

“Just an old farmer and tinker, name of Simeon, nobody much. Been traveling through these parts for a while lookin’ for work of some sorts. I’m headed to that castle right now as well, hoping to find some sort of work for an old tinker like myself. I tried my hand at farming for a while as a younger man, but it never sat well with me.” He snorted derisively. “Not in the least because I never grew a decent crop in my life. I just wasn’t cut out for that I suppose. I took up traveling and tinkering instead. Not too steady, but at least I’ve usually got something to eat at night.”

Jean smiled at the driver’s caustic description of farming. “Well, my name is Jean, I also was a farmer, with a family I loved beyond anything else I had, a beautiful wife and a darling little son. I found farming to be a very agreeable livelihood.”

“Well then I don’t suppose we can see eye to eye there,” Simeon said chuckling, “but it seems we’ve both left that livelihood for another. So by what means do you do for a living now my friend, and pray tell me, what happened to your family?” His voice softened as he asked this obviously sensitive question.

Jean was momentarily confused that Simeon had asked what he did now did for a living, until he realized that he had told him that he had been a farmer. Not that he currently was a farmer, but that he had been a farmer. Unconsciously, he had written his own eulogy and presented it to this man, speaking of himself as if he was already dead.

“My family…” Jean began, not knowing how to answer, “ My family is fine. No misfortune has befallen them yet, and I have not changed my livelihood.”

Confused silence met this statement. Simeon did not know how to interpret this enigmatic statement. Not knowing how best to continue the conversation, Simeon said, “Then, ah, what is your business at Amsbury’s castle? I truly cannot say that you are making much sense to me; I am rather confused.”

“My business at the castle is not of my own choice,” Jean replied, willing now to unburden himself onto another person. “I have been chosen by Amsbury to compete in his Competition of Arms for this year’s Spring Festival. I am sorry if I have confused you; it is because I speak of myself as one already dead. True, I am a farmer, with a family, but I can’t claim them as my own any longer. The only thing that awaits me is death in a bloody combat. I would run, but for the fear of what Amsbury might do to my family if I did.”

Simeon knew of Amsbury’s bloody games, even though he did not live within his province; he had traveled through it enough times to have heard of it, and knew the seriousness of it. The townspeople had spoken of it with a mix of anticipation, disgust, and anger. Simeon’s generally jolly face sobered considerably at the divulgence of the somber news. “I’m sorry,” he said.

They rode the rest of the way in silence, Jean’s taciturn nature showing itself and Simeon’s normally garrulous personality subdued by Jean’s simple yet dismal words.

They arrived at Amsbury’s castle half an hour before noon. The castle sat on a modest hill, elevated above most of the surrounding area. A gray stone wall with a heavy, foreboding wooden gate encircled the castle buildings. From outside the walls Jean could see little of the buildings inside the walls, but he could see a tower, the castle’s main keep, towering high above the walls. He could also just see the roof of a larger, lower building, the great hall.

The castle had been built when the kingdom had been in great turmoil and any lord who was able built himself some sort of defensive structure to protect himself and his people. The castle had been built for defense, but was not impregnable. At some point in the past Amsbury himself had laid siege to castle, ousting the lord who had held it. Since it was such a formidable structure, Amsbury had chosen the castle as his power base while he subjugated the rest of the surrounding area, adding on to it and making it even more fortified. Once he had established his power in the area, he kept the castle as his seat of power.

The gates were closed, but a party of several men sat outside the gates. As soon as they saw the approaching cart they stood up and approached it.

The leader of the group, a grizzled yet robust man in his forties, greeted them very bluntly. “Are either of you he who is to compete against his Lordship?”

“That would be me,” Jean answered, swinging his legs over the side of the cart and hopping down to the ground. He stood nearly half a foot taller than the man who addressed him, but the man nevertheless retained his attitude of superiority.

“I am Carenen, head of the castle guard. I will escort you in to an audience with his Lordship before you are shown to your room.”

“Ah, I don’t mean to interrupt,” Simeon interjected apologetically, “But might I also gain entrance here? I’m a tinker by trade, and am seeking work.”

“We have no need of you, be on your way,” Carenen replied brusquely as he turned back towards the castle.

Another man, with the appearance of someone who had once been a doughty knight or footman, interjected, “Let him in, Carenen. I can find plenty of use for him.”

“As you wish Tiurne,” Carenen grunted as continued towards the gate. Jean, Simeon, and the rest of the welcoming party fell in behind Carenen, and he shouted to men inside the walls to let them in. The heavy gates creaked open to let the small entourage inside.

The great gates swung open and the small party entered, passing by a small gatehouse. Once inside, Simeon went off with Tiurne. Jean continued on with Carenen and several other guards to his audience with Amsbury.

His audience was in the great banquet hall where the castle’s inhabitants ate every night. It smelled of smoke and fresh bread, but the room was nearly deserted. As Jean followed his escort past the long wooden dining tables, scrubbed clean of last night’s dinner by diligent maids, he noticed only two other people. One was an odd, hunched figure who sat by the cavernous fireplace wearing a tattered cape. The figure’s bony legs were visible, poking out of his cloak, and wiry hair stood up at odd angles on top of the thin head. As he walked past he glimpsed the man’s wrinkly, bearded face and saw his lips moving rapidly as if he was reciting a long poem very quickly.

The other person he saw was, he assumed, Lord Amsbury. He sat in a large padded chair at the head of the hall on a dais.

Long, well-kept hair fell down to his shoulders and his face was neither inviting nor hostile as he leaned against the arm of his chair. His eyes peered steadily at Jean as he approached with Carenen and the other guards.

“Here is the noble man who is to meet you in combat,” Carenen said as they neared the dais.

Amsbury stared steadily at Jean for several moments, taking in details of his appearance and demeanor. Amsbury stood up suddenly. Jean flinched at the sudden movement. Amsbury, eyes still locked on Jean, stepped off of the dais and stood in front of him. He held out his hand as if to shake hands, and said, “I am honored to duel against you.”

Surprised, Jean shook Amsbury’s hand. He had not expected Amsbury to shake his hand or show any sort of respect to him. Jean momentarily forgot that this was the man that was going to kill him in a mere two weeks.

“Have him shown to his room,” Amsbury said to Carenen, and turned to leave the hall.

One of the guards showed Jean to where he would be staying, a small but comfortable room on the second floor of the castle, and informed him that he would begin training for the combat the next day. “You may explore the castle grounds as you wish, but by no means are you to go outside the walls of the castle. You will eat in the hall with everyone else tonight,” the guard told him, and then left him alone in his room.

Jean’s room had a small bed and a small table with a washbowl on it, but was otherwise empty. Jean sat down on the bed, his mind wandering back to his meeting with Amsbury, the man who was going to kill him. It was inevitable, he knew. But then he remembered the night before, and the promise he had made to his wife.

“For me.”

“Anything.”

He had forgotten. How had he forgotten the last words he had spoken to his wife? Resolve bubbled up, mixing with the feeling of inevitable defeat, swirling together to create a seething, conflicted pot of emotions that Jean could not make sense of. Instead of focusing on this, he instead tried to think of how he would try to beat Amsbury. He was lost in thought for near an hour, sitting on the edge of that smell bed, conjuring ideas of how he could pull off such an impossible task. For all his thinking, Jean could not come up with any solid, realistic way he could overcome Amsbury; but he refused to give up hope like he had when he had heard the fateful words come out of the Herald’s mouth.

Rather than sit and meditate on his position until he lost himself in despondency, Jean decided to look around the castle grounds.

The upper floor of the castle consisted mostly of private chambers, and Jean spent little time up there before making his way down the stairs. He wandered the lower chambers of the castle until he came back to the great hall. It was still deserted, and it seemed slightly eerie as Jean made his way from one end to the other of the cavernous, table-filled hall. From there he exited into the airy courtyard of the castle.

The courtyard was bustling with people going about their daily business and with people getting ready for the imminent Spring Festival. All of the people of the province would be invited to the castle for the festival, and already a few people were getting ready for the festival games and competitions. Jean moved through the hurrying people casually, watching the people go about their business. No one took any notice of him, intent on his or her business. As he wandered through the courtyard he came upon some of the castle guards going through sword drills. The elder man who had been in the party that had greeted Jean outside the gates, the one who had told Carenen to let Simeon in, was leading them. Jean watched as he shouted out commands and the guards followed his commands, swinging their swords in tight, powerful routines. Jean remembered that he was going to start training the next day. He wondered if he would be working with this man who was leading the guard’s drills, and if so, if he would find an ally in him, possibly get an advantage over Amsbury some way. He studied the man, memorizing his face.

After a few minutes of watching he continued his walk around the courtyard. The next thing he came upon was the stables. The smell of fresh hay and horse was familiar and comforting. The horses were tall and strong, kept in prime condition for hunting or battle, nothing like the worn-out work horses Jean was used to. He walked along the stalls, admiring the muscular stallions and beautiful mares. He put his hand on the neck of one horse, feeling its great muscles as it nuzzled his ear, looking for something to eat. Jean had always loved horses, but had never been around any as magnificent as the ones in Amsbury’s stables. He quite enjoyed perusing the stalls, taking in the magnificence and beauty of the horses. When the grooms learned who he was they offered to give him riding lessons, and although he would have like very much to accept, Jean regretfully declined, knowing that spending his time learning the finer points of horse riding would help him not at all if he planned on not being the victim of Amsbury’s game.

After leaving the stables Jean happened upon the castle chapel. It was a small, nondescript building, only differentiable by the single small stained glass window that adorned its outside wall. He entered, hoping to find a priest who would pray for him, but there was no priest to be found. Instead he sat in reverent silence on one of the plain wooded benches for a while, hoping that God might know his prayer even without a priest’s intercession. Finally he stood in that slow, contemplative way people do after sitting silently in a church, and headed back to the great hall, his fears hardly diminished by his time spent in the chapel.

By this time the great hall had just begun to fill up for the evening meal. Jean knew he was supposed to eat in the great hall that night but did not know where he was supposed to sit. Not knowing what to do he stood awkwardly by the wall, trying to stay out of people’s way. As he stood there, he heard a whisper, distinct despite the babble in the hall. He looked over his left shoulder and then his right, but saw no one. He heard the whisper again; it was distinct, but he could not make out any words. Then he felt a small prick on his left hand, painful enough for him to notice but not painful enough to make him cry out. Surprised, he looked down at his hand to see a tiny drop of blood on his palm. Then he felt it on his right hand. Then again: left, right, left right, until he had four tiny drops of blood beading up on each hand. Each set of four drops formed a perfect line across the bottom of his palm. Confused and scared, thinking that it might be some sort of sorcery Amsbury was using against him to ensure his victory, Jean stared at his hands and then rubbed them vigorously against his pants, as if trying to rid himself of whatever magic had pierced him.

He heard a soft, metallic plink at his feet. He looked down to see a pendant without a chain lying at his feet. He was sure it had not been there a moment before. It was fashioned to look like an eye, the silver formed into a delicate almond shape, the upper lid of the eye made from intertwining lengths of silver, arching up to create the eye shape. Tiny slivers of silver made delicate eyelashes on the pendant. The bottom lid of the pendant was made from one simple piece of silver, and in the center sat a smooth, sapphire blue stone, looking almost exactly like the iris of an eye. Jean bent down and picked up the intricate and beautiful piece of jewelry, wondering at its appearance, turning it over in his hands and admiring the workmanship.

“Jean Levison!” Jean started when he heard his name, and quickly pocketed the pendant. He looked up to see Carenen approaching him. At first Jean was afraid that Carenen had seen him pick up the pendant and was about to accuse him of theft, but then he said, “You are to sit at the head table as our honored guest. Come with me, I shall show you to your seat.”

Jean followed him up to the dais where he found an empty seat waiting for him. He sat down tentatively between Carenen and a young lady. Amsbury sat on the other side of Carenen, so Jean was only one seat away from him. As the dinner commenced, Amsbury got to his feet and said in a booming voice, “Attention, loyal people of this castle! Before we commence, I would like to honor this man who sits at the head table with me. Jean Levison, the man who is to face me on the field! A toast, to my noble opponent!” At Carenen’s urging, Jean stood up hesitantly. “A toast! May he fight well, and may he be well remembered!” A shout of agreement went up from the long wooden tables, along with an assortment of toasting drinking vessels, but Jean could not help but notice the finality with which Lord Amsbury had said, “may he be well remembered.”

Jean spent the rest of the meal in silence, once again lost in thoughts of his own inescapable demise.

Four Reasons I Hate Applying for Scholarships, and One Reason I Keep Doing It

1.They take a long time to fill out.

For most of the scholarships I have applied to, I have had to fill in the exact same things over and over for each one, with no way to lessen the tedium. There are very few scholarship applications where you can simply upload a resume and be done; usually I have to fill in text boxes within the application with the same information I put on the last application. But as far as I can tell there is no way to consolidate all this key-board tapping and save time. And by the time I have finished filling out three pages of my personal information again, I realize that I still have to write a 500-word essay from a thought-provoking, vague, and somehow familiar prompt.

2. I have only ever gotten the scholarships I didn’t apply for.

Every single scholarship I have ever filled out an application for- big or small- I have not gotten. The only ones I have gotten are the ones that I was considered for automatically with acceptance to specific colleges. People always encourage students to apply even when they think they have little chance of winning the scholarship, saying that surely somewhere along the way you will get a scholarship. Sadly, this has not proved true for the scholarships I have applied for.

3. They create false and unneeded stress.

For the last five months, there has been hardly a day when I have not had a scholarship application weighing on my mind. Several times, the very day after I submit an application and think I don’t have worry about scholarship deadlines for a while, I am alerted of yet another imminent deadline. This creates the illusion of always being not quite done with the things I need to do, adding stress and distraction to every day.

4. I am too normal.

Too often have I seen a scholarship that looks promising, only to discover that it is for hispanics, students from single-parents homes, students affiliated with a specific organization, or, my favorite, Catholics with the last name Zolp. Being a white male who comes from a stable, two-parent upper-middle class family and having no weird affiliations, interests or attributes which might get me a scholarship, looking at all the scholarship ‘opportunities’ can be rather off-putting. Sure, there are still plenty of scholarships I can apply for, but nearly half of all interesting scholarships I have found I have been ineligible for due to one thing or another.

The Reason I keep applying: I need money for school.

There’s always the chance that I’ll be able to get just a little bit more. I have been told that some colleges, if not all, will redistribute scholarships that were allotted to students who decided not to attend that college and award them to other students. This is the reason it’s never too late to keep asking about and applying for scholarships.

A Classical Country and Western Recital

On March 3rd I attended a voice recital by Dr. David Grogan at Southeastern Oklahoma University. Dr. Grogan sang his songs with a music stand, with an explanation in the program that he was “trying it out”, because apparently it was not standard to perform with music up until some time in the 1800’s. Dr. Grogan’s recital was country and western themed, including some spanish songs and German show tunes.

Dr. Grogan demonstrated that he is not only a excellent singer, but also a skilled performer and communicator. Even though he was simply putting on a recital, and he had a music stand in front of him, he communicated- through movement, facial expressions, and his voice- more than most performances I have seen. Dr. Grogan is expansively expressive, effortlessly transitioning from serious to silly in his songs, all with impeccable vocal production.

Dr. Grogan is a baritone. Nevertheless, he might be easily be mistaken for a bass, with a rich, strong and resonant low range which filled the entire recital hall. Dr. Grogan also holds in his vocal arsenal an impressive high range. He sang a selection of German songs from the musical “Arizona Ladies”, which he afterwards confessed were written for tenor. He sang these song with such ease, skill and beauty that one might mistake him for a tenor.

Although he is a classically trained singer who teaches classically, Grogan confessed that he finds classical recital to be “a little stuffy sometimes”, and this was reflected in the theme and the songs he chose to sing at his recital. He sang a selection of songs by composer Charles Ives, one of which he was practically shouting to music; interesting, well-executed, and definitely not classical. Interesting, well-executed, and definitely not classically neatly sums up what Dr. Grogan’s recital was like.

Barrie’s Pan; Book Review

J. M. Barrie published “Peter Pan” in 1904, at the age of 44. Barrie considered the title character to be a mixture of the five sons of Llewelyn Davies, a close friend of Barrie’s. These boys, who Barrie took custody of after their mother’s untimely death in 1910, were in a way responsible for Barrie’s fame, for they were the inspiration for the work that received rave reviews in its own time and even today, over a hundred years later, still stirs the hearts and minds of those who encounter it and its whimsical characters. Some of the main themes of Barrie’s classic “Peter Pan”-imagination, young childhood, the mother-child relationship, and growing up- can be explored through the examination of the title character and his antagonist, Jas. Hook.

Imagination rules Neverland. Peter is in command of the Lost Boys because he is the least grown up. When he pretends-even when he pretends there is food to eat when there is no food to eat- the others can do nothing but pretend along. This is the essence of the affect a child has on older people- if a child offers you a piece of cake, regardless of what is in his hand, you will take it as a piece of cake and you will act like you are eating it like it is a piece of cake. In a sense, the child is in charge because his imagination is obeyed by all whom he introduces it to.

Peter personifies the essence of young childhood affection, childlike love. He is intensely affectionate and unvaryingly forgetful of others, yet impossible not to love. In the presence of Pan, just as in the presence of a little child, individuals are enraptured by their energy, loveliness, innocence and sincerity. We are fully aware that the child by whom we are enchanted is selfish, conceited, ignorant, and likely to forget about anyone other than himself, but we nevertheless adore them. This is the essence of the childlikeness that Peter Pan embodies.

Peter’s feeling towards motherhood embodies the psyche of children. He deifies motherhood while simultaneously reviling the idea of having such an authority figure in his life. Whenever the Lost Boys talk of their mothers, Peter always asserts that his mother was better in every possible way. He brings Wendy to Neverland for the express purpose of having her as his mother, but when she is to leave Neverland with the Lost Boys, he affects not to care at all whether she stays or goes. Peter is enraptured by the idea of a mother- a beautiful, angelic, loving being who will lavish her undying love upon him- but shrinks back at the thought of ruled over by anyone, told to go to school and grow up and do manly things. He adores ‘the mother’ because he is a child, but reviles ‘the mother’ because he wants to always stay a child.

Hook is both foil and antagonist to Peter Pan. He embodies everything ‘grown up’. He is ruthless, eloquent, commanding, and values ‘good form’ above everything else. He characterizes the only other possibility to adoring a child like Peter Pan- hating him. Hook hates Peter, eventually realizing that it is his imperturbable cockiness that engenders so much hate in him for the boy. While Peter values his freedom from anything that could hold him captive in any way above all else, Hook desires above all else to have control of everything. This quintessentially childlike desire and this thoroughly grown-up desire have been at war since the beginning of time, just as Pan and Hook are at war.

“Peter Pan” has stood the test of time because it tells the universal tale of childhood with whimsy, spirit, sauciness, and above all else, accuracy. Any person reading Barrie’s classic can immediately relate to Barrie’s description of childhood and the child’s mind and attitude. Peter Pan is every child ever, and no child at all. Peter Pan is imagination and make-believe. Peter Pan is reality.

Improv and Lip Sync Battles

Every college should have an improv club. Most college students enjoy comedy, absurdity, and watching their friends embarrass themselves, and this is what improv is all about. An improv club would be able to put on Improv Battles where two teams of actors compete with each other by way of performing improvised skits or clever ‘improv games’. It’s like a wrestling match, but funnier and with more audience participation. Improv Battles are enjoyable for the audience and exhilarating for the participating actors.

Although not technically improv, another thing which an improv club would be able to do along with Improv Battles is Lip Sync Battles. Lip Sync Battles are fantastic because you can feel like a superstar while having zero talent, and it’s impossible to mess up. Just choose a pop song you (and ideally everyone else) know all the words to, find a microphone (fake or broken microphones are acceptable, you won’t actually be using it for anything other than the look of the thing), get on a stage lip sync your heart out (a back-up air band is a plus as well). Watching a well-executed lip sync can actually be more entertaining than a real live performance.

I am not sure where I am going to college yet, but if there is not an improv club there, I am going to freaking make one. The art of improvisation is a deplorably neglected area of theater and needs to be brought into the light so that everyone can enjoy it.

Stop Your Policing, Grammar Police

My two least favorite Grammar Police moves, in no particular order, are, “It’s ‘I am well’, not ‘I am good’, and “funner isn’t a word.” I’m about to go full-out Grammar National Guard, so if you thought you had the last word on this issue, prepare to have your authority invalidated. I’m not some Grammar Terrorist out to overthrow Grammarland and establish a society ruled by sentences like, “r u good i rlly need talk to u. can u call, me L8r”. I am here for your protection. When the Grammar Police aren’t doing their job properly, you have to send in the Grammar National Guard.

Let me first address the “It’s ‘I am well’, not ‘I am good’argument. In this phrase, the word which seems to be getting modified is “am”, which is a verb. What modifies verbs? Adverbs. What is the word “well”? An adverb. What is the word “good”? Generally it is an adjective. Now before you Grammar Police crow in victory, let me introduce you to the wild world of predicate adjectives and linking verbs. A predicate adjective modifies and refers back to the subject and is connected to the subject by a linking verb. As you may have guessed, ‘am’ is a linking verb, and ‘good’ functions as a predicate adjective in this sentence, meaning that ‘good’ in fact modifies the noun ‘I’, making “I am good” a grammatically sound sentence. You may be tempted to dispute the legitimacy of this assertion, but consider that sentences with the exact same subject/linking verb/predicate adjective structure such as “The ball is blue” are used by everyone every day and no one even thinks about it. Grammatically, it is entirely acceptable to say “I am good”.

Secondly, ‘funner’ might as well be a word. There is no reason semantically why ‘funner’ should not be a word. If ‘fun’ was only a noun, then there should be no comparative or superlative degrees (funner and funnest), but regardless of what any dictionary might say, ‘fun’ is used as an adjective all the time. Instead of being a tiresome pendant, allow language to be language and do what it’s meant to- communicate between two or more people, and be changed and molded in the ways necessary to make it communicate most effectively. If people never allowed language to change and be molded in this way ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ would still be words which we would be obligated to use in order to be correct. The fact that these words are now archaic and unused proves that modifying language is a time-honored tradition. Language was made for man, not man for language.

p.s. If you find a grammatical error in this post, I’m sorry.

Death of the Actor’s High

Last Friday I took part in a modern dance production entitled “An Awakening”, which outlined the biblical story of creation and redemption through recitation, song, and interpretive dance. As I have mentioned before, I don’t dance; the only reason I was part of this production was that I can sing, and the director needed an extra strong singer. So although I was really just there for the finale song, I was also in a couple of scenes as a dancer.

The most striking part of the experience for me was standing with a (good) microphone in my hand, alone on a lit stage, singing to a 1300-seat auditorium (the auditorium was empty at the time, but you get the picture). The moment I’m thinking of was not even part of the actual performance, it was in a rehearsal earlier the same day, but there’s something unique about hearing your voice fill up a huge auditorium. I’ve performed a lot; I’ve sang in front of several hundred people at a time, I’ve been the sole focal point of a scene, I’ve even performed on this particular stage before. But there is something different about standing on a huge, empty, brightly lit stage and singing out into a cavernous auditorium.

After seven years of performing, I have largely gotten over the novelty, excitement, and fear of being on stage. I’m not afraid to mess up and am not embarrassed when I do. Of the five auditions I have done in the last three months, I was not nervous for a single one of them. The fear-and-excitement-induced addiction to performance which many people feel when they first start performing- whether it be dance, music, or theater- no longer effects me much. The allure of the stage for so many is the buzz, the high, the bursting nervous energy felt before going on stage and the exultant euphoria felt after a successful performance. I don’t know if this happens to most people, but the more I performed, the less excited about being on stage and the less interested in it I became.

But six minutes alone with a microphone in an immense theater changed that. I felt something different, new, and exciting that I hadn’t ever felt in performance. There was a feeling of immensity (yes, while singing to an empty auditorium) that I had never felt before. Although I am little effected by the “actor’s high” anymore, I have found a new reason why performance is so darn exciting. It’s not nervous excitement that makes me enjoy being on stage; I enjoy it like I enjoy anything else: just because it’s cool.