That Time I Was 8 and That Theater Teacher Kicked Me Out of Class For Being the One Reasonable Kid in the Room
“Just let it out! Let it go! GO CRAZY!!!”
That’s what one of my first theater teachers screamed at 8-year-old me.
For the record, I was not a child who let anything out. I didn’t let anything go. And I never went crazy.
I was serious child. About once a month, I would dump out all of my toys into the floor and organize
them by size and color. I gave all 200 or so of my stuffed animals names and put them on a written
rotation of playtime so that none of them felt left out. I tried to record books on tapes with my
friends, but most of the recordings are of me yelling at them when they mispronounced words or
didn’t perform with enough dramatic irony for my taste.
I didn’t “play,” I “explored myself through creative activity.” I didn’t “have fun,” I “participated in
events and sorted out how I felt about it afterward.” In the 4th grade, I told a teacher that I didn’t have heroes because all of us were imperfect.
It’s possible that it was because I was such a rigid child that I was so fascinated by acting and
performance as a young person. I loved the idea that for a bit, just for a bit, you could put on a
costume, be someone totally different, live a different life, impact others, then come back to the
emotional safety of never really leaving your bedroom. I loved that there was space to spread your
wings just a little, but that there were also rules so it was safe—there was a script after all, characters had specific things they were supposed to do, there were parameters to the fantasy, so you knew
you were going to be okay in the end.
I liked all of that.
I did not like “just getting crazy” and “going wild” in a room full of my runny-nosed peers.
I grew up in bland, suburban South Texas, a region of the country not known for its nuanced acting
training, so every class I was in consisted of overly caffeinated graduate students grinning like crazy
and telling us kids to lose our goddamned minds.
Young Aydrea would have been totally cool with doing this if the MFA candidates had been able to
tell us what running around like a chicken had to do with understanding Elizabethan scansion.
In case you’re curious, yes, I asked. No, they did not have answers.
But one teacher did have something to say:
“I don’t really think this is for you. You don’t have to come to the rest of class.”
Now, I’m not amazing with children. I’m the kind of adult that will straight up stop reading the
bedtime story if the kid doesn’t like my voices (hashtag, irony). I’ve definitely given a kid water in a
glass that used to have gin and tonic in it without washing it out first. I have no problem talking about my toxic exes in front of tweens who are about to go on their first dates. And I’ve definitely said the
phrase, “why would I have kids, I still have friends and my dreams haven’t died,” in front of people
who were younger than 18.
But despite all that, I know that you’re not supposed to tell a little kid that they can’t achieve their
dreams. I hope that Chad never finished that dumb extra degree.
After he kicked he me out of class, I still went anyway. I had enough shame to know that I could
never tell my parents that I failed at attending a perfectly voluntary, non-grade-based summer
program. So every day I got on the bus, rode across town, sat outside of the classroom and hoped
that Chad would come to his senses.
A few years later and I was taking my first proper theater arts class in Middle School. I knew that I
couldn’t get kicked out of this class because the law said that I couldn’t be truant and anyone who
signed up for any elective could take it. Ha! Life 1, Aydrea also 1.
In this class, I did reasonable things like decide to perform Hamlet’s Soliloquy for my first assignment. Yes, everyone else chose pieces from books with titles like “100 HILARIOUS MONOLOGUES FOR
KOOL KIDS.” But I was more elevated than that.
Was my performance of one of the Bard’s greatest passages “good?” I doesn’t matter. It was serious
and it was mine and it gave me the confidence to audition for my first real play.
The play was about a tree that granted wishes and was appropriately titled: The Wishin’ Tree.
Shakespeare, it was not. But, I was allowed to be in it. Fuck you, Chad, I thought. (I didn’t think that. I don’t think I dropped my first f-bomb until high school…unless my mother is reading this, in which
case, I have never ever used profanity in my whole life).
I played an uptight, nosy neighbor who mostly had to snark around on stage and be snippy and then march off all upset. What had 2 thumbs and no problem with the aforementioned part of the performance? This girl.
But then came the scream.
At some point the titular tree grants a wish in front of my character or something…I think the tree was actually meant to put something in my hand and I had to scream. Loudly. At the top of my lungs. And run around the stage like a maniac.
It was a real defining moment for the character and a real nightmare moment for me.
No one else in the play had to be that wild and unhinged. Everyone else got to say measured words
in carefully planned ways. I had to let go. And just go crazy.
Every embarrassing moment from that horrible class came flooding back to my brain and so every
time my scream came up during rehearsal, I froze. Couldn’t do it. Couldn’t bring myself to be that
Was Chad right all along? Did he see a failure in me that he was just trying to protect me from? Was it possible Chad was a messenger sent from beyond with difficult yet prescient news that I needed to
heed lest I be shunned, embarrassed, destroyed? Was this really not for me?
Maybe. Possibly, for sure. There is a strong possibility that there are people who don't want me to be doing this. And I respect their positions. But I wasn’t quite done.
Because as shy as I could be, I was also extremely proud. So when my teacher/director gave me the very simple ultimatum of “scream or be recast,” I found my voice. I knew that if I lost this role, I’d go
crazy in the bad way, so I decided that it was better to go crazy in the good way. It still scares me
from time to time (read: 100% of the time), but I've been screaming ever since.
And okay, fine. I hope Chad got his MFA.