I was 15 and a sophomore in high school when I learned to waltz.
Troy Beasley leaned down and told me very quietly so no one else around us could here, but still in his gruff, stern, serious tone: “You don’t always have to lead, Misty. Sometimes you can follow.”
I was playing Laura Wingfield in Murray County High School’s performance of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie.” We were working on the choreography for the scene with the gentleman caller.
It was clear Mr. Beasley, the director, wasn’t just talking to me about ballroom dancing.
Mr. Beasley was an iconic teacher at the high school for 32 years. He mostly taught English and was one of the founders of the drama department at the school. He died in 2007.
For those of you who knew him, I hope the image of him leading a 15-year-old tomboy around the stage instructing her on steps, posture, being a lady and life in general makes you laugh. It’s one of my fondest memories of Mr. Beasley.
Being involved in the plays — both on stage and behind the scenes — helped me grow, gave me a creative outlet and taught me much more than how to waltz. I was in fall one acts and spring musicals and helped paint scenery. My sophomore year we skipped a spring musical in favor of “The Glass Menagerie.”
Now each time I am assigned to go take photos of a play rehearsal I can’t help but reminisce. So on Sunday as I stood in Dalton High School’s theater taking photos of their one-act competition play this year, “The Duchess Mislaid,” all the memories I have of competing in the fall one act flooded me.
In the fall one-act competition, high schools perform at the region or area level first. (Whether a school does a region or area performance is determined by which region a high school is in.) Then winners move on to state. Students have 55 minutes to set the stage, perform the play and strike the stage.
In the world of drama, 55 minutes is not a lot of time to get everything done. It takes months of rehearsing, designing sets that are especially portable and simple, blocking and memorizing lines to prepare for the competition.
One performance. Then it’s over. No second chances.
My sophomore year, we won region and went to state for an abridged version of “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off.” We sat in the theater all holding hands, and as we heard our name, erupted with cheers. It was such an amazing moment, something I am proud to have been a part of.
Being involved in one acts, we got to watch several other schools’ performances, and we were encouraged to. We talked about the performances, critiqued them (positives and negatives) and talked about the plays themselves, some part of the literary canon.
There are students working hard at their individual talents, and they deserve some attention for it. Many of the schools do at least one public performance of their one act. I encourage you to attend.
For those of you who have not yet competed or done a public performance, break a leg!
Murray County native Misty Watson is a staff writer and photographer for The Daily Citizen. You can connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org; facebook.com/MistyWatsonDCN; or on Twitter, @mistydwatson.