Caroline’s College Essay

Caroline Morgan, Writer

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My breathing became as fast as staccato notes on sheet music and my feet glued to the floor outside the school’s auditorium. As my peers surrounded the list, my right shoulder started to sting due to the “slaps on the back” from congratulating me. I was terrified. This was not what I was hoping for.

My junior year musical was “Once Upon a Mattress.” A goofy take on the “Princess and the Pea,” this musical’s princess is bubbly, zany, and witty. I was aiming for the complete opposite. I, at the most, wanted the supporting role of damsel-in-distress soprano that is just a side plot to the show. So when the cast list came out, my eyes came flying out of their sockets as    I read the top line:

Caroline Morgan: Winnifred the Woebegone

The lead.

When you’re in theater, the expectation is that every theater kid who auditions for a show wants the lead. The spotlight is their home and they will do whatever it takes to get in that light; no matter how aggressively they need to do their jazz hands. Supporting roles are merely acceptable—they have some scenes and, if putting on a musical, a few solo lines in a song. Chorus member…let’s not even go there. However, for the entirety of my theater career, I never wanted a lead.

Rehearsals were unbearable. I was stuck in a mindset that I could never become Princess Winnifred. Winnifred was loud, whereas I was quiet. Winnifred had many dance numbers, while I had two left feet. Winnifred had brashy belty songs, while I was an airy soprano who preferred hitting high notes. The list could go on.

My director saw the fear in my eyes as I performed Winnifred’s big number “Shy.” Although the title suggests that the princess is shy, she is anything but. She belted out all her lyrics, performed a dance break with her dancing men, used almost every aspect of physical comedy there was, and ran around the stage pulling everyone into the number. This fortissimo character was becoming too much to handle every time I sang that song. My director pulled me aside after the second performance of the song during a rehearsal, and gave me a short pep talk:

“Caroline, I know what you can do, and I know how talented you really are. I cast you in this part because I know you’re more than capable. Now, show me what I have seen in you these past few years.”

I got back up on the stage front and center, took a deep breath of scent of the school’s theater, and sang “Shy” with all my might. From that rehearsal on, I slowly started emulating Winnifred. Practice after practice, Winnifred’s strong personality started encompassing my meek one, and rehearsals became easier.

After the three-day run concluded, Winnifred has still remained on my shoulder like a little voice to this day. Her persistence has taught me to never give up on my goals, no matter how small they are. Her awareness in herself has both shaped me and deepened how I see myself as a strong leader. But what has stayed with me the most was her confidence. The physical comedy that was required of this part ripped me out of my comfort zone, and her ability to relate and make each character comfortable has benefitted me immensely. She taught me that people are not always laughing at me, but with me. Instead of playing a meager damsel, I was challenged to become a bold princess. My director knew what he was doing, and as much as I hated him for it then, I appreciate it now.

Winnifred was both my obstacle and my opportunity, and I am grateful for the lessons she has taught me. I am excited to see where she takes me next.

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