Here’s something you likely didn’t know about me: I was once an actress.
That’s right, from first grade through third grade, I spent a lot of time on the stage at Dogwood School* in Park Forest, Illinois.
Well, it wasn’t actually a stage. The school didn’t have a stage. Instead, we used one end of the gym.
Anyway, I played parts like one of the Native Americans in a Thanksgiving play, Betsy Ross, and my favorite, Earth.
As in, the entire planet. I was the whole world.
The play, produced when I was in first grade, was called “A Family in Space”. I found the actual script last night when I was going through a box of old school papers. As I reread the lines I recited back then, I cracked up:
EARTH (A self-satisfied girl, stepping forward): “Good morning, boys and girls. Everybody knows me, so there’s not much sense in my telling you my name and all that, but…”
JUPITER: “Anyway, she hasn’t any name.” (He snickers in his sleeve.)
EARTH (A bit annoyed): “No, I haven’t a real name like Jupiter here and the rest of them, but then I am called The Earth or The World, as you all know, and that’s good enough for me. But even if I haven’t any name, I’m still the most important member of the family.”
THE REST (Outraged): “Hey!”
EARTH: “I am, too. I’m the only one that has any human life. The rest of you are too cold or too hot or two something. Nobody could live on you. (Smugly) I’m just right.”
No wonder this was my favorite role!
As fabulous as my lines were, those left my memory shortly after we wrapped the production. What stayed with me are the memories of my costume. My mom was in charge of costuming and she used heavy crepe paper to create planet costumes that were, well, out of this world. Although they didn’t hold their intended round shape due to gravity, the wads of tissue paper shoved inside of them helped a little bit.
The one problem was that we couldn’t sit down while wearing them, but we looked positively adorable.
One of my best childhood friends personified Neptune that evening, and I vividly remember this victorious moment at the post-play reception in the library, captured by my mom with my dad’s Polaroid camera:
It was only two years after that triumph that I retired from acting. (Professionally, anyway.) I mean, how do you top a role like Planet Earth? You just don’t.
*Sadly, my Dogwood School burned down in 1990.