I was six or seven years old when I saw our local high school's production of The Sound of Music. The show became extra interesting to me as I recognized that some of the neighborhood kids that were close to my age were portraying the Von Trapp children.I don't remember much about the performance except for the scene at the very end of the play as the family is set to begin their trek across the mountains. The director's decision was to have the family walk down the aisles and exit at the back of the theater. I was just two or three seats in and was able to get a close look as they walked by. The children's faces were so solemn and I was confused because I knew these kids yet at the same time I believed that they were the Von Trapp children and I was really concerned about their future! This moment intrigued me. How could I know that these kids were just my neighbors and at the same time believe that they were someone else? And what was it like to become someone else like that? I guess this concept really appealed to me because after high school I turned down college scholarships and instead chose to attend Ringling Brothers Clown College. (The up close look at their stage make-up may have played a role in this decision too.)
My confusion and inspiration in this moment was the result of the power of a good story and the acting commitment these kids made to keep that solemn look on their faces. When I see plays now as an adult, I still love the feeling of realizing that I was pulled into another world and believed that the actors on the stage were the characters that they were portraying. To be transported to another world and to feel and empathize with a character as they struggle and grow, that is the magic element of theater that I love.