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Over the Edge, Up Is Down

This week I resurrected a character hidden away in my intellectual thicket who has not seen the light of day in over 5 years. I had planned on bringing him back for a round of music videos and skits this week, but the nail was really hit on the head at rehearsal last Monday night.

It is no secret that I love the history of piracy on the high seas. The brief period known as the “Golden Age of Piracy” still fills my brain with scenes of wonder and excitement despite the hardship and despair I know many faced during this time. I’ve gone to great lengths (as a student of music in conservatory at 24 years old) to study the age of Piracy, and have many more novels and books to do more research for my own book that I am writing. But more on that later… *winks at camera*.

During the blossoming of this interest in high school, (more like obsession), it was also the peak of popularity of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, with a score written by Hans Zimmer. I credit this score as being the start of my interest in writing music for film, most notably the third film: At World’s End, more specifically the track: Up Is Down.

I had never been so immersed in the sound of a symphony orchestra before I put my headphones on, punched play on my iPod, and listened to the cheerful strings and woodwinds alongside the booming brass and drums. This track became my anthem; my sincere wish to be free from the doldrum of high school and escape to the fantasies I had in my head. Up Is Down was even featured as the introduction in one of my very first YouTube videos, (long before I realized the rules of copyright of course!)

This obsession grew and eventually manifested itself in the creation of one of my most popular impersonations: Captain Jack Sparrow. Becoming Jack was the ultimate escape, and I even scared half my small town suburb when I would frequent my neighborhood Starbucks completely dressed as the pirate Captain and order my Caramel Machiatto with the same bravado. This all came out of a 16 year old girl, but I would swagger in my grocery store or my high school with my head held high and my beard freshly drawn. Nothing could touch me. I was on top of my world, much to the confusion and concern of my close friends and parents.

There were a couple of notable performances as Jack, such as in the comedy/talent show put on by my high school, and a short YouTube series dreamt up called The Sisters Fantasies (which no longer exists). As I left high school, I always carried the costume with me to whatever place I moved for college, and Jack was always in my figurative “back pocket” as an idea. I loved bringing up the stories of me dressing as him to people as a way of testing the waters between us. Could they really handle my crazy? This was a way to be sure.

Then I hit orchestra rehearsal on Monday. My orchestra is performing Up Is Down in our upcoming concert and rehearsing the piece felt like reawakening a part of myself that had been waiting in the shadows to come out. I was elated. I felt like I was walking on air as I heard the winds and brass and strings and drums come alive. Then I had an idea.

Jack should be part of this.

After very little forethought, I proudly walked up to my conductor during our break and said, “I have a very strange idea for you but I think you’re going to like it”. I pulled up a very old photo of me as Jack taken in my childhood bathroom after hours of nailing down the costume for the first time. I saw the look of shock in his eyes, quickly followed by excitement. Without thinking, I stepped over the edge and committed to a live performance of this loved character. I can tell you that when explaining my decision over the phone to my husband, he probably thought I was insane. I tend to overcommit myself.

Then this week I charged ahead into becoming Jack again. It was a similar feeling to having to oil my hinges or shake off the dust or exercise forgotten muscles. Actually, it was all of those. My body hurt, (he’s very physical!) and my brain let loose. I became Jack again, but it was like Jack 2.0. I had known this character intimately, but the lessons of adulthood actually informed my every decision of how to act as him a little more accurately. I found new ways of relating to him.

Jack also comes with a bit of mental and physical strain. Convincing myself to cover my face in mascara and my eyes with black doesn’t come naturally, especially when it’s 10am. Putting myself literally in his shoes is a long, confusing process, and his movements are not easy to replicate on a whim. And his voice! His voice all but destroyed my vocal chords, which was perfect timing considering I had to sing for the track that Jack was featured in using my entire vocal range as a mezzo soprano.

But as I found myself begrudgingly applying my makeup and pulling on the old costume, I realized that I am incredibly lucky to have the time and the freedom to even do this. I am so blessed with the talent of being able to mimic Jack and create a piece of art that I’m very proud of featuring this beloved character. I’m so happy that even though my husband didn’t really want to see me as Jack, he had no issue with me dressing as a drunken man and tramping around the house with my two cameras, wreaking havoc on our cats, and shouting out random movie lines on his precious day off. And I am so invigorated by the love and support of my friends (both old and new) and my family to keep pursuing this crazy dream.

As a creator, (which is truly the best way to describe my chosen career,) I have to be able to think on my feet, rework and rewrite and rework and rewrite, get uncomfortable, get vulnerable, get frustrated, and stay positive. In this world of audio and video and music production, things get a little upside down, or rather, Up Is Down.

And honestly? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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