LESLIE CRISS: Shy niece takes a liking to the world of live theater

“Theatre demands different muscles and different aspects of one’s personality.”

Victor Garber

“Movies will make you famous; television will make you rich; but theatre will make you good.”

Terrence Mann

“Backstage was chaos distilled into a very small space.”

William Alexander



When Bailey Elizabeth Cook turned 13, I wrote in this space that I would not be writing about her much during her teenage years – I felt I owed her that. And I succeeded in keeping this niece of mine out of my column for three years.

Then, last year she became a freshman in high school and turned 16, two occasions that, in my unbiased opinion, warranted some mention.

And now, this shy, book-loving introvert has fallen in love with theater.

Like her aunt, Bailey prefers the behind-the-stage work. Of course, at the age of 56, I stepped onto the stage for the first time since my kindergarten graduation and early piano recitals, when I played the role of Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose in “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

So, Bailey’s got lots of time to change her mind about acting.

This past week, she’s been spending huge amounts of time at Grissom High School in Huntsville, Ala. And not just for classes.

The earlier days of the week, she’s been in rehearsals from about 4 each afternoon until nearly midnight.

I find it amazingly impressive the school’s spring play is “Shrek the Musical.” Not a small undertaking for high school kids.

Bailey’s helping with makeup – the straight makeup, not the prosthetic type.

She’s also been appointed the task of three or four quick changes.

Now some folks might not think that’s a big deal, helping to change an actor’s costuming in a short period of time. My friend Cheryl and I have done it for our friend, the incomparable Judd Wilson, in two of the “Tuna” plays at Tupelo Community Theatre. And I’m here to tell you, it is not easy. But with two, it’s much less difficult.

The actors are sweaty and squirming with eagerness to get back on stage. That makes the changing of clothing even more difficult.

One of Bailey’s quick changes involves changing a young actor from a pig to a soldier.

My sister – Bailey’s mama – said our girl was upset when she got home at midnight Tuesday night because the person who normally helps Bailey with costume changes was not at practice. The change did not go fast enough and the actor did not make it onto the stage on cue.

I told my sister to tell Bailey that is exactly what rehearsals are for.

She’s also been worried about her math during this intense rehearsal time. Bailey, like her mama and me in years past, does not find mathematics a scintillating part of the curriculum. But she’s worked hard to improve her grades.

My sister told Bailey not to worry about math right now. (I wish my mama had told me that.) We’re just all so overjoyed to see Bailey may have found her passion – whether for the time being or longer.

“Shrek the Musical” opened last Thursday night for two weekends. I’ll be sitting proudly in the audience with my dad and Bailey’s parents next Saturday evening.

Break a leg, Bailey Cook. Break a leg.


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