My script rattled gently in my hands while I stood on stage. My performing arts high school was debuting a new musical set in the 1950’s and I was auditioning for a leading role!
The character of Sheila had to be very funny and had to sing very well, out of all the girls in the drama department Mr. Bologe, our director, had narrowed it down to two; myself and Janie Rogers. While Janie was hilarious, her voice was pretty bad. I on the other hand had been singing since I could talk.
The final audition was pretty intense as we took turns reading the same lines and singing the same songs. I was a ball of nerves, but I was confident. As Janie struggled to stay on pitch, I hit all the notes effortlessly and still managed to make everyone laugh with my delivery. I left the audition feeling like the part was mine.
The next morning as I made my way to the call board where the cast decisions would be listed, I ran my fingers along the characters names looking for confirmation of my first leading role and there it was:
Sheila…….. Janie Rogers
I was devastated, I called my parents to let them know the results and they advised me to talk to Mr. Bologe and ask if there was anything I could do better for my next audition. During our lunch period I made my way to his classroom where he was munching on a salad and grading papers.
“Mr. Bologe?” I called out, standing in the doorway, “Can I speak to you?”
“Of course, CeCe… come in,” he said, pushing his salad to the side.
“I just wanted to stop by and ask if there was anything I– I could have done better in my audition yesterday,”
“Oh! No, No CeCe… you were PERFECT! Your comedic timing is impeccable and your voice is beautiful, you’re actually better for the part than Janie,”
“Okay…” I whispered, waiting for him to continue. Mr. Bologe leaned in with a smile on his face.
“The ONLY problem is that line in the second act. You know, when Sheila confesses that she ‘made love to Ben in the back of a Studdebacher’? I mean… at your size its not believable that you would FIT in the back of such a small car!”
My lips parted to say something, but I couldn’t. I could not believe that even though my talent had earned me the role of Sheila, he hadn’t given me the part because of one line in the play. It was high school theater, not Broadway. The smile on Mr. Bologe’s face said that he felt his logic was completely right and in no way offensive to a 16 year old girl who was struggling with her weight. There was nothing more to say, so I walked out of his classroom with tears stinging my eyes.
Two years later I moved to New York City to pursue a career on Broadway professionally (yup, I have other talents besides writing haha) and while being a plus size singer/actress has its challenges, no one has been so bluntly hurtful as that high school drama teacher.