“Hello, Gorgeous!” The road to Funny Girl

On Sunday, Jan.11, a blood-curdling scream shook the suburban town of Calabasas. Fortunately, this was not the scream of an ax-murder victim – it was the scream of a girl whose dream just came true. After a week of strenuous auditions, multiple callbacks and anxiously refreshing the “Current Productions” page of CHStheater.com, the cast list was finally up, revealing that I, Grace Danielle Papish, the girl who played the horse in last year’s musical, had been cast as Fanny Brice in Calabasas High School’s production of Funny Girl.

For those of you who are wondering, my intense reaction was viable. The Calabasas High School theater program is very prestigious, almost to the point of intimidation. As a freshman, I had idolized the juniors and seniors playing leads in the shows, hoping that one day, I could be as cool as them. While the “cool” part never happened, being cast as a lead really did bring everything full circle. For all of you sports people out there, I felt as though I had been offered the quarterback position on a division one team. (Sorry if that got lost in translation, I’m not a sports person.)

Needless to say with only a month before we open, my journey with Funny Girl has not been all fun and games. As I have learned with this part, acting is a large undertaking. Not only did I have to memorize two hours worth of dialogue, I also had to add subtext and find an objective within each scene and song, which was both physically and mentally challenging. Additionally, Fanny Brice is already an iconic character. Not only was Brice a real Ziegfeld Folly, she was also played on Broadway by none other than the one and only Barbra Streisand. Streisand’s portrayal of Brice has been implemented throughout the minds of Broadway nerds everywhere.  Finding my own, unique way to portray Fanny Brice has definitely been a challenge. I also have about 19 quick-changes over the course of the show, but I try not to think about that in an attempt to avoid having a full-fledged panic attack.

Still, Funny Girl has been an enjoyable process. Hearing my grandmother shriek after I told her I had gotten the part was a reward within itself. My cast is amazing, and my best friend plays my mom, which is a reversed experience for the both of us. As cheesy as it sounds, being in a cast is like having a second family. There is no better feeling than walking into a rehearsal after a long day at school and immediately being surrounded by your closest friends. But I must admit the best part about being in a cast is getting those sweatshirts that have the show title on the back. I am not joking. I wear my West Side Story sweatshirt from freshman year practically every day. To me, the sweatshirts symbolize the love and warmth one feels when they are a part of a show. Also, they are just really comfortable. We are getting our Funny Girl sweatshirts soon, and I’ve never been more excited except for maybe when I found out I was cast as Fanny Brice. But the sweatshirts are a close second.  

As we get closer and closer to the show, and my stress dreams become more and more vivid, I realize how important this experience has been to me. I never thought that I would come this far. Even though I was perfectly content putting on that horse head each night, these past few months have shown me that commitment and perseverance really do pay-off: Something I was skeptical about before landing this part. Now, I can only hope that the hard work shows through on opening night.

—Grace Papish

—You can see me as Fanny Brice March 18, 19, and 21 (evening) at Calabasas High School.

—You can see my wonderful counterpart, Lily, as Fanny Brice March 17, 20, and 21 (matinee) at Calabasas High School.

—Tickets are on CHSTheater.com.