When I was 14, I applied to an arts school in Southern California without my parents' approval. Yeah, I'm that daughter no Muslim parent wants -strong headed, opinionated, and a go-getter. I'm not sure what I was expecting at the time - that my parents would just withdraw a shit ton of money halfway thru my primary education and accept that their daughter was going to be an actor instead of the pre-determined doctor, or lawyer. Possessed by grandiose dreams and illusions, I applied to Idyllwild Academy, got accepted into the theatre program, and then regrettably declined the acceptance because I was a minor and I couldn't get my parents to sign off on anything. I remember the admissions lady calling the house at the oddest times of the day (US-SIN time differences are a bitch) to ensure I really wasn't coming over to pursue my fucking dreams.
Even my school theater director at the time, the late Christina Sergeant, had written my recommendations and had sat down with me to talk about my potential and how much I was going to learn and succeed. And while it never happened for me, I'm most grateful to her because unlike everyone else in my life, she had faith in my talents, and me.
I turned down many other things at school every time I had to choose between it and theatre. Acting always came first because it was where I felt most comfortable. The people I worked with in every production felt as passionately about the stage as I did and they never judged me for exercising my voice, over pronouncing my words, wearing costumes, nor being me. For years at school, I immersed myself in playing ridiculous roles, hanging out in the dark and silence of back stages, and experimenting with colors in brightly-lit makeup rooms.
My regular friends were so supportive, turning up to every show, buying me flowers even when I was a stage hand, but they never fully got it. The bond I share with all of my fellow cast and crew will always be different. We are the geeks and freaks nobody got and that's totally okay. Even today, when I make a trip home, the first people I feel an inclination to meet are always my mates from the Young Company of the Singapore Repertory Theatre, or the girls at Raffles who made adolescence easier to grapple with by hiding backstage or behind three layers of stage make up.
I've been away from the stage for a very long time now that I've chosen the rightful academic path. (Although even this path was not an easy one to convince my parents to accept... "Planning, whazzat??") The last time I was in a play was, maybe, four and a half years ago. And this last weekend as I spent hours lining up for a chance to catch a play on Broadway, and just standing by the stage door watching young people coming in and out in their boho outfits, I was heartbroken. I recalled all those times I felt a part of a company, a family, living in theaters, eating sleeping drinking backstage at odd hours of the night, isolated from the world beyond for about 12-14 hours at a time.
I want to feel that rush again.