Ms. Brandt and Kolijinski
‘Tonight, I play the piano for a lot of chorus girls to sing and dance. That’s what I am doing tonight’and every night! For that I studied fifteen years with Kolijinsky!’ With these furious words, I threw my piano books across the living room and stormed past the dining room, not pausing until I was completely off stage.
I don’t study piano with Kolijinski, and I don’t scream about chorus girls. Not in real life, anyway. My sophomore year, however, I was cast in Stage Door. This was my first major role in a school production, or any production for that matter. I was Olga Brandt, the angry Russian pianist. And, while I am a pianist, I am seldom angry and I am never Russian, so this role quickly proved to be incredibly difficult. Every time Olga was on stage during the show, she was inevitably reduced to shouting about Kolijinski and then leaving in a fit of rage. When I began my character work for the play and discovered that Ms. Brandt was so temperamental, I panicked.
All my life, I had done nothing but contain my emotions. When I was sad, I smiled; when I was exuberant, I smiled; and when I was angry, I smiled. I was an imploder, and now I had been set with the task of becoming an exploder. I needed help. ‘What makes you mad?’ asked my director and, while I could think of a zillion things that frustrated me, I could not come up with one thing that inspired the fireworks to which Olga was so characteristically prone. After several attempts at manufacturing fury, my director and I decided that the best thing I could do would be to practice.
And practice I did. I warned my friends that, for the next few weeks, I would be letting my emotions run freely. When I was happy, I allowed myself to be jubilant; when I was sad, I allowed myself to sob; and when I was angry, I allowed myself to yell and scream. For the first few days, it was not easy to display my feelings so extremely. Instinct told me to check myself, to stay calm. But as time passed and our performance approached, I found my emotions flowing more and more easily so that, on opening night, rage bubbled up inside me at the mere thought of those good-for-nothing chorus girls. This frenzy grew exponentially throughout each scene until, when I finally released it, it boiled over with a force I had not realized I was capable of mustering.
I still don’t make it a habit to scream about chorus girls and Kolijinski. However, I have learned that showing emotion is okay. Of course, there are times when the proper thing to do is to remain calm, but it is equally important to know when to let go. My experience with Stage Door taught me to recognize those times and to take advantage of them. Since I began consciously working on expressing my emotions, I have become a healthier person in many ways. I have found that, while sharing my anger and sadness is the best way to lighten my load, sharing my joy is an even better way to magnify it. When I look forward to college, I know how to express the sadness of leaving home, the terror of failure, and the elation at the new opportunities and experiences waiting just around the bend. I know that, whatever comes, I am ready, and I owe my thanks for that to Olga Brandt, for her uncontrollable temper and her dedication to Mr. Kolijinski.