The starring role is pretty much always a 12th grader
I’m waiting impatiently outside my best friend Baylee’s front gate. My watch reads 1:47, school is 20 minutes away, and helllooooo — everyone knows that you have to be standing in line the minute the doors open or you’ll be stuck waiting for tryouts all day.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry!” Baylee comes flying down the path, wrapping a scarf around her neck. There’s nary a breeze outside. I look at it pointedly, and she shrugs self-consciously. “My voice. You know how it is.”
Baylee has a beautiful voice — which happens to strain easily. She’s always in demand for choir, and yet rarely lands solos. She doesn’t seem to mind, though, happily swelling the ranks of whichever songs she’s listed for.
“What’re you trying out for?” she asks me, breathlessly, trying to keep up. “And what’s the rush?”
“The rush is so we don’t wait all day,” I say. “I’m trying out for the regular... dance, play...”
“Devora and Chan would take you for choir any day,” Baylee observes.
I shrug modestly. She’s right. The choir heads would take me, but that doesn’t mean I want to take them.
“The starring role is pretty much always a 12th grader,” I say suddenly. “They usually need to sing, too.”
“All the big parts sing,” Baylee agrees. She says it calmly and simply, like nothing about this is relevant to her at all. I wonder, again, how we ever came to be best friends.
“So, I guess I’ll be trying out for play,” I say, casually. “I mean, I’ve never been in play before... and this is kind of our last chance.”
“Seminaries do productions too,” Baylee points out.
“Ye-es, but...” I trail off as we turn into the school gates. Seminary is nice, but it’s not a Bnos Ayala High School Production, the highlight of the year, the talk of the community.
As I’d predicted, there’s bedlam inside the school building. Baylee and I squeeze past hundreds of girls crowded outside a room labeled DANCE TRYOUTS and enter a slightly less busy corridor.
“Hey, here’s choir,” Baylee says. “Coming?”
I hesitate for a moment, then shrug and follow. We’ll get to play later. Just as we join the girls milling outside, the door opens, and Chan Shapiro, our classmate and choir head, pops her head out. Two ninth graders step forward, but she catches our eye and waves us inside, ahead of them. “Sorry, guys, you’ll be next,” she throws over her shoulder. I grin. The perks of 12th grade.
“Rena and Baylee,” she moans dramatically. “Save us. You have. No. Idea. What kind of musical performances we’ve been getting.”
“What, none of them can sing?” I ask.
“Some can, some can’t,” Devora Lew, the other choir head, replies. “But seriously, some of them... I’m honestly not sure what they’re doing here.”
Baylee sings Adon Olam in her sweet, high voice, and I improvise a low harmony. Devora and Chan clap enthusiastically. “We’ll have you both, please,” Chan says. “Acting choir, for sure. And the opening number, and the finale....”
“Let’s see,” I say evasively. We still have play tryouts ahead, and once the craziness outside dance tryouts calms down, I plan to go there, too. Plan B, you know.
Play tryouts are led by Miss Weller, the teacher in charge of production. She’s sitting at a table together with Chaya and Shaindy, the play heads. Six of us enter at a time.
Baylee and I go second, so we get to watch another pair try out ahead of us. Miriam reads the words off the paper hesitantly, and her partner, Atara, is flamboyantly overdramatic. I feel bad, but inside, I’m relieved. So far, no major competition.
When it’s our turn to try out, I lose myself in the dialogue. Baylee’s quiet and insistent; I’m passionate and fiery. We play out the scene perfectly, and I’m certain Miss Weller gives me an extra nod and a smile.
We return our scripts and head back into the steamy corridor. Most of my grade is there, along with several 11th graders and a few hopeful younger girls, even though the larger roles are generally reserved for the older grades. There are a lot of girls trying out for a part. A lot of girls vying for the starring role.
But I am absolutely sure that none of them want it — need it — as much as me.
To be continued...
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 886)
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