'All My Children' Star Susan Lucci on Life, Career

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Doing all of those shows gave me the experience of being onstage and of working at an advanced level at such an early age. It was Mrs. Spiers who taught me never to upstage the other actors and to learn how to improvise when something goes wrong. She helped us discover how to turn every mishap into an opportunity. I remember hearing a story she told about an early Masquers production when a backdrop painting fell in the middle of a performance. Without missing a beat, the actor onstage said, "My, how the natives are restless tonight." My only dilemma was that while I was involved in the drama department, I was also involved in cheerleading. Because I cheered throughout the school year, I'd often have practice or games between play rehearsals. The only way I could rehearse and make it in time to a football or basketball game was to wear my cheerleading uniform to both. Mrs. Spiers hated that and wasn't shy about telling me how she felt. She explained that I didn't move the same way in a cheerleading outfit as I did in my costume -- and she was right. So, sometimes, I would throw a dress rehearsal skirt over my cheerleading skirt, which made my hips look really wide, but at least I was doing the right thing. I didn't want to disappoint Mrs. Spiers, but I made commitments to both activities and I wanted to do both.Mrs. Spiers also didn't like the idea that I would finish rehearsals and then run off to the football field. Understandably, she wanted my undivided attention. I was told the year after I graduated that Mrs. Spiers officially banned rehearsing in anything but your proper attire. I am sure her heart was in the right place. It's not as if she didn't like sports because she was always trying to enlist the football players to be in her plays. But that Glee mentality hadn't quite sunk in at our school yet?at least not while I was there. Many years after I graduated, the school commemorated Mrs. Spiers by naming the auditorium after her. She deserved that honor and so much more.

My mother started taking me to New York City to see Broadway shows when I was a teenager. We mostly went when I was off from school or during summer vacations. Although New York City was only an hour's drive from our home, we hardly ever made the trip. My father thought New York was a very tough place, especially for women to go to on their own. Still, my mother and I loved the excitement of planning a special day together where we could have some important mother-daughter time and enjoy the experience of taking in the latest show and then dining at Sardi's, a place we had read about in the newspapers that was the most famous eatery in the theater district. It is a well-known hangout for the theater crowd, both actors and patrons.

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