I’ve always had ambitions of being a star. My 2nd grade year, the city of Selma, AL put on a citywide production of Snow White. My grandmother told me about the auditioned and I felt with certainty I was fit for the part. Yes, a 3 ft. black girl was going out for the role of Snow White. Prepping for the audition wasn’t hard at all. I was born for this. I was created for this. In the Bible in the book of Ruth when she was speaking to Mordecai about going to see the king, she spoke confidently about being alive for such a time as this. If I perish, let me perish, I’m going to be Snow White. They didn’t have an audition piece or anything, it was sort of like showcase your talent and they would find a place for you. Cool. I’m ready. I had my favorite poem from Girl Scouts and I had already rehearsed my theatrics to make the poem pop. I am Snow White.
Audition day arrives and I’m feeling like a boss. Confidence is a solid 10. My grandmother reminds me of the obvious. Coleysia, you are a star. I already know this granny. The auditions were at the School of Discovery. All of the 6th graders in the city went to this school. I’m a little nervous but I’ve always been confident in my ability to put on a show. I cannot fail. I will not fail. This is what I do. I was the type of girl that would do anything as long as you said “Go Ley Ley”. They call my name. I performed the poem as I rehearsed. Everything was great. I was great.
Two days passed and they announced the audition results in the newspaper. I went to my grandmother’s house after school everyday. Grandma is waiting for me on the porch with this smile. The kind of smile that looked painted on. It was so unauthentic but at six years old, I was fooled. I’m ready for the newspaper. Grandma diverts the conversation. “Who wants Blue Bell ice cream?” The only thing that could ever distract me from my destiny is Blue Bell ice cream. She fixes ice cream for my sister, my brother, and me. We have to eat at the table. It’s a rule, and you don’t leave that table until every drop is gone. I inhaled my ice cream. It is time. I politely demand Granny to hand me the got damn newspaper. She obliged. I flip to the page and look for Snow White. There is a huge announcement for the lead role with her photo IN COLOR. She was this beautiful pale skinned brunette with blue eyes. Perfect casting in hindsight. I hated her. Oh well, surely I got a supporting role. I scan the page with my finger looking for my name. I found it. It was intermingled amongst other names in a group! Oh no. I don’t do groups. So what group do they have me with anyway? Oh the 7 dwarfs! Supporting actress. I can dig it. Except, it’s not the 7 dwarfs. What character is in a group besides the 7 dwarfs? To the left of this group was the most repulsive thing. I, Coleysia Chestnut, was to play the role of a bat from the evil forest. A BAT! I fell out. I was livid. I am talented! How dare they insult me? I was pissed for quite some time after that. However, I conceded to play the role as assigned. Rehearsals weren’t that exciting. I had one line. “EEK!” The word still makes my flesh crawl. I was so above that. So, at one rehearsal the opportunity came up to play a special bat. This bat got to stand out from the group and do a special choreography. This is my time. They got it wrong the first time; this is a chance for redemption. They announced to the bat group who the special bat was. Christopher Howard. Why is this happening to me? I’m a halfway decent person. I pay my tithes and offerings. It was so unfair. I hated Chris for years. I was pissed. How dare they ignore my talent! I quit. They are obviously too dumb to realize a star when they see it so I will take my talents elsewhere. My mom had already purchased my costume, which was no more than a black sweat suit with some wings cut from black felt fabric. I couldn’t quit.
Performance day. The auditorium was packed. I was kind of nervous. I didn’t feel that bad about my bat role anymore because my sister was a squirrel that had to run around with her hands cupped by her face and suck her teeth repetitively. She was going to look like an idiot so that gave me a boost of confidence. It was almost show time and I believe my mom and grandma knew I was bummed about my role, but they knew once those stage lights came on, I would be in my element. What they didn’t know was that I had a plan. Christopher Howard’s solo, was about to become a duet.
So the scene opens and I’m eeking and flapping. The evil witch sang some song but I wasn’t concerned about her. I was going over my improve piece. It was great. The director cues for Chris to step out from us common bats. It’s show time! Except, it wasn’t. I sat there. With the common bats.
See before performance day I was wondering what I did in my audition that caused me to get that part. What did I say? What led these people to believe that the role I best served this performance was a bat. I remembered my audition piece and it changed my perspective. I used to have my girls scout meetings in Brown Chapel AME Church. The same church Dr. Martin Luther King spoke multiple times during the civil rights movement. Every meeting we recited a poem that has never left my heart.
If you can’t be a pine on the top of the hill,
Be a scrub in the valley — but be
The best little scrub by the side of the rill;
Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.
We can’t all be captains, we’ve got to be crew,
There’s something for all of us here,
There’s big work to do, and there’s lesser to do,
And the task you must do is the near.
If you can’t be a highway then just be a trail,
If you can’t be the sun be a star;
It isn’t by size that you win or you fail
But be the best of whatever you are.
I didn’t get the role of Snow White. I didn’t even get the role of the special bat, I still hate Chris. However, I was and still am, the best damn bat to ever fly out of an evil enchanted forest.