I remember the day so clearly. I was 6 years old when I went to see my first musical at the Swift Creek Mill Playhouse. I was so excited. I was always drawn to the arts; music and dance specifically. Not the norm for boys my age, but I loved it none-the-less. I loved how I could express anything I wanted to and I wouldn’t be judged. It was a wonderful outlet.
So my parents begrudgingly decided to take me to the small playhouse in my hometown to see the greatest musical ever: “Annie”. We had dinner downstairs first and then went to see the show. I remember going up the winding wooden staircase in the early 1900s mill-turned-playhouse. Black and white pictures lined the walls with portraits of actors in years past. The theater was cute and had quite a history for such a small, relatively young town. We took our seats as I waited anxiously for the curtain to rise. The lights flickered to indicate the show was about to start. As everyone took their seats, I remembered feeling overwhelmed with excitement.
I remember everything about the play. I felt so connected to this little redheaded orphan from NYC. Every song the young actress belted out was compelling to me. I am pretty confident as an adult, that I felt so connected to her because we were both very lonely. We were both alone; for two very different reasons, but we were alone all the same.
I looked at this fictional character and sometimes wanted to be her. I thought that being an orphan would be easier than growing up so different than everyone else. I didn’t really know what gay meant at this age, but I knew that I was different and I had to keep my differences from my parents and all of those around me.
I used to pray every night that one day my parents would tell me I was an orphan. I used to think that would explain why I was so much different from everyone else in my family. I used to dream that this would be true. I thought it would be easier than one day coming to terms with my true identity and disappointing my family.
The play was the start of my short lived acting career. Acting gave me the ability to be someone that I was not. No matter who I was on stage, I would be loved. Acting gave me the ability to morph into many different personalities and people. It was through acting that I would learn the necessary tools on how to get by hiding my true self.
I was about to embark on my biggest role; growing up gay in a straight world.
Derick Simmons is a thirtysomething gay man living in Washington, DC. With roots in southern VA, he has endured challenges growing up gay in a straight world. Check out his blog Gay Man Straight World and follow him on Twitter @DerickSimmons or Facebook.
Capping off Swift Creek Mill’s 2013-2014 season is “The Dixie Swim Club” Directed by The Mill’s in-house director, Tom Width, and written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, who are collectively known as Jones Hope Wooten. The play centers around five girlfriends who met while competing on their college swim team. Every year [...]July 2, 2014
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