My name is Marisa Gomez from CYT San Diego, and this is my CYT Story.
Marisa Gomez. CYT Kid and Distinguished Young Woman.
It has been just over five years since I stood in front of you for the first time as I auditioned for Alice. I had little confidence, had little experience performing, and had little dreams for myself. Yet, you saw some sort of potential in me and I was cast. You gave me the first opportunity that I had ever had to push myself, to work hard, to become comfortable, to explore my capabilities. I fell in love with CYT immediately, but still was not 100% comfortable, no matter how nice everyone had been to me. It took me quite some time to realize that it was me who was the problem. I was holding myself backhand I hindered my own opportunities for growth.
I remember my mom walking me in on my first day of classes, making sure that I had people to talk to and introducing me to people despite my dismay. I remember as she watched my first audition and drove me up to Escondido during tech week and spent hours sewing costumes. This was less than five months before she passed. My mom allowed me to do CYT and encouraged my dad to allow me to continue my involvement, even though it would be tough on his lifestyle as a single parent. She knew that this is where I would grow the most, she knew that this was what I needed during that time, and she knew that performing would be the place where I would feel most myself after I got over my own insecurities. So she gave of herself in order for me to do what I love. She passed the summer between Alice and Tall Tales.
CYT has been an integral part of my life, but I would not have learned as much in CYT if it had not been for you. You were my first and second director and you gave me a chance despite my horrible auditions and lack of dancing and acting abilities. All I needed was that chance. You gave me callbacks for roles that challenged to learn quickly. You taught me how to tap dance which led to more open doors during auditions and you made my first experience in CYT feel like home. Because of you, I was determined to get better.
Marisa as Maria in CYT San Diego’s Sound of Music.
Then you gave me my favorite onstage experience of playing Maria (Sound of Music). That changed everything for me. I worked so hard leading up to auditions and all throughout rehearsal and the show and it finally felt like I had done something right. Yes, I do wish I could play it again and do it better one day, but 17 year oldie will have to suffice for now. I have so much love for that show for so many reasons. I was challenged and played an incredible, complex woman, who also happened to have the same name as my mom. I bonded with my onstage family and I still see all of my “kids” when I can.
I used songs from the Sound of Music for my talent for Distinguished Young Women and CYT lent me the costume that I used for both the state and national competitions. I had no problem competing on stage because I was used to being in shows. I could speak in front of a crowd and I did well in my interviews because I was finally comfortable with who I was.
I took a break from CYT during my DYW of CA year and while I missed it terribly, everyone still made me feel included and when I returned to Peter Pan, it was like no time had passed.
This brings me to my very last CYT show, Peter Pan. I went into auditions thinking I wanted Wendy because she got to fly, and also, no one was going to see me as any part other than Wendy or Mrs. Darling. Well, I wasn’t very good at being Wendy because I typically play older, not younger, and I quickly learned that it was not the part for me at callbacks. So then I was called back for Peter Pan, Mrs. Darling and Tiger Lily. Well, I honestly started laughing when I was called back for Peter because I didn’t think anyone would EVER see me as someone who could play a boy, because I typically play very girly roles. But somehow, I made it to the end of the Peter callbacks with Courtney and Nick and I left having no idea what role I was.
I was also called back for Tiger Lily which was honestly even more surprising because she is a dancer and I am not. I could have seen myself getting Hook before Tiger Lily. Yes, it was that foreign of an idea to me. I did the indian dance callback and then read for Tiger Lily and I was pretty sure they had me in the callback just because I’m tan or they needed more people to call back for it. I did my Mrs. Darling callback and I was afraid of being typecast as the mom again, but it’s a lovely role and I was still okay with being cast as that.
Marisa as Tiger Lily
Then the cast list came up and I may or may not have had a mini panic attack. There was no way I could be Tiger Lily! I was going to stink. There was no way. This was a mistake. And then I got really excited because this was an opportunity to push myself. I refused to be bad and so I worked harder than I’ve ever worked for a role. I rearranged my sister’s room while she was away at college so that I could have a dance studio because she had closet doors that were big mirrors. I practiced every day for at least 2 hours and carefully thought through each movement. I had so much fun onstage every night I did it. I played a role that I never saw as an option for myself and I finally realized that I have the capacity to do anything. This is all because you gave me a shot 6 years ago. And then to top it all off, you said the kindest words about me before naming me the CYT San Diego 2015 MVP at the Director’s Choice Awards. I never thought that this award would go to me. It was such an honor to be awarded with this and I can’t tell you how much it means to me.
Thank you for constantly believing in me, challenging me, and supporting me. Than you for changing my life and for allowing me to become so much more than I used to be. I will always treasure my time with CYT and the friends and family that I’ve made through this organization. You are changing lives. So once again, thank you.
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