Michael Lowney and I tried to start a jump-roping club on the first grade playground at Paxson Elementary. We were going to charge people some exorbitant fee (was it $25?) to basically stand by us and whip a rope around their heads during recess. Needless to say...it didn't take off. But a few of our far fetched dreams from first grade are becoming a reality. Sixteen years after we first met, Michael is moving to the playground known as New York City.
It's literally impossible for me to remember how we became best friends; we just were. I was a bowl-cut sporting transplant from Los Angeles, and he was a Missoulian from down the block who rocked a lisp as confidently as I walked around in bright purple Converse. The universe decided that was a brilliant combination and before I knew it we were locker buddies. Soon after, our collaborations began.
It started as an afternoon playing “Aladdin” with our friend Libby Zinke. She would soon get the boot, but for the time being she was the Jasmine to my Aladdin; Michael played Raja… the tiger. (I swear I wasn't the bossy one.) Yet regardless of what role we were playing, something just felt right.
Paxson Elementary was good to us, but after a year it was time for my family to move out of the school district and Michael and I were torn apart. Somehow, the change of schools did nothing but bring our friendship closer together.
Weekends were no longer Saturday and Sunday, but MattMichael Theater days. The doorbell would ring, and we would fly down the basement stairs. Blankets became wings that we duct-taped to the ceiling and the boom box was our portable orchestra pit. The space may have been small, but to Michael and me we were already on Broadway. From that point on, New York seemed inevitable.
The years passed, and furniture that once supported our bodies began to creak. Walls closed in around us like a taut Chinese finger trap and our voices couldn’t sing the parts quite like they used to. The MattMichael Theater shut its doors on the eve of our thirteenth birthdays. Until then life had been a constant creative exploration and as the self-consciousness that comes with puberty suddenly cradled us in its arm, we looked at each other and questioned what was next.
Fortunately, there was a video camera nearby. Our microscopic theater suddenly opened up and we could run around the neighborhood creating soap operas or murder mysteries that kept our creative energy going. We got less greedy about the parts, and even let in a few other friends to help balance the
raging testosterone “films.”
Before I knew it, North Carolina School of the Arts beckoned and the change of schools was a bit wider than a school district. As Southern humidity replaced dry Montana, it became apparent that nothing would ever replace Michael. Not being able to experience high school with him was painful, but any moment I returned home it was as if I’d just waved goodbye the night before. Before long, high school was over and Michael moved on to Michigan as I made a home for myself in New York.
Ann Arbor became a welcome respite from the draining pace of the city. From my very first visit three years ago, I felt like an adopted member of the class. So as I sat in the audience at yesterday’s University of Michigan Senior Musical Theater Showcase (with all of New York’s agents in attendance) I was a bit emotional.
(Michael (sitting on the floor) with members of the UMich class of '08.)
All of my friends have evolved so much in the past three years. Timid was never a word I associated with them, but they took the stage yesterday with such confidence and grace that it made their past selves look timid in comparison. Standing in the center was Michael, my first grade buddy. The jeans were tighter, the muscles bigger, and the lisp was no more, but to me he was the same person he was sixteen years ago: a person that inspires me.
A few minutes into the program, Michael took the stage with two other friends of mine, Derek Krantz, and Garen McRoberts for the fantastic number “Leading Men Don’t Dance.” Sitting beside my sister, I could feel both of us reminiscing about the gangly, clumsy Michael from the basement. Effortless notes escaped from his mouth, and I watched as all of the agents around me scanned his headshot and resume. The number progressed and he delivered the line: “What do you think we are, the corps de ballet?” His eyes caught mine for a moment and I thought to myself, “My god, we’re here.” I can’t help but wonder- is it time to start the jump rope club again?
(Trying to look glam with the beauties Lauren, Jess and Michael, after the show yesterday.)