I had always dreamed of participating in my high school musical, but year after year I didn't audition. I worried that the intense rehearsal schedule would interfere with my study time and that my grades would suffer as a result. At last, in my senior year, I knew it was now or never. When the day for auditions arrived, I was ready.
Our musical was The Pajama Game, one of the big Broadway hits from the 1950s. At the audition we were each given a form to fill out. The form asked us to state our past experience with musicals and to list the role for which we would audition. We could either try out for a lead role or audition to be part of the ensemble. Since this would be my first musical, I decided to audition as an ensemble member.
While everyone else was grabbing their sheet music, I found my choir director and asked him if he had enlarged a copy for me. I haven't been taught Braille music, so I needed a copy in large print. The choir director gave me his usual response: "No, I forgot." He gave a copy to the assistant director and she went off to enlarge it for me.
While I was waiting for her return, everyone else started to practice the excerpt we were using for the audition. I tried my best to follow along, but without any music it was a bit difficult. I didn't know the words I was supposed to sing, let alone whether the pitch of the note went up or down. When I finally got my copy we went over it a few more times before people started going into the room to audition.
I was unsure how to sing for this audition because most of my singing experience was choral. I asked for advice from a few of my choir friends who had more experience with musicals. Then it was my turn to audition.
Seven or eight students auditioned at a time. First we sang the excerpt with the piano. Then we sang it a cappella, without accompaniment. A few days later the final list was posted. My name was on the list under the ensemble category! I had two parts in a small group.
Rehearsals began early in October. When I received the list of rehearsal dates, I asked my case manager to help me find someone who could assist me with learning the choreography. My case manager was the person in the special education department who coordinated my accommodations at school.
A month or so went by, and I still hadn't heard anything from my case manager. Meanwhile, my father took videos of one of the rehearsals, hoping I could study the dance steps by watching at home. It seemed like a good idea, but it didn't work out in practice. I then asked my choir director for assistance in finding someone to help me. "You'll have to find someone on your own," he told me.
I knew that one of the girls in the musical, Shannon, was a member of the drill team. I decided to contact her and see if we could work something out. In December I talked with her and she agreed to teach me one-on-one. When I asked her if she would be comfortable with positioning my body to show me the movements, she said that wouldn't be a problem. She also explained the routines verbally. Since I can see some color contrast, we marked the stage with yellow tape, which helped me see where I needed to stand. I learned the complete layout of the set in each of the scenes where I appeared. I used cues in the lyrics to tell me when it was time to move.
Once Shannon and I started working together, I understood the choreography a lot better and made great progress. During one rehearsal the choreography director complimented me on the good job I had done remembering the choreography. Later that day one of my friends overheard the choir director ask the choreography director, "When are you going to take out the bad dancers?" He was pointing to my name. The choir director made this comment just after the choreography director had complimented me. His comment made me determined to prove him wrong. I worked harder than ever to master every aspect of the dance routines.
Then, all of a sudden, it was opening night. Our hard work, dedication, time, and effort was about to pay off! Excitement hummed as show time drew closer and closer. At times the costume changes were frantic. Through it all I felt an enormous sense of pride. When we went out for our curtain call at the end of our show it felt great to know that we had made the audience forget their troubles in the real world for a few hours, and that they were able to relax and enjoy a great show.
I will always treasure my memories of my high school musical and will cherish the friendships I strengthened by taking part. I only wish I had auditioned for other performances during my high school years. I found out that it wasn't as hard as I feared to keep up my grades and attend all those rehearsals. I am so glad I decided to participate. I found that I was able to overcome the obstacles in my path. I hope I showed the rest of the cast and crew that even if someone is blind she or he can perform the choreography as well as anyone else. This was an experience that I will never forget.
About the Author: A high school musical production gives students the chance to build friendships, learn a host of new skills, and experience the bonds of teamwork. A blind performer may face some particular challenges. However, the hurdles need not be daunting, as Kayleigh Joyner demonstrates. Kayleigh Joyner was a winner of a 2010 NFB national scholarship.