The "Texan Confidence"
The Texas Story Project.
As a child, I never had any of the famous “Texan Confidence,” even though I was a native Texan. I didn’t say howdy, I didn’t like noise, and people scared me. Now that I think about it, lots of things terrified me, especially strangers. I guess that’s why everyone was so surprised when I decided I was going to audition for The Little Prince.
The Little Prince is an opera by Rachel Portman, an opera that changed my life forever. (It’s kind of ironic, so many people say the book was what changed them. Getting to perform that opera onstage was what changed me.) The one thing I had confidence in as a child, was music. I knew that I would always be able to lose myself in the beautiful melodies of Bach, Mozart, and eventually, Rachel Portman. I had my audition for The Little Prince the summer before sixth grade, feeling pretty confident that I would NOT get in. In my mind, I had failed, and would never get to do what I really enjoyed doing, and would die in a hole alone and lonely. I walked out of that audition with a small feeling of accomplishment, after getting congratulated by the pianist, but I was still shocked when I got an email telling me I was part of the children's chorus for Houston Grand Opera’s production of The Little Prince. (Let’s be honest though, who ever feels good about their auditions?)
Later, I would learn that Chiara, one of my classmates at the time (who I wasn’t on the best of terms with) had also become part of the children's chorus, and my honest to God first thought was that I would be miserable the whole time, because someone there would know me. It turned out to be great for both of us. We had each other to talk to and to confide in, especially when we were feeling insecure. Our very first rehearsal was a game changer for me. I was in awe. It was amazing. I was finally in a room of 17 other children that all wanted to be there, and that all wanted to make music.
That day was one of the best days of my life, but like all good things, it had to come to an end. While riding down the pristine silver elevator, I was thrown into my first ever real bullying scenario. Anastasia, a girl about a year older than me, was one of those people that you just know are trying to make life a living hell for everyone else. She had decided it was time to make life that living hell for a group of little girls who were at least four years younger than her. Her entire goal was just to terrify them beyond imagination. All I could do was watch. The worst part was that she didn’t actually have any reason to want to hurt them—it was just her form of entertainment. That was the first time I ever really felt helpless, and the first time I realized how far my lack of the “Texan Confidence” really went.
Rehearsal time flew by, and soon the performances started. The adults that managed the stage, and backstage, and basically the entire show, had never seemed to have any insecurities whatsoever. They always knew what was happening, always knew what would happen next, and never let anything go wrong.
Until our fateful fifth performance.
The fifth performance was the only time I ever saw them panic, which is really saying something. (They didn’t even panic when one of the kids fell off of a prop plane and broke her wrist.) One of the stagehands accidentally flew the prince to the wrong side of the stage, and it just so happened to be right before he had to make a big entrance on the OTHER SIDE of the stage. The entire scene depended on him entering from the other side. He was hooked up to a flying harness, so he couldn’t just cross around the back. The adults all started panicking.
“Does he have time to take of his costume, run around the back, and get dressed again?”
“No he doesn’t! What if we just tell everyone onstage that he’ll be entering from the other side?”
“That won’t work. When would we tell them? They’re ON STAGE!”
“What if we lifted him above the set and flew him through the rigging to the other side?” Everybody paused, and looked at the genius who had that idea.
“Somebody tell me how high the roof is!”
“Someone tell him he’ll have to hold his knees up as we fly him back across!”
“Someone tell me how much noise this will make!”
We all watched with bated breath as the adults figured everything out, and he was flown back across the stage, very slowly so that there was no noise, with only about two inches to spare on either side of him. Two inches lower and the audience would have seen him, two inches higher and he would have hit the roof. The “Texan confidence” (well, more like the Texan willingness to try anything and everything) that I was still lacking, had saved the day.
I suddenly had a new set of heroes, the people who were never credited with fixing things that the audience never knew went wrong. I wanted to be able to do just what they had done: I wanted to be able to come to terms with any problem, and see it through to the point where I knew it would be fixed no matter what, even if I panicked in the beginning. I started trying to do that in every aspect of my life, and I learned that there were some scenarios in which I could be confident, but only if I was by myself. Which was kind of counterproductive.
The only place I regularly felt like I could use some of the elusive “Texan Confidence” was in my storytelling. I would tell my dad stories of everything that was happening behind the scenes every night before bed, and on the car ride back from the opera. Slowly, I found myself gaining confidence, bit by bit, through my storytelling, and through life in general.
I remember telling my dad how I had finally started to sing out, and how I had been afraid to do that before.
I remember telling him how I was always so encouraged by looking out from the stage and seeing him with the orchestra.
I remember telling him how I had such awe for the adult singers, who could fill up the entire hall with seemingly no effort.
I remember telling him how I thought I might have a crush on Andy, the little boy who played The Little Prince himself.
I remember telling him how every night, one of the professional singers would imitate the pre-concert announcement and make us all burst into hysterical giggles right before we would be rushed onstage.
I remember finally being able to stand up for other people, using my newfound confidence.
I remember looking out at the audience, seeing my school, my friends, and my family there to support me, and finally being able to let my nerves go. So in the end, it was the Texan arts, somthing Texas isn’t really well known for, that gave me the famous “Texan Confidence.”
Posted January 09, 2018
TAGGED WITH: Children and Youth