December 8, 2013

KNISELY: You can just call me Judy


---- — [Enter stage left, car-rying clear glass containing blue beverage, and place drink on table.]

“Here you go.”

[Exit stage right.]

I don’t remember the name of the play or my character’s name in the junior high production, but I do remember I was dressed like a cowgirl, complete with a fringe skirt. My whole part was to walk on stage and deliver a drink order to a roughneck cowboy in a saloon.

Well, it was most of my job anyway. My character came into play later in the act. She was supposed to anyway. Too bad my nerves got in the way.

Here’s what happened.

Turns out that blue liquid I had delivered to the thirsty cowboy was poison. I don’t think my character knew it was poison; my part was way too small for that to be the case. Plus, she was supposed to scream in surprise when he fell over dead in the saloon. Nearly every actor was to be on stage at the time. It was a big moment.

“High-pitched scream.” That’s what the script called for.

That’s not what happened.

In rehearsals, I had trouble with that scream. It seems “here you go” was all I was cut out for. Every rehearsal, when it came time for my scream, it sounded more like a whimper than the time before. The director, the school’s math teacher, reassured me it’s OK and to try again next time.

I was in the business of hiding at school, not screaming loudly in front of everybody, especially the cute boy I liked who had a starring role. But every time I tried again and every time it seemed just a little harder. As opening night drew closer, I was able to knock it up a few octaves in the comfort of my home. I thought I was ready to go.


I breezed through the drink delivery, which gave me confidence going into the scream.

The cowboy fell to the floor, clutching his neck. This was my moment.

He’d been on the floor for a good 30 seconds before the rest of the cast started looking at me with wide eyes that seemed to say, “Do it!” The next line was dependent upon my scream. Without it, the line wouldn’t make any sense.

Finally, after entirely too much time had passed for a scream of surprise, I opened my mouth as wide as possible and screamed with all my might. Too bad no actual noise came out.

A fellow cast mate said the next line anyway, even though it didn’t make any sense. But it didn’t matter because the audience couldn’t hear it over their laughter anyway.

That about sums up my thespian career — until now.

Since this horribly traumatic junior high experience, I’ve been wanting a do-over of sorts. Now that I’m older and wiser (OK, maybe just older), I’m finally getting that chance.

I auditioned for the Logansport Civic Players upcoming production of “Stage Door.” I was cast in the role of Judith Canfield, a wise-cracking, wannabe actress. Yes, I’m aware little acting will be necessary on my part. And that’s a good thing because this is my first real dip into acting and don’t know how to “act” anyway.

I don’t know what to expect but after I went to the first read-through of the script this week, I was excited about the fun I’ll have over the next few months. But mostly I was excited to see my character wasn’t called upon to scream in the play.

Misty Knisely is managing editor of the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5155 or at Follow her, @PharosMK