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The rawness of live theater

Pacer Notes

WILLIAMS“Five, six, five six seven eight!”

As our director, drama teacher Andy Ballnik, shouts from center stage, I stand in an arc alongside the rest of the cast and count time in my head as he claps: “One and two and three and four and one and two and three and four and ...”

The dance we are learning is complicated, a mix of various rhythms played out with our bodies as the drums. Stomp-TAP-snap-heel-STOMP-snap!-snap! I repeat my part over and over until my ankles are tired from hitting the floor. Around me, 50 other students dutifully learn their sections.

This is a rehearsal for the fall musical, the after-school destination of an energetic blend of teenage thespians. The cast is made up of choir kids, drama geeks and exuberant dancers from all grades and ability levels. Some of the people around me will major in theater; others are mathletes who may never return to the stage after graduating.

Although I fall more accurately into the latter group, drama is still incredibly important to me. I remember watching Lakeridge’s past productions, such as “The Beauty and the Beast” and “Fiddler on the Roof,” as a little girl.

The high schoolers seemed so grown up! They appeared to me like total adults: professional actors and singers. I never imagined that I would be on that same stage one day, wearing the same costumes and nervously waiting in the same wings.

When, as a freshman, I found myself on stage as Washerwoman Number Two in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” I was beyond excited. And now, four years later, I have participated in nine productions at Lakeridge, from enormous musicals to the intimate 24-hour theater show. I have inhabited roles ranging from lead to chorus member.

I have learned that the pure nervous joy never fades, whether it’s your first show or your ninth. I still love the excitement of being on stage: the colorful costumes; the hot, blinding lights; the emotions of the story we’re presenting; and the rawness of live theater.

Backstage, we laugh in the dressing rooms as we reapply our makeup and change costumes, bonding over the shared experiences of whatever mishap just occurred or the success of an appreciative audience that night.

I joke to my friends that I can’t sing or dance for my life. But for some reason, I keep auditioning for the musicals and plays. Something about the unpredictability and pride of a polished performance is addicting, and I keep coming back for more.

I am so excited to perform in my last musical at Lakeridge, “Once Upon a Mattress,” and show the Lake Oswego community what we’ve been working on. I hope you’ll come out and see the show, which opens Nov. 3!

In the meantime, I’ll keep plugging away at learning the choreography and complicated steps that go into our biggest dance number. See you in the auditorium in November!

Lakeridge High School senior Claire Williams is one of two Pacer Notes columnists. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..