Excerpt from All My Life
As far back as I can remember, I've had a definite and clear picture of what I wanted to do with my life. Although I was painfully shy as a child, I came out of my shell whenever I was acting, singing, dancing and making believe that I was someone else. Playing games of "make-believe" was just the way I played. I loved to put my parents' musical sound tracks on the record player and listen to songs from Broadway shows and old movies so I could sing and dance along. I loved Pal Joey, Oklahoma!, Golden Boy, and Damn Yankees, just to name a few. In fact, the first song I can remember performing for my family was "Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets" from the original sound track of Damn Yankees. I was 3. That's how we knew I'd grow up to play Erica Kane. To be certain, I was a totally different kid when I would perform. The stage was where I wanted to be, and when you're a little girl with a vivid and active imagination, all the world is a stage.
At church on Sundays I would fantasize about climbing the stairs to the balcony that overlooked the congregation where the choir sang from, standing on the rail, pushing off and latching onto one of the many lanterns. In my mind, I'd swing from light to light, high above the ground, until I dropped down onto the altar, where I would regale the congregation (my audience) with my song-and dance numbers. Yes, everyplace I went, I would create a vivid scenario where I could perform—because that's all I wanted to do.
I grew up in a neighborhood and at a time where most of the children were sent outside to play. But I preferred to be inside. When I was a very little girl, my mother finally convinced me to go outside and play with the other kids in the area. So one day I rode my tricycle down the street where we lived and some children pushed me off. I left my bike right there, went running home and refused to ever go back out again. Whenever my parents tried to get me to play with the other children, I'd always find a way to sneak back into the house. One summer afternoon, my mother decided that I should spend the day outdoors. She sent me on my way to play and locked the door behind me so I couldn't get back inside. Thankfully, my mother's mother, whom I called Nana, lived with us. She came to the door and saved the day. I remember her turning to my mother and saying, "Jeanette, you cannot lock this child outside. She's just a little girl!" So they let me back in. I immediately ran up to my room and spent the rest of the day putting on a show with my favorite dolls and stuffed animals. Whenever I'd put on these shows, I'd imagine an audience the size of the Ed Sullivan Theater inside my bedroom. And let's be clear, it was standing room only. Later that afternoon, my parents thought I'd had a breakthrough when they heard what they imagined were a couple of kids from the neighborhood playing with me. It turns out that the various voices they overheard were all mine. It was just me, playing and performing all by myself.