Monday, October 17, 2011

The Show Must Go On

The adrenaline surges, the house lights dim, the audience members quiet, the stage lights rise, we collectively take a breath . . . and it begins. 

Theater used to be my life.  I have always been dramatic; there is a picture of me at two on the top of a slide in a party dress pouting - my mom tells me that I was upset about something so I went up there to sulk (and make sure everyone could see me doing said sulk).  Any time I could find anyone willing to sit for a couple minutes, I would perform.  I even used to sometimes arrange my dolls and stuffed animals to be the audience when real people were not available.  I was six years old when I got my first opportunity to be in a "real" show.  It was Cheaper by the Dozen, and I don't remember much about it besides getting to walk on stage while carrying roller skates.  But wow, once it happened, once I got to step into those lights and become another person and then have people clap for me afterwards, I was totally hooked. 

From that moment on, I did shows any chance I could.  Someone once asked me how many shows I have done, but honestly - I have no idea of an exact number.  All the way through my senior year of high school I usually ended up doing around three to five shows a year.  Besides choir practices and concerts, pretty much my life revolved around rehearsals and performances.  And then I went to college.

I became officially financially independent when I left for college.  I paid for school and housing and all my other expenses myself, which meant when I wasn't in class or doing coursework, I was working.  And that meant no extra time for theater. 

After graduating I went into full out job search plus wedding planning mode for the next year.  I was subbing and dieting and sending out cover letters and figuring out what the bridesmaids were going to wear.  Again, no extra time for theater.

That changed that summer.  We got married, so the wedding was behind me, I got a teaching position, so the job hunt was behind me, I finally had a smidge of extra time.  Theater!

It wasn't the same as before; my schedule no longer allowed me to do back to back shows, but DH and I discovered an incredible local community theater and got the chance to do shows together, usually about one or two a year.  I wasn't getting big roles, but I was still enjoying the whole experience.  I finally got cast in my biggest post-high school role as the Little Redheaded Girl in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown

And then I got pregnant with the boys.  I managed to still do the show, even though I did have to fluff out my costume from the wings before I skipped on stage each time in an attempt to hide my growing belly.

Note the location of my hands in this picture, placed there
specifically to hide my pregnancy.
Just when I was emerged from the fog that forms around your brain when you have twins (around about the time they turned one) I started thinking about getting back on the stage.  I auditioned for and was cast in The Laramie Project, an amazing show in which everyone got to play multiple characters. 

And then I got pregnant with The Princess.  Despite the fact I would be very obviously pregnant during the run of this show (no amount of fluffing out my costume would hide it this time) the director rolled with it, saying, "I'm sure there were pregnant people in Laramie.  We'll make it work."  And we did.

And then life with three kids happened.

Time went by, as it does, and this summer I realized that eight years had gone by since I had felt that adrenaline rush that only comes from hearing the audience react to something I said or did, eight years since I had stepped into another character's skin, eight years since I had bonded with a group of people working together with a single vision.  EIGHT YEARS!

So I auditoned for and was cast in a children's theater version of Hansel and Gretel.  And it was just as great as I remembered.  Last weekend we opened - two matinees on Sunday.  It was incredible!  And to perform for and interact with kids, listening to them laugh and gasp, responding to their unexpected comments and questions during the show - for me it doesn't get much better than that.

That's me on the right as "Dizzy Weirdina," one of the witch's two apprentices.
 And then once again, life happened.  Or, more precisely, pnuemonia did.

What started as simply getting winded easily last Thursday became me coughing and gasping for air by the middle of the night on Tuesday.  I went to the ER and was hospitalized.  I held out hope that I might still be able to do the show - after all, normally all you need is one day of antibiotics before you start feeling better.  It soon became clear that was not going to be the case here.  I needed oxygen, IV antibiotics, and breathing treatments every two to six hours round the clock.  Walking to the bathroom left me out of breath for the next thirty minutes.  After a day or two I came to the realization that everyone else around me had already figured out - there was no way I would be able to perform in the final three shows.

The assistant director stepped up and took over my role.  It turned out to be a good thing I accepted the fact that I wouldn't be able to finish the run when I did since I ended up staying in the hospital until Saturday afternoon and was only allowed to leave if I promised to stay in bed and rest until I am able to walk more than one hundred feet without gasping for air.  And that might take a while.

So I missed my chance.  It's over.  I had to stay in bed while the show went on without me.  And it hurt.  It really hurt.  I can't even describe how it felt this weekend when each days' performance time came around.  I would watch the clock, thinking about what I really should be doing at that moment, and try to hold back the tears.

I know I will get back on stage again eventually.

It better not take another eight years.
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Charlie Seymour Jr said...
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Miss Mommy said...

This is Charlie's beautiful comment that literally brought tears to my eyes, edited only to remove identifying information:

As they say, "The show must go on." What they DON'T say is that YOU must go on with the show!

I learned a long time ago (and there is a double entendre when I tell this to YOU!) that just as they tell us in airplanes, we must "put the oxygen mask on ourselves first before we can help others."

YOU needed for you to get better. So did your kids. So did XXXX. So did all of us reading Facebook about your ordeal.

But I understand the pain. I understand the longing and the tears. Non-theater folks don't understand that we "need" theater to keep us going.

Sorry you had to miss your performances... but I feel glad for those who saw you in the show because they had a chance to have their lives changed by what you did.

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