On Thanksgiving morning my alarm went off sharply at 5AM. It was a quick night's sleep (or should I say nap) because we had an 8PM show the night before. But, it was Thanksgiving morning, which means the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade! It was my third time performing with the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes but it was actually my fourth time performing in the parade. Long before I dreamed of kicking eye high at Radio City, I marched in the Thanksgiving Day parade with BYPC!
It was another warm Thanksgiving Day in 2002 when I joined my BYPC family as we marched down Broadway right in front of Santa - a position of such honor! We were all sweating in our winter costumes complete with white gloves and even whiter sneakers - yuck! But we didn't care because we were marching down Broadway where thousands of parade goers lined the sidewalks and draped the walls of apartment buildings taking festive to a whole new level. We had a blast. I was hooked and I wanted more. And more is what I got.
In my years at BYPC I performed in musicals, concerts, musical revues, dance recitals and on the professional stages of Disney and Royal Caribbean. I danced in pieces choreographed by Broadway performers, attended workshops by professionals who I now audition for and I was even coached by a LA casting director. I believe that the wide variety of performances staged by BYPC was invaluable to my training but it is more than that. It is what I learned about performing and about myself as a performer that has made such a difference for me. I was recently reminded of that when I ran into to an old friend and fellow Boston Conservatory alum, Alison McCartan.
Alison was in between shows having completed the Shrek tour and about to start a new show in Boston. Lucky for me she was taking her break in NYC to take class and to catch up with friends. Over lunch we reminisced about our days at Boston Conservatory and Alison talked about her days at BYPC. After her sophomore year Alison accepted an internship at BYPC to teach in the Circle of Giving Outreach Program and to perform in BYPC 's Summer Family Theatre in the Park.
Alison wanted me to know how much that summer meant to her and to her professional career. The work in the Circle of Giving Outreach Program was so meaningful and life enriching but it was the performing that she talked about. She remembered the rehearsal schedule as intense and fast paced. And that the cast was so well trained that they were prepared to handle any mishaps causing last minute changes to the performances. She talked about one show in particular.
We were performing "Bye Bye Birdie" in Greeley Park in Nashua before a few hundred theatregoers lining the lawn with lounge chairs, blankets and picnic baskets. It was the end of Act One when calamity struck. A stage punch missed or should I say hit its mark blooding the nose of our Conrad Birdie. The stage was now dotted with blood and our Birdie was out of commission. Our director was filming and unaware of the mishap so we had to jump into action. A small group of BYPC cast members went out onto the stage posing as lovesick fans cleaning up the blood of their idol, Conrad Birdie ending our first act and giving us intermission to figure out a plan. Our director gathered us all together to tell us that we could go on with the show. She reassured us that we were trained and well rehearsed and that we could make this happen. Alison was stunned but our cast quickly brainstormed alternatives to our original staging and completed the show without our main character, Conrad Birdie, who went home to an evening of ice packs.
It was an accident but the show had to go on and on it went. And you know, our audience did not even realize what had happened. They all went home happy eagerly awaiting the next weekend's performances. But, we knew that we had stepped up and that we had done something special. Alison confided that the experience had best reflected her time on the Broadway tour of "Shrek”. She landed the role of understudy and she was the go to person when things went wrong and she was ready and up for the task. It was heartwarming to learn of her gratitude. And that is another thing that we have in common.
So when I fell flat on the Radio City Music Hall stage I jumped back up and kept on dancing, or when I lost my balance on national TV (luckily not on camera) I kept going, and when I was squeezed into a costume that was obviously two sizes too small I literally sucked it up and I kept going. I kept going because I believed that I could because all those many years ago someone believed in me. For me it has made a difference.
It is a four-show day today. And I am ready. Radio City here I come.