Wednesday, October 31, 2007

On My Own . . . or on YouTube

In honor of the October writing assignment over at, here is my contribution.

It’s not a witty essay or a piece of fiction—just something silly that the prompt brought to mind. (That’s what a prompt does, right? Bring things to mind?) Had I managed to have more than three seconds to think straight over the last two weeks, I might have written something really inspiring and literary.

Or . . . maybe not.

* * *

As I’ve mentioned before, I went to high school with a bunch of thespians. These are people who took acting and made it a lifestyle. Their favorite party games were acting games. (Ever played "In the Manner of the Adverb"?) Their favorite pastimes were viewing or participating in plays—or listening to Broadway soundtracks.

With their insane music ability, it was a snap to stand around a piano while one (take your pick; it could be any one of half a dozen of them) sight read music and the rest sang along in perfect harmony. (Except me. "Give Annette the melody" was their sympathetic mantra.) Their competitions weren’t of the football variety, but rather Region Drama.

Being part of this group was particularly interesting since I lived in a very tight shell of shyness. These people exploded that shell off my person—which was a good thing in many ways, if uncomfortable at times. It stretched me.

It was because of them that I auditioned for and performed in three community youth theater productions. It was because of them I started taking voice lessons and tried out for the school choir. It was because of them I found my interest in ballroom dance (which in turn led to meeting my husband).

It was also because of them that I ended up playing the temptress/blackmailer Desaray Cahoon one wintry night.

Four of the gang were on a double date and decided to make a soap opera video. They spent much of the evening writing out the script. Then they called the rest of our group over to film the thing. (Essentially crashing their date, but hey—we were all buds, and it was fun.)

The story began with one of the love interests getting smacked on the head by a rival, sending her into a coma. I’m fuzzy on the rest of the story—it made more sense on paper than it did on tape—but there was also a mute girl who is cured by the pure love of her teacher, including a delightful montage between them after they discover their love. They frolicked the snow in Em’s backyard.

And then there was the blackmailing scheme of which Desaray (moi) was a part.

But the scene that had us all in stitches was when Em—the one who loved the mute girl's teacher (who was in love with the mute instead of her . . . the whole thing was dreadfully soapy)—sang a tearful rendition of “On My Own” from Les Miserables.

To fully appreciate this, you have to understand Em. She’s a consummate actress. In high school she played about every leading role possible. She won the award as the best actor of her graduating class. She went on to get a BA and an MA in theater. So yeah, the girl could (and can) act.

She can be very intense in her performances, especially her dramatic ones. Which is what made her hysterical to watch when she would take humorous material and turn it serious.

To this day, I crack up whenever I think of her dramatic interpretation of the song, “Oklahoma.” I can still hear the emotion and intensity in her voice when she’d declare, “And the waving wheat can sure smell sweet.” She had us hyperventilating.

Take that passion, add a cup of melodrama, and throw “On My Own” at her.

During the taping, one of the pianists in the group (did I mention these friends were also ridiculously talented musically?) played the music while she sang the song with the passion no Eponine has ever expressed.

I don’t know how she kept a straight face; the rest of us were rolling on the floor trying not to laugh out loud and ruin the shot.

Afterward, we had a scream watching the soap opera—then we all declared it should be burned, because someone really could blackmail us with such embarrassing stuff.

To my knowledge, it never was destroyed. In fact, I’ve met people (friends of friends) who say they’ve seen it. Um . . . yikes?

So I’m a bit scared that some day it’ll make its way onto YouTube or something.

Fast forward many years: When I wrote the book that became Lost Without You, I dropped in an inside joke that only those friends would catch. Some of them reportedly snorted out loud when they came to it.

It was when the voice teacher in the book is first introduced.

Her name is Desaray Cahoon.


Stephanie Humphreys said...

My friends and I used to make up soap operas as teenagers. Of course, we didn't have a video camera, so we did radio soap operas. We would also make up our own radio stations. Ah the memories...I'm also glad no copies exist today.

Karlene said...

Hey, you won my Breast Cancer Awareness Giveaway prize at Signature Scents for suggesting a custom fragrance. :)

Anonymous said...

I had completely forgotten about the soap opera video! But now that you bring it up, I can't stop thinking about how funny it was. In fact, I STILL cannot listen to "On My Own' without hearing Em's rendition in my mind. Hysterical!

Alas, me and my not so thespian self were not part of that little Babes (et al) adventure. Am I sad about that? . . . at the time, yes. Now, not so much. °Ü°

Thanks for the reminder of old times and great friends!

Josi said...

And all this time I thought you were so normal . . . :-)

Emmie said...

Desaray Cahoon! Wow, the memories. (And I'm officially terrified at the very thought of the soap opera ending up on YouTube.) It's so delightful to me that my, shall we say, dramatic personality was able to entertain my fabulous friends. I'm lucky that y'all didn't just think I was completely nuts.

We're only sayin' you're doing FINE, Oklahoma . . . *sob*

Avery Gray said...

Oh, what a great memory! Brings back some hilarious ones of my own, so thank you for that!

Anonymous said...

hi annette,
i had so much fun reading this. you kept making me giggle and smile.

enjoy, kathleen :)

Anonymous said...

I am frightened to think of who has seen that video. My introduction to Gary's wife was "This is Sarah. She was that really skanky chick in the Soap Opera." Nice.

Bill C said...

Desaray Cahoon is a great name. I wonder how often fictional characters' names double as inside jokes for a select few; seems like an ideal means to an end.

Also - thanks for visiting and commenting the other day. I confess your weblog has been on my want-to-see list for some time now, so I appreciate the motivating nudge.

Luisa Perkins said...

I noticed the name Desaray immediately in this post. Great payoff!

samiam said...

I do own a copy of it and just showed it to a co-worker the other day who'd heard all about the high school friends--she had a great time watching it. But YouTube? Now there is a thought! Thanks for the suggestion! :)

Annette Lyon said...

Sam, YOU have it?!

So um, if someone happens to break into your place in the next little while, it's not me stealing the tape or anything . . .


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