what started me off was my mom and dad. they had music playing constantly. it was my harmonizing to an old doobie brothers song that caught their attention. i had locked myself in their bedroom to get away from the grownups, and when the chorus of "ole black water" started, i sang, at the top of my lungs, "i'd like to hear some f**cked up dixieland, pretty maaa-ma come and take me by the hand."

my grandmother was not pleased.

my parents always taught me to aspire to be different. we already garnered stares, being an interracial family (our italian neighbors disliked us for being black, our black neighbors for being italian--and that's just two parts of our special blend), but for the most part, i liked the stares. i liked challenging people's views. i never wanted to be trendy, have trendy friends, wear trendy clothes. so, i completely copied the style of every famous offbeat person i could find. my logic was off, but it did get me into theatre. when the powers that be saw me using the school hallways as my runway, they nudged me into theatre.

i got started late (though i don't really believe in late, I believe you follow a path, and get to the signs in the road when you're ready). my freshman year, i tiptoed into the concert choir room, and found that i was too late to join. but the director steered me towards his wife, who, after hearing a very squeaky rendition of "memory", was hesitant to take me. luckily for me, she did, and by the end of my four years with her, i was singing coloratura arias. i didn't take a serious dance class till the ripe old age of 14, but i dove into it completely. the first 4 periods of a school day were all about getting to lunch, which was not really lunch: it was rehearsal for the school's dance troupe. basically, you had to give up eating to be part of it. (yeah, i know). then art class, then 3 more periods to get through, then rehearsal for the school play or musical or talent contest or community theatre, or voice lessons, then home to practice more. i had no social life, but i loved it. high school was fantastic. i was lucky. i had more mentors in those four years than some have in a lifetime.

high school lead to conservatory. i was thrilled: only ONE period of english lit, then 6 hours a day of dance, not to mention 8 hours of opera and theatre. my summer was spent at hersheypark, doing 8 shows a day in the jukebox theatre. just before my junior year, i was cast as rosalia in the european national tour of west side story. i didn't want to leave school--but my parents wanted me to. in reversed roles, i talked them into going back for my junior year. but i found the work had changed, it was too easy--and when i got a B+ for making up every line in a midterm exam scene from twelfth night, i decided my parents were right. west side called again during my christmas break, this time for the role of maria, and i went.

after returning from tour, i started my version of grown up life: all day non-equity casting calls and hostess jobs in new jersey mall restaurants. i got my first equity job by crashing an audition for once on this island--i had heard they were having a hard time finding one of the roles. crashing an audition was completely out of step for me at the time, but there was a reason for it: it led me to my husband.

i saw him on the first day of rehearsal. and i thought, who is that, he can't be an actor, he's WAY too cool to be an actor. he had a bandana tied around his long blonde hair, he was holding the weirdest, most macho teacup i'd ever seen--it looked like he'd made it himself--and he had a tweed coat on that reminded me of my father. and i couldn't stop staring at him, and he couldn't stop staring at me, and we've been staring at each other ever since.

(oh, and we take breaks to work occassionally...)

and that seems like a good place to finish.