Thursday, 2 March 2017

I was a child actor

I was a child actor. 

How's that for an opening sentence? Sounds amazing, doesn't it? 

And it's true! 

Although, in the spirit of honesty and transparency and all those other limiting things you need to be when blogging, I should reveal that all of the acting took place on stage at the Shire Hall in Coonabarabran (Population 3000). 

Don't get me wrong. They were fabulous productions, and there was a lot of local talent, but it wasn't quite Hollywood or Broadway. 

And while we're clarifying opening sentences,  I should probably add that I was no Shirley Temple or Drew Barrymore. My talent didn't even approach that of the chimpanzee in 'The Beverly Hillbillies'. I was, however, enthusiastic in my participation.

My first play ever was 'The Sound of Music'. 

I was Gretl.

Yes! I made my theatre debut at six years of age, starring in the role of Gretl, the youngest of the Von Trapp children. The cute one who sings, 'The su-u-un has go-o-one to bed and so must I-I.' 

You can see me here (far left) in my fetching little sailor suit, my plaited-Austrian-bun thingies sticking out at the side of my head. 

I did go on to perform other roles - Bielke in 'Fiddler on the Roof', a dancing islander in 'South Pacific', one of the king's wives in 'The King and I' and a baby elephant in a revue. (Being a baby elephant felt far more glamorous at the time than it sounds right now.) But none affected me as deeply as being Gretl in 'The Sound of Music'. It was probably due to my age (six-year-olds are highly impressionable) and the fact that I continued to watch the movie version at least once a year for the next thirty years .

It was 'The Sound of Music' (SOM as we showbiz folk call it) that alerted me to the existence of pink lemonade. Pink lemonade!!!! What's not to love?! Of course, such sophisticated drinks were only available in musicals and movies when I was a child. The closest I ever came to pink lemonade was chugging down a can of Cherry Cheer with my Chiko Roll. But it made the world a better place just knowing that, somewhere out there, the lemonade flowed pink. 

Likewise, SOM alerted me to the delights of lederhosen, cuckoo clocks, brown paper packages tied up with string, puppet plays, yodelling  and glasshouses. All of these wonderful things have made it into my children's books. Except for the yodelling. Just give me time ....

And remember those fabulous clothes that Maria made for the Von Trapp children using old curtains? Frugal and environmentally friendly. Inspiring, too. For years I dabbled in making shorts for my children from tablecloth fabric. And, finally, I paid the ultimate tribute to SOM - I made my own skirt from curtain fabric. Sewed it with my own two hands, just like Maria! And I wore it to the NSW Premier's Awards. 

Here I am in my curtain fabric skirt. 
The woman to my right is my mother, 
wearing a shirt made from the seat of 

a deck chair ... or maybe it's silk. 
On the down side, SOM left me scared and confused about nuns. Were they grumpy or kind? Did they really break into song at the drop of a hat? Was a wimple something you wore on your head or a polite word for a wee? It didn't help that my own mother played the role of grumpy nun in the same production. I didn't meet a real live nun until much later in life, so the mystery lasted for many years. 

SOM sent mixed messages about child-rearing, too. Was it a good thing or a bad thing to train your kids with a whistle? It worked a treat for Captain Von Trapp, and yet Maria didn't seem overly impressed. Just quietly, I still think it'd be worth a try.

On balance, however, I think SOM has been a happy influence in my life. When I did The Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg, I was able to sing along to all the songs like a pro. I'm able to achieve full marks in SOM quizzes - a real self-esteem booster. And when I'm feeling sad, I know that all I have to do is remember my favourite things, and then I don't fe-e-e-e-el so ba-a-a-a-ad.
The postcard I sent home to my mum and dad
 after visiting the beautiful city of Salzburg.

Have you had your moment on stage or in front of the camera?
Has it shaped your life?

Want to test your Sound of Music knowledge? 

No comments:

Post a Comment