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To be, or not to be --a ham - Jason Smith

I've discovered something about myself in recent months.

I enjoy going to see plays. Whether it's a big, elaborate production with seasoned actors, or young kids, who are still new to the process, I have found myself drawn to the stage.

If I'm leaving from watching a musical, I dance my way out of the theater. Considering I am one of the clumsier people I know, I'm lucky I haven't hurt myself in doing so.

After all, I did twist my ankle rather badly several months ago, walking from my house to my car.

Until recently, I never really thought of myself as a theater kind of guy, which is strange since my brother is the drama director at the school where he works. I used to think plays were for a certain type or class of person, and not for me.

But there's just something about watching people acting out scenes in front of an audience.

Last weekend, I went to the middle school where my brother works, to watch his students perform a pair of short productions. I came away from the experience with three overriding thoughts, none of which I can get out of my mind.

First, some of those kids are on their way to becoming great performers, and I can't wait to see what they accomplish with their talents.

Second, I want to help my brother, in whatever way I can, to develop his fledgling drama program. I could assist in putting programs together, or something else to support the kids in their pursuit of stage excellence.

Third, I wish it were me up on that stage. Every time I go to see a play of any kind, I always leave with a desire to perform, and I kick myself for never having taken an acting class, whether in college or some other venue.

Regardless, though, I develop a deeper respect for those who can learn their lines, perfect their dance moves and perform them on cue.

I'm not sure how I began to develop this desire to act. I wasn't always this way. When I was in high school, I was scared of my own shadow, and afraid to try certain things for fear of being ridiculed.

It never occurred to me, back then, to tackle something as intimidating as acting. But now, I'm a bit of a ham -- someone who doesn't mind being in the spotlight, who loves having his picture taken, and who apparently wants to perform in front of other people on a stage.

That's probably one of the reasons I love singing on the weekends as much as I do. I guess I've been cured of my former shyness. As my wife says, I'm a "cured ham."

At any rate, I've never worked on a play in my life. For all I know, I'd fall flat on my face, embarrassing myself and others in the process.

Still, I can't help feeling like I'll regret it if I don't give it a shot at some point in my life. I'm sure I'll feel this way, even more strongly, when I go to see my brother's drama group perform again this weekend.

I admire anyone who has the courage to act on a stage, whether it's a veteran performer, or a 12-year-old kid who's struggling with a line of dialogue. I don't know if I'll ever get the chance to be in a production of my own ...

I suppose, before I worry about that, I should probably make sure I don't fall down on the way to my car.

Jason A. Smith covers crime and courts for the Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached via e-mail at jsmith@henryherald.com.