When Mr. Taylor announced that we would be doing Oklahoma! as our musical this year, my first reaction was “wow, I love Oklahoma!” (Referring to the song, completely ignorant to the fact that Oklahoma, in its original state, is one of the worst and most boring musicals that a High School could do). My second reaction, after learning this information, was complete and utter terror as this was the first year in five that FMHS was entering itself into the Dallas Summer Musical High School Musical Theatre Awards. This is the big leagues, we’re competing with 78 other high schools in the area to see who has the best musical. Think of it as the high school equivalent of the Tony’s.
The first day of rehearsal went something like this. We showed up to the choir room, got our music, and learned every single song in the musical in less than three and a half hours. I was mind blown, I had never been a part of anything that was able to do something that incredibly efficient. The first couple of weeks of rehearsal went by and I was slowly starting to love this poorly written musical, Mr. Taylor was turning it into something beautiful. We got to the first run-through of the whole thing and I couldn’t help but giddily laugh at how amazing Oklahoma (the song again) was. The passion and volume that our chorus poured into the classical piece of music just blew my mind. I was falling in love with Oklahoma!
Final dress finishes and I am ecstatic. I get to be a cowboy for real this time in front of thousands of people. We put everything that we had into these four performances and it showed, we sold out the 889 seating auditorium every night without fail. When the DSM judges came to watch the show, they came backstage after the show and just talked with our techies and directors for several hours even after all of the actors had left. That should’ve been the first indicator that we were on track to having the best musical in the DSMHMTA. DSM nominations came out after about a month, and low and behold, we were nominated… FOR 15 OUT OF 16 AWARDS CATEGORIES (we weren’t eligible for choreo because we paid a professional to do it for us). Everyone was completely blown away, Oklahoma, was the most nominated musical in DSM history.
Three months later, we hopped on buses to drive us down to Fair Park Music Hall where we would start rehearsing on the DSM stage for the awards show the next day. I sat next to my girlfriend and we fangirled over how excited we were to perform on the Fair Park stage. We pulled up to the beautiful 92 year old theater. The guys ran, very quickly, up into our dressing rooms, after the two hour drive in the traffic, it was a welcome sight. We turned the lights off and rested for about thirty minutes before Mr. Taylor came in and told us that we needed to get ready to perform Oklahoma onstage. We begrudgingly got into our costumes and went downstairs to the backstage where we met the ladies and waited for our turn. Finally, Big Fish finished their song and it was our turn to sing. When I say that Fair Park is big, I’m not kidding, this theater is enormous, the size of three FMHS auditoriums. I was so shaken to be singing on the stage that I almost forgot to sing my part. We got to the final O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A and our sound overpowered to the back of the seats on the balcony. Even the conductor was into the song. We finished Oklahoma, got our stuff from the dressing rooms, and went right home. (Every single one of us, including Mr. Taylor, was asleep on the bus).
The big day, award day, the day we had been looking forward to for several months was finally here. We got to the theater much faster than the day before, there was no traffic, and we all put up our fancy dress and costumes for later, we wouldn’t have to do anything until 1:15 (it was 9:12 when we got to Fair Park). Bored of just sitting in the dressing room, Brandon, my best friend, and I started to walk around. We got to talk with John Fredrickson, the best male actor in the country. We met Stark Sands, the original actor in the musical Kinky Boots. We made a ton of new friends with the Heathers cast. And we got to talk to Mr. Taylor for several hours about theatre and the future. We hadn’t even started singing and I was already learning more from this experience than I had learned in a long time. We performed again for a rehearsal, nailed it like always, and got into our nice clothing for the red carpet. I can’t say much about the red carpet because Brandon, my girlfriend, and I only stayed long enough to see the Flower Mound kids walk it then we left to get into costume for the show.
Like the adventurous kids that we are, Brandon and I stayed backstage and watched the beginning of the show. Stark Sands sang like an angel, the leading actors, actresses, and supporting actors and actresses all sang a gorgeous song together and the crowd went wild. Now let me tell you, imagine the loudest, most enthusiastic applause that you’ve ever received, now multiply that by 20, that was the DSMHMTA audience. Even from backstage, Brandon and I could feel the overwhelming energy just radiating from the people, it was magic. Backstage was another kid named Jack. Jack had never performed outside of his school, in fact How to Succeed in Business, his school’s nominated show, was the first musical he had ever been in. The entire time that he watched and listened, his eyes lit up and shined like stars. He was a kid in the largest candy store in existence. After Stark Sands finished singing Not My Father’s Son, Jack had tears in his eyes and mumbled something that sounded like “I get to perform on the same stage as him.” That hit me hard, and I will never forget that moment. Brandon and I were called back to the holding dock two songs before Oklahoma. We said goodbye to Jack and wished him luck, then we got ready for our chance to perform our hearts out.
The whole cast of Oklahoma! was sitting in the loading dock, the energy and focus emanating off of us was electric. As they were announcing best featured actress, we all leaned forward and put our hands on Simone, the nominee in question. When they announced that she had won the award, we all went crazy. We hadn’t even performed yet, but it was still incredible to all of us that Oklahoma! was actually winning awards. The next couple of songs and awards flew by until the stage manager waved us onstage behind the curtain. We got into position and Chandler, our lead actor, held his hands up, his final blessing to all of us. The curtain raised and there we were, dressed in prairie clothes, standing completely still in front of thousands of people. This was our time, this was us. The orchestra started to play and we were ready. I don’t think that I have ever sang as hard as I did that night. We shook that entire building, we were Oklahoma!
We finished our song and went offstage, quickly ran to our dressing rooms and yelled like madmen. We had put it ALL out on the stage, not some of it, or most of it, we took everything that we had left and we threw it onstage for the audience to do with it what they would. We quickly changed into our dress clothes, minutes before intermission was over. During that short period, we won two more awards, best supporting actor and actress. We took our seats and watched the rest of the show.
At the end of the night, we walked away with SIX wins, one of which being best musical. We shattered the previous record of four wins (also set by FMHS). Oklahoma! had put our everything into the musical and it paid off, we had given our best and the judges deemed us worthy of best musical. On the buses home, Chandler Sinks stood up with tears in his eyes and thanked everyone for being able to have the best senior year that anyone could ask for. He spoke for what seemed like hours about how everyone cared so much about the show and it showed. He said that he was leaving the department in the most capable hands he could have ever dreamed of leaving them in, referring to the sophomores like Brandon and I. When he sat down, we gave him a standing ovation and I swear that was better than all of the applause from the audience at Fair Park.
In the end it doesn’t matter that we won six awards, it doesn’t matter that we won best musical, it doesn’t matter that we got nominated fifteen times, what matters is that we put everything that we had into that musical and it showed. We got rewarded for our hard work. We got out what we put in. No matter what you’re doing, put your 110% into it, and if it’s your best, it doesn’t matter what happens because you gave it everything that you had to give it. As 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, so whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. What happens happens, don’t be devastated if you don’t get exactly what you want. My choir director has a wonderful saying that he says every time that we audition, “don’t be tied to the outcome. Not everyone will get exactly what they want, and that’s fine.”
While sweeping DSMHMTA was one of the greatest experiences that I’ve ever been through, it was the experience of going to Fair Park and meeting Jack, the experience of singing Oklahoma in front of thousands of people, the experience of watching my friend, John Fredrickson, win best actor for the second year in a row. What made those two days amazing was the experiences, not the awards. Theatre is a memory, make those memories, create something that you can look back on and say, “I remember that, it was the best day in my entire life.”
Live for the experiences, not the accolades.
"Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." - Matthew 6:31-34