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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Actress-Dancer "Lady Laraine" Rises to Become Successful Author-Songwriter




I was just 10-years-old. But I remember it so vividly--as if it had happened just yesterday. My beloved father drove me and my older sister to an audition at the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre. It was for a romantic comedy entitled, "Under the Yum Yum Tree." My sister was great. I didn't think I really did that well myself, but I couldn't have performed too badly, since my father enrolled me that same year in a drama class at the theatre, located downtown. One of my strongest memories was portraying "Beth" in "Little Women" at the Fort Wayne Fine Arts Festival (a fitting role, since I was so shy).

I dreamed several years of becoming a dancer, although years of dance lessons were out of the question for a daughter of twelve children. (I considered myself fortunate to have had the one year of drama lessons.) However, I reemerged, years later as a dancer in talent shows and as a street performer (Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco). I didn't tell very many people about my dreams of becoming a serious dancer, since I saw myself as fat and klutsy). This photo was taken around the time that I appeared in a talent show for the U.S. Army Reserves (where I was enlisted). The director of the show nicknamed me "Lady Laraine," which stuck. (They also nicknamed me "Carol Burnett" in my platoon). The other photo is of me (above this one) was in a community theatre role as "the evil Miss Hamilton," in the musical "Curly McDimple." I was also proud of my part as "Miss Liberty" in "Funny Girl." I had to "block out" the face of the talented actress in the play, since I haven't seen her for years and I respect her privacy. I was very proud of the reviews I received as "Miss Hamilton." One reviewer even compared my performance to the legendary Carol Burnett. I've always seen myself as quite the clown. It was also very exciting one night when "Peanuts" cartoonist Charles Schultz was in the audience along with Scott Hamilton, Olympic ice skater. After the show, I was thrilled when Mr. Schultz came by to see the actors (in our show, including myself) and to congratulate us on our performances.
The photo on the top right (under "Magnet Drama Teacher Mesmerizes Audience") also looks a little strange, because, again, I had to "block out" the faces of the students I worked with as a former magnet drama teacher at a magnet-arts school in southern California--for privacy reasons. (No, they weren't picketing with me on a strike in the school auditorium that day!)
It was a dream come true again. I had, for the longest time, had a fantasy about marching students around somewhere to the melody of the patriotic song, "Stars and Stripes Forever" as I lead them with my baton. Well, one year the music (chorus) teacher had been out ill and for the annual school musical, I happened to choose (along with the arts director), a patriotic play entiled, "America, My Home," which I adapted somewhat. I also added patriotic musical songs for the chorus (which again, the arts director had chosen ahead of time). Well, it just so happened that I had to choose a good patriotic march for the chorus. I came up with--of course, what else??--but "Stars and Stripes Forever!" Not even realizing I was fulfilling my fantasy-dream (including, also, conducting and directing the chorus class)--I ended up, to my thrill (and, of course, most importantly, the children's--leading the three talented classes in the auditorium with my enthused baton twirling. (I had been a majorette in high school).
After the loud shrill of a whistle, I directed the three classes who finally made their way (two classes to the stage and the chorus class to the risers)--and then gallantly headed my way up the MPR staircase. After that, we all joined together--a standing-room gym including the mayor of the city--and solemnly sang a beautiful ballad entitled, "America, My Home" (from, which of course, came the title of the show). Altogether, in my six years as a magnet-drama teacher, I was honored to have directed musicals such as "Annie, Jr.," "Sweet Dreams," and "The Wizard of Oz." I couldn't have done it at all without the hard-working and talented students, faculty, and parent-support.
Referring back to "America, My Home," I remember thinking how strange and amazing it was, all at the same time--how things seemed to have just "fallen into place" that year. But I knew in retrospect that it wasn't just an accident--and proof that "Nothing is impossible if you believe!"

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