Things I Learned While Playing Sharpay in a Middle School Production of High School Musical the Musical
When you're 12 going on 13 and you're cast as Sharpay Evans in High School Musical the Musical, you grow up pretty fast. I don't want to say that playing this prestigious role put the weight of the world on my tiny little hunchback shoulders, but I don't not want to say it. I know what you're thinking:
"Why would a bunch of middle schoolers perform something called High School Musical when they're in... middle school?"
That is a fine question--a fine question for which we may never know the answer. But nevertheless, the show went on.
The first thing I learned during my time as Sharpay Evans was that when your middle school peers point and laugh at you during the student showing of the production, their doing it because they think you're cool and fun! At first I was like, "Hey! That's mean. Why are these kids making fun of me for singing a song about bopping to the top?" But then, the smarter part of me was like, "Wait! They're clearly laughing because I've mastered Sharpay's persona and witty disposition! I'm a star." You see, popularity works like this.
Step 1: Ask yourself, "Am I currently a lead in a musical?"
Step 2: If your answer to Step 1 is "Yes," congratulations you're popular.
It's a simple as that. Drama kids reign supreme over the social hierarchy of almost any institution.
I was pretty intense about the show. I wanted it to run smoothly and look super professional as any middle school performance should. Yes, I would yell at my peers to get their crap together. And yes, I would often cry back stage when people messed up their lines or whatever. But that's what made me the most likable person in the cast! I learned that people love to work with someone who's controlling, overly sensitive and incredibly intense. That's why people never invited me to cast parties or anything! They were like, "Oh my gosh! Ashley is so fun. She'll love it if we mess with her and pretend like we forgot to invite her to this party! She's a jokester!" And of course I was like, "Very funny, you guys! I still found out where the party was from our costume mom, Debbie. So jokes on you!" Then we would do this whole hilarious where the cast would pretend to be mad that I was there and not talk to me or even look at me. Classic! It was such a riot.
Perhaps the most important lesson I learned during my musical theater career was that people always want to hear you sing and watch you dance. Even when someone says something like, "No, seriously. I don't want to listen to you sing your solo anymore," or "I begging you to please stop showing the progress you've made on your jazz squares," they really do want to. They're saying those things because they want to you to conserve your talent for the performances and because they're embarrassed by how badly they want to observe you in your element. Always ask people if you can sing/dance for them and never take no for an answer. Sometimes, people will be so moved by your craft that they will literally move. They will just get up and walk away while you're doing your thing because they don't even know how to cope with the awesome that's flowing out of your body.
And remember, when they point and laugh or tell you you're "a crazy, bossy witch that freaks everyone out," you're doing it right.
I regret nothing.