I was a theatre kid.
But that sentence doesn’t really get close to the truth of what I was.
I was a kid who was defined by loving theatre. I was a kid in a school of kids with amazing grades and JCrew sweaters and really strong arms from things like crew and lacrosse. And I was a theatre kid. Maybe even The Theatre Kid.
When I was fourteen and fifteen and sixteen and seventeen there were a lot of things I didn’t feel good about. I didn’t feel good about the size of my ears or being the shortest person on the face of the planet. I didn’t feel good about the things my boyfriend said to me about the shortness of my skirts and the okay-ness of my feelings. I didn’t feel good about the friends that weren’t my friends anymore or the way things kept changing, the way I kept changing. I didn’t feel good about high school. Like how a lot of people didn’t feel good about high school.
I’d been acting since I was eight years old. But it didn’t start to save me until a new theatre teacher came to my high school. Mr. Halperin was dedicated and engaged and interested and edgy. He wanted to do new things. He wanted to challenge the school. He wanted to challenge those of us who loved theatre. He wanted us to be great.
His first semester at my high school he directed Hamlet and I was Ophelia. I wore all black. I went crazy on stage. I was small and tragic and I knew too much and felt too strongly and gave up too easily. I thought my dream Shakespeare role was Juliet, but who was I kidding. I was Ophelia. I was always going to be Ophelia.
My senior year, though, the fall show was The Marriage of Bette and Boo. A zany, smart, dangerous, loveable, wonderful, fully alive comedy. I played Bette. I was tiny and tragic and left behind Ophelia in my heart, but I was quirky, clueless, hopeful, disastrous Bette, too. I was someone else. I was funny. I was strange. I was unafraid. I didn’t fit in to my preppy, sporty, super smart school, but that was okay. I wasn’t meant to. I was Ophelia and I was Bette and I was moving to NYC to become an actress.
I was an actress for a while, but if we’re being honest I was mostly always a writer. I had always been a writer. In high school I wrote sad stories about sad families and the way being sixteen feels like the worst thing in the world. And after college I wrote short stories and plays about weirdos who want to fall in love and intense girls who don’t know how to grieve.
Then I found the YA and MG worlds, started writing for teens and children, and figured: yeah. This is it. This is where I’m meant to be.
But! Life is all kinds of wonderful and it cycles in strange and perfect ways you can’t possibly predict. Mr. Halperin still works at my old high school and has transformed their theatre program into an incredible, vibrant, safe, risky, forward-moving place. I know, because after my first book, OCD LOVE STORY, came out, I was invited to visit and meet with theatre kids and writer kids and kid kids and talk about the arts and being an artist and what kind of life is out there for a person who maybe feels they don’t belong. It was fantastic. Because I didn’t feel left out anymore. I felt connected to the school, and to these aspiring artists and these smart and curious people.
But it didn’t stop there.
Halperin asked me if I’d ever think about turning OCD LOVE STORY into a play for high schools, specifically (but hopefully not only) for MY former high school to produce. And I looked at the gorgeous new performing arts center they’d built in the 13 years since I graduated and the students who seem so much wiser and steadier than I ever was at that age, and the face of the teacher and director who helped me see I could be sad but strong Ophelia and wild but broken Bette, and I said yes.
I’ve been working on adapting that first novel into a play for months. It is a rocky and challenging and gratifying process. It is sort of emotional, to come from theatre and return to theatre. It is a wonderful thing to struggle in high school, but still feel thrilled about going back.
This week, the students at my old high school voted to make OCD LOVE STORY their fall 2015 mainstage production. Thrilled isn’t the right word for what I feel. I’m so honored and inspired. I’m so nervous and excited. I’m so ready to work with the students to make it an incredible play, to be inspired by their talent and wisdom and the things that they are surviving in their teen years. And I’m proud that I made it through and get to circle back around and be a theatre kid again.
OCD LOVE STORY the play. Coming to Noble and Greenough High School in Fall 2015. ☺