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I just worked on an extra-curricular video project with my friend and co-worker Erin, which reminded me of some of the whimsical and oh-so-theatrical summer plays my childhood friends and I put on. Once upon a time, I lived for make believe and “let’s pretend.” I can still hear our chirpy little voices saying, “Let’s pretend that you’re a fairy and I’m a horse, and we’ll go on an adventure to find lots of gold.”
I always wanted to be the fairy because, well, who wouldn’t? They get the best costumes, they get speaking parts (even if they are speaking some elfin dialect) and pretty much everyone loves fairies. Unfortunately, at that age, I was the tallest in the group, so if a horse was needed, we didn’t even draw straws to see who would get that role. I’ve always found it amusing that even when we were making believe no one would let the horse have any lines. Since I was such a ham, this was a real problem for me because I’ve never seen anyone win an award for whinnying, carrying her fellow thespians on her back, or pawing the ground. Although God knows I tried my best.
One of my favorite memories of those long ago summers was my best friend’s little sister, Annie Ikawa. I’m not even sure how much younger Annie was than the rest of the group, but suffice it to say, there was enough of an age difference that we were able to make her do stuff like pop us popcorn or bring us lemonade, always with the promise of a part in the play. I hope we were fair, but honestly, I can’t remember.
What I do remember was a sweet little girl who stayed the course. Not only was she always there laughing at our jokes (this is when elephant jokes were all the rage, so she was being polite, trust me), she was also generous with her stuff. If we needed a candy necklace for the fairy, she handed hers over. If a princess required a pretty petticoat, Annie offered the one from her ballet recital. And, if you were cast in the part of the horse, she would be sure to bring you sugar cubes. This generosity of spirit followed her throughout her entire life. She became a teacher, offering her gentle wisdom so that others might excel, never seeking or needing the limelight.
Annie and her mother Jean both had breast cancer shortly after my initial diagnosis. Jean and I are still here, but (and this will always be one of my life’s great sorrows) Annie is not.
Although I think of Annie often, I hadn’t really thought about the impact people like Annie have on our lives until I was in the midst of our recent video shoot. The project I was working on was for my company’s annual meeting. Luckily, I work with a few folks who actually try to lighten up every now and then. To this end, they allowed us creative-types to rework their scripts just a bit so they were funny. Since the subject matter involved the evolution of modern light, it had nowhere to go but up.
What actually evolved was a group of people who are otherwise grown-ups getting to goof like little kids. There were costumes and props, botched lines (lots of botched lines), divas and moments when everyone was laughing so hard we had to be reminded to be quiet on the set.
I got to see the president of our company dressed like a caveman. Not only that, but he was good natured enough to do a silly dance that we captured on film (promising him it would never make its way into the final cut, but not that it wouldn’t find its way onto Facebook at some point)! Our controller looked very much like Caesar with his gold spray-painted headpiece and white toga. I’m still trying to figure out what Caesar and Cleopatra had to do with the evolution of light, but have a sneaking suspicion it’s because our head of H/R has always wanted to play the Queen of the Nile! She’s ready for her close up, Mr. Demille.
I got to see our vice president of sales portray Thomas Edison (he definitely needs to keep his day job). Our manufacturing manager was such a convincing hippie I could swear I met him at a party back in the 70s! And the head of engineering wearing a Vanilla Ice wig and shouting “dude” when prompted, was a sight not to be missed.
Through all of this craziness, I realized three things. First, most of us become much nicer people when we remember how to play. There’s nothing wrong with exchanging the masks we are forced to wear as adults for something whimsical and imaginative. I have a newfound fondness for my co-workers because they allowed me to see them in a different light (okay, if this is a pun, consider it intended)!
Secondly, it’s not so important to be the focal point, because in life, as in the movies, it’s often the people behind the scenes who make the most significant contributions. And lastly…
It is important to follow your dreams and believe in yourself. I have always wanted to write a screenplay but never followed through because of my fear of rejection and/or failure. You know what? I’m going to do it. Who cares if it never finds its way to a theater near you? I’ll have done something that’s been dear to my heart since I was a child – just like Annie.