Recently I met a young woman who did something most of us older women (and many men) wouldn't do. "Break a leg" is the theatrical idiom used to wish a performer good luck in an ironic way, a saying that sends actors and actresses onto the stage with the hope that they will do a bang-up job. Young Danielle Rothchild did just that, literally breaking a foot while figuratively breaking a leg during the production of The Wizard of Oz at Carmel's Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre. It wasn't pretty for Danielle, but what a beautiful story of courage shown by a 15-year-old actress.
My youngest son George has a friend from school who was a part of the show's Lullaby League. Emma is an actress not only by training but by nature -- she's both bigger than life and loves life. George and I planned our date to travel to the Tarkington across from the Palladium to see Emma and her older sister Maddie be a part of the munchkin chorus. On the second night of the new year, George and I found our seats and much to George's dismay, discovered that this was the night of "The Wizard of Oz Sing-Along." Brent Marty, the director of music and education, explained to the audience that the contents found in the their goodie bags included kazoos to hum the Wicked Witch theme, bubbles to blow whenever Glinda the Good Witch of the North appeared and a noisemaker to use during the twister. George's almost-preteen eyes stopped rolling in his head, and he grabbed the bag of props. I continued to sip on my cold beer, but found that I, too, was excited to have a chance to sing along with Dorothy Gale and chant in unison with the audience, "Lions and tigers and bears ... oh, my!" I suppose I'm a repressed thespian at heart. But really -- aren't we all?
During the show I paid close attention to Danielle who played the Barrister in Munchkinland. Nobody else in the audience would have guessed that underneath her billowing red robe, her left foot was encased in an air cast. Furthermore, this same audience wouldn't have guessed that just a couple weeks prior, this medium-size munchkin fell in the middle of the theater's aisle after striking her foot against the side of a seat with just the right force and at just the wrong angle. Down she went, and then, just as quickly, up she went. Danielle knew she had injured herself badly, but she also knew that her speaking part was coming up, and she was faced with a decision: Should she stay backstage and let someone else say her lines or -- worse -- let there be a silence where her lines should be delivered? Danielle told me that she thought to herself that her foot really hurt but that she would just shake it off. "This is my role," she said, "and I will do it." And she did. With her foot ballooning in size, she not only performed in that show but in two subsequent shows before her foot was accurately accessed and treated.
I wondered what gave Danielle the courage and the poise to rise above such physical pain. Could it be the family she comes from, having two older sisters who have been in theater? Or is it the work ethic instilled in her by her parents? Has it been the 19 productions she has appeared in since she was 8 years old? Maybe it is linked to her involvement in Jr. Civic's Act One program for young performers? Perhaps it has been the experience of seeing others fall on stage and just get back up again. I don't have the answer, and when I asked Danielle what drove her to push through the pain, she didn't have the answer either. All she knew was that she simply got up again to finish what she had started, to accomplish what she had been selected to do.
Remember that scared Lion in The Wizard of Oz who so badly wanted to be brave? He knew that it was courage he was lacking, and to be King of the Forest required something he called "The Nerve." The Lion, while holding his long tail close to his heart, sang:
Yeah, it's sad, believe me Missy
when you're born to be a sissy
without the vim and verve
But I could show my prowess
be a lion, not a mowess
if I only had the nerve
In the end, the Lion was bestowed his badge of courage by the man behind the curtain. The thing was, like everything that was given to Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and of course the Lion, it was there within each of them all along. And maybe that is also true for Danielle, a freshman at Carmel High School with hopes to attend Purdue University someday, be in fashion and act and sing for fun -- she had the nerve all along. It just took breaking a leg to realize it.