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Starring Role: Chapter 2

But now, 12th grade is my very last chance to prove myself.


In ninth grade, I was placed in song dance.

To be fair, half the girls in my grade were there as well, and it should have been a blast, but all I could think of was how Baylee made it to choir and I was dumped in the nerdy song dance, with its too-cutesy steps and shapeless tunics.

My sister, Lani, in 12th grade, had the lead role in the play. My family showed up for the performance with about 30 balloons — 29 for Lani, one for me. I don’t think anyone but Ma even noticed me on stage, and during the intermission, my sister-in-law Chaykie suddenly exclaimed, “Wait, Rena, your song dance performed already?”

In tenth, I rose through the ranks to choir — acting choir, no less. My sisters, all except Lani in Israel, dutifully attended the performance, complimented my solo, and then slid back into a discussion about the play.

The play, the play, the play. Did I mention that every one of my sisters starred in play at least once? Oh, wait, not Temima, she was only production head.

Eleventh grade found me in dance. Shira, my neighbor and good friend, was dance head, and she had me on her list before tryouts were even scheduled. I was okay with that; I love to dance, and besides, being in dance is always pretty cool.

But now, 12th grade is my very last chance to prove myself.

“How were tryouts?” Ma asks me at supper. Lani looks up.

“Oh, wow, tryouts today? Good times, good times. So what are you going for, Reens? Choir, dance?” She sighs dramatically. “My multitalented little sister...”

I don’t smile. “I tried out for everything. We’ll see where I’m placed.”

I don’t mention play. I know what they’ll say: Play? Rena? But you’re... you’re not... I mean, you love to sing and dance.

They’ll never say what they’re thinking — Rena, in the play? — because they’re nice. But I know it anyway. I’m just baby Rena, the youngest girl in the family, growing up in the shadow of my sisters’ dramatic achievements. I’m Rena, the singer, the dancer, talented, cute, but always part of the crowd, never standing out, never in the spotlight.

Maybe I don’t have my sisters’ natural poise, their flair for drama, their charisma and über-personalities that propel them to stardom. But I’m sick and tired of being patronized, of being a nobody. I’m tired of being the supporting cast, the background singer, and even the lure of the elite dance troupe has faded in the desperate, unrelenting drive to make it to the top.

I have a good chance, too. I run through the girls in my grade over and over: Bruchy, Michal, Shaindy, Chaya, Tova, Hadassah, Elisheva... they’re all great actresses, but Bruchy, with her low, dramatic voice will probably land the part of the father, Michal can’t hold a tune, which puts her out of the running for the lead roles, Chaya and Shaindy are play heads, Tova and Elisheva are production heads, and Hadassah... well, Hadassah’s good, but so am I.

Besides, there are other major roles, apart from Lucia, the starring role. The sister, Maria, for one thing. If Hadassah plays the sister...

I sit at my desk with my books open in front of me, staring into the distance. I imagine seeing my name there, at the head of the list: Lucia — Rena Wieder. I imagine my friends surrounding me, congratulating me, Baylee’s smiling face. I imagine coming home and telling my family.

The daydream spins out on golden threads. I imagine rehearsals with Chaya and Shaindy. Reviewing my part with Miss Weller, who coaches individual actresses. Miss Weller — now she’s a fabulous actress, and one of my favorite teachers, to boot. Fun but firm, with a finger in every pie in the school, I know I’m not the only one who looks up to her. Some of the girls in my grade are always hanging around the teachers’ room during recess, waiting to speak to her, but that’s not my style. Working together to practice my part — of course it would be mine — is another story.

And then, of course, the performance itself. Ma and my sisters, my sisters-in-law and cousins, my grandmother and aunts...

I don’t do much homework that night. Instead, I rest my cheek on my palm and dream.

To be continued...


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 887)

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