I always wanted to be an actress. As a child I used to open the phone book (phone books, for those who don’t remember, are those 8,000 pound books with phone numbers in them. Think google in off line form) ahem… I used to open the phone book to pages of talent agencies and leave them lying around for my mom to see and get the hint. She never did. But I wanted to perform. I loved the idea and dreamed that one day I would be in front of an audience that was laughing at my comedic genius, and falling in love with my realistic portrayal of characters they saw themselves in. You might find it strange then, that I never did any acting. Well, I suppose that’s not entirely true. I was in a school play in fourth grade about pilgrims.
And in junior high I was in the chorus in a play. During a particular musical number, girls and boys were paired up to sing together and there was one point where we had to sit on our respective boys’ laps at the very end. Side note, you might find this hard to believe, but I was terrified of boys in junior high school. The sitting on a boy’s lap thing was truly a challenge for me. It sounds so innocent and ridiculous to me now, but I digress.
Sometime between then and now, I overcame my fear of boys, but I never acted again. It wasn’t the junior high play that made me avoid further performances, I just felt too self conscious to do it. And then after high school and college, there simply hadn’t been much of an opportunity and somewhere along the way I resolved myself to the fact that I may never be a famous actress.
But life has a funny way of presenting opportunities. This past summer a friend announced she was putting on a play, an adaptation of Cinderella. She complained that she wasn’t getting enough people to audition and so I volunteered. I mainly did it to help her out and I never seriously thought she’d cast me. I’m still not sure how it happened. I told her the extent of my performing had been karaoke. My voice shook as I sung the song I had chosen to showcase my vocal talent. Miraculously, I was cast as one of the wicked step sisters.
As we got close to show time, I was confident. I knew my lines and everyone else’s lines. I knew my songs, my cues, my blocking. I was ready. And then we had the dress rehearsal. I was singing my song with the other step sister which was supposed to go: chorus, me doing a solo verse, chorus, her doing a solo verse, chorus. I made it through my verse and the following chorus and then at some point during her solo my mind just went blank. It was like I had a stroke or something. I had left my body and gone someplace else. I was standing there, smiling, and wondering why the other step sister was looking at me like that. What was going on? Where was I? Oh yes, I was in the middle of a song during the last rehearsal before the show and I was supposed to be singing a chorus at that moment. Somehow I made it through the song but it was a very unsettling experience. Afterward, I was so embarrassed, I literally wanted to melt into the floor. I had no way of rationalizing how I completely zoned out during a song I knew like my own name. I felt like an ice skater who nails her routine a million times during practice and then during the competition, goes to do a triple lutz and falls on her butt.
Needless to say, this made me extra nervous for opening night, which was completely sold out. As I waited for my entrance I reminded myself to stay present. No more vacating my body during my songs. And I got through it. I didn’t mess up my lines. I didn’t fall on my butt. In fact, I had fun. I had multiple people tell me they couldn’t believe it was my first performance. And of course, I can’t wait to be in another play. It feels so naturally like something I should be doing. It’s crazy how we spend so much time what if-ing and second guessing ourselves and if we’re not careful, it can keep us from doing things we want to do. One night at rehearsal we were discussing how we would remember our places for the finale. I was asking, “what if we forget where we’re supposed to stand? What if someone else is standing in our spot?” and one of the other cast members turned to me and said, “what if a giant vulture swoops in, grabs you and carries you off to another dimension?” Good point. What if you do a great job? What if you discover something new that you love doing? What if you surprise yourself?