At the weekend I won a photography competition. Not since the great drama-exam drama of 1983 have I been party to such an upset.
The September I was ten, my ballet class moved to a time that was inconvenient, what with our habit of eating dinner and so on, and so my mother deemed that I should stop doing ballet and take up drama instead. Apparently I was a very malleable child, or perhaps I just wasn’t all that into ballet any more, because I took it pretty well and showed up at my new drama class ready to do whatever it was people did in drama. The teacher was a large woman given to wearing muumuus, who had a lot of bichon frise dogs, which is why I know a bichon frise when I see one. (Also a muumuu, but that episode of The Simpsons helped there too.) She was stridently West-Brit, and very hand-wavy, and pretty much exactly as you’d expect a drama teacher. She was, in fact, an institution.
The other kids in my class seemed to have taken up drama as toddlers, and to me they all appeared to be slightly posh, private-school girls (were there any boys? I don’t remember any) who had no need or inclination to befriend the unfashionable new girl. That was okay; so long as there was something we were meant to be doing, I didn’t need a friend particularly.
I really have no idea what it was we did in drama class. But I do remember the end-of-term exam with crystal clarity. I’d taken recorder exams and ballet exams, but this drama exam seemed particularly freeform. I was first up and had no idea what to expect. I went into the room alone (save for the examiner) and was asked to pretend I was an astronaut, I think. (“Crystal clear” may be an exagerration. Through a mottled glass vaguely, then.) With none of my peers in the room I didn’t bother with self-consciousness, and happily loped around in imitation of weightlessness, talking to myself about the hopes and fears of an astronaut, for the allotted minutes.
When everyone else was finished and the results were announced, I was astonished – and the rest of the class was probably pretty much disgusted – to hear that (while everyone had passed, I suppose) I, the newbie, had won the gold medal and come first.
I moved on to a different drama class the next term, with a smaller and more motley group, and we did a little thing from The Great Gatsby for a feis (that’s a competition). I was Jordan, and I had to wear a knitted sweater vest (tank top) over a shirt, and have a book under my arm. (Not a golf club. Hmm. I think they took some liberties with this dramatization.) We didn’t win. I think the group doing Lorca’s Blood Wedding did. It was very, well, dramatic.
So. To return to almost the present day, last year at the Labor Day Festival I looked at the photo show and thought “Hey, they need entries to fill up these displays. I could enter a picture next year.” And this year I did just that, with two photos I liked, which I went so far as to put into frames and get to the show in time. (That was really the hard part.) And my surprise was just about as great as it had been at the drama exam when I was informed that I had taken a blue ribbon in both my categories.
(I have to point out that judicious choice of categories went a long way here. There were only three entrants in one.)
I am no more a great photographer than I turned out to be a great actress. A creative type is not something I ever used to think of myself as being, but maybe my right brain has just been biding its time for a while.
Sometimes beginner’s luck gives you a boost just when you need it.