Tonight #amwriting


I wanted to be Maria in West Side Story. Forever. From the first moment, I heard the songs playing through my mother’s speaker and then saw Natalie Wood so sweetly beautiful, I sang along and dreamed. I created a niche in which I danced and sang and dreamed of a boy like Tony, but in my drama, he would live and we would love each other until the end of time.

In my senior year of high school, it was like a dream come true. The spring musical would be West Side Story. Hadn’t I spent the past seven years living this dream? I couldn’t imagine that it wouldn’t be mine.

The ladies auditioning us though didn’t let me sing. I wasn’t petite enough to be Maria, I wasn’t feminine enough to be Graziella and I couldn’t dance. I wasn’t girly enough to be anyone other than Anybodys.

I was Anybodys.

The auditioning ladies are like everyone else. They divide us. Pretty girls, passing girls, ugly girls and ungirly girls. The auditioning ladies were all once pretty girls or passing girls.

No one knows heartbreak quite as well as a high school teenager who isn’t allowed to even try out for her dream. You’re told for so long that you can be anyone you want to be. Then someone places their palm on your forehead to keep you from moving forward and says, “But, no. You can’t be this.”

So I am Anybodys, the androgynous, lurking in the background. I feel like the Phantom, the Hunchback, the Beast. But I am quiet and learn my role.

One of the auditioning ladies suggests that I have my hair cut to look like a boy. I hear snickers behind me.

“Thanks for the suggestion,” I say and then walk away. Martina, the Maria, laughs and turns away rather than look at me.

Someone told me that high school is a rite of passage. Something to be gotten through, not thought about too intently, and forgotten once the doors of freedom open up to you. I keep repeating that in my head.

The night of the play I dress in jeans and a t-shirt. My hair is in a bob. I don’t look like a boy. I look like a tomboy.

One of the auditioning ladies sends her voice around. “Who knows Maria’s roll? Which one of you knows Maria’s roll? Kennedy? Noelle? Morgan?”

I stare at the Instagram images on my cell.

“You. You wanted to try out for Maria.”

The auditioning lady is standing next to me. There’s a layer of sweat over her lip. I wonder if she knows. I glance back at my phone.

“Please, Martina’s ill. We need a Maria,” the auditioning lady pleads.

I look her squarely in the face. “I’m too big to fit into her dresses.”

The auditioning lady’s face squeezes together. “If we have something you can wear, can you do the part?”

After all of the crap I’ve put up with, I would like to make a stand, make proclamations, make someone feel as bad as I’ve felt, but I don’t.


I can only imagine that they must have been desperate to put a girl they hadn’t even bothered to audition on as Maria, although I heard later that my choir director said I was the only who could do the part, even better than the petite, pretty Martina.

That night I sang. Tony pretended he loved me. Bernardo pretended I was his petite sister. The audience exuded love. And I pretended that I didn’t care that the auditioning ladies thought my talent was only good enough for Anybodys.

The facts are: I had great write-ups. I received a scholarship to an arts school. I received recording contracts. I am a big girl. But no one ever asks me to audition for Maria on Broadway.

The other facts are: the auditioning ladies even now only let pretty girls audition for Maria.

On special days, lines crimping the faces of the auditioning ladies blossom into smoothness. They are pretty, oh, so pretty.


end 8/4/2017

Sascha Darlington


9 thoughts on “Tonight #amwriting

  1. WOW WOW WOW! I’ve been on all sides of the “pretty” gambit. From receiving jealous and catty comments to being too plump to consider. I’ve always been fortunate in that although I wasn’t close to most of the kids I went to school with, we had a friendship, and none were treated as “ugly” or unusual. I’ve been blessed in that I believed I could do anything I put my mind to and did. I sang lead on occasion in the school choir and enjoyed every minute of participating. I can’t imagine the “heartache” of not being acceptable by the powers that be “just because” I didn’t fit their particular mold. This piece spoke volumes. So awesome!

    1. Thanks, Phyllis. I did take some literary license with the “audition ladies” and merge two different situations from my experience. I don’t think that this kind of thing would happen with a real high school musical because those are usually done by the faculty.
      I think unless you were one of the popular kids you have some kind of experience about not fitting in. Maybe even the popular kids did at one time.
      I appreciate your reading and commenting, as always! 🙂

      1. I agree, it happened to everyone at some time. The scenario you suggest is all too common from what I hear, but not in Canada. Here, it’s about ability and who can carry the role, although I’m sure that has watered down with time and is more about prestige and who has $$ than talent. Just saying! 🙂 For all that I enjoyed the blog very much.

  2. I love the West Side Story, the old movie version and I’ve seen it reformed a couple times at some theatre and venues where I live. High school is tough on many people. I had my own difficulties as the principal’s daughter & probably the first of the faculties children to pass through in a small private school. I had best friends who suddenly abandoned me (it felt like) but then they became better friends with each other and I moved on to making the best of it I could. By grade 12 my entire class new each other well and pretty did not care if I was the principal’s daughter as they knew me well.

    But grade 10 was tough and girls I had been great friends with before were mean, I played sports and that was good but the grade 12 girls and guys were often mean or degrading to me even though they generally liked my Dad as a Principle. Once they’d moved on it was much better.

    Funny enough my high school was on the campus of a private university. So quite a few of of us eventually ended up going there for university and people who used to be mean we’re suddenly the people we all hung out with for the first couple years at least, sitting together in classes, in the cafeteria or other areas, and drinking with on the weekend.

    I doubt any person escapes high school without some damage but funny enough it’s the uber popular people I think who have the most trouble later on.

    Great piece and neat how she ended up going to to a ring school. There are many great roles not played by leading ladies.

    1. Thanks, Mandi. What you say is true. I think the only people who want to back to that time are the popular ones because that seemed to be where they reached their pinnacle.
      It sounds like you could write a good ya novel based on your experiences.
      I’ve wanted to see a Broadway revival of West Side Story. I’ve seen the movie and a high school production when I was about 9 and got a crush on Tony and my goodness, he died! A devastated 9 year old. 🙂
      Hope all is well with you. Thanks for reading!

      1. Things are good. Poor nine year old girl! It is devastating that’s what’s the point of the play I guess, he wasn’t even in involved. I’ve seen it at a place we call the Citadel Theatre a couple of times, professional actors but not broadway by any means. Perhaps there is a place like that where you live?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.