I've spent a lot of time on stage. Not compared to some, but still. Significant. From the age of four through all of college we had two productions every year without fail-- Christmas and Spring. Like clockwork. And like clockwork, my mother swore every year she'd never do another one. But she always did. And then there where twice yearly violin recitals. And when I started teaching violin in high school we added in two recitals of my own each year. And then I got married and J starting directing productions for his school. And then I started an after school drama club. The Stage Me and the Real Me have kind of merged together by now.
My mother was my drama teacher. She taught me how to throw myself into The Role.
It's like a roller coaster, the long slow minutes creeping up up up to the opening curtain, the mounting tension, the rising adrenaline, poised for that split second as the audience gazes on the opened stage-- the characters poised to begin, the moment of truth. Here we are balanced between heaven and earth, between ordinary me and The Role. I can choose to throw my hands up and whoooooeeeeeeeeee down the track, reveling in the energy and the speed-- I can channel that adrenaline-- refuse to flee or fight, but rather BE someone else for an hour or two. It's terrifying. And exhilarating. I actually hate roller coasters. But I love acting.
I've learned over the years how useful that is... to know how to throw oneself into a Role that way. It can be a superpower. It can also be a bad habit. And like any superpower, it can eventually become so much a part of you that you kind of forget what you're like without it. Which is good, and bad. The Stage Me almost forgets the other me. The one who hated crowds, and talking on the phone. The one who had no friends, who got physically ill before every violin lesson and concert. The Me who is still curled up, tiny and almost invisible now, like a scared little child in the middle of my tummy where the sick feeling still sometimes bubbles in those tense moments before the curtain rises, before the intro starts, before the door opens, before the happy greeting is returned, before the handshake is accepted, before I'm sure that I've pulled it off. That they believe me. Before I know that I'm accepted in whatever Role I'm playing-- wife, mother, friend, helper, teacher, confidant, adviser...
This is the secret about extroverts. Most of us are just good actors.
But I'm learning day by day, to trust that I can Be each of those things, not just act them. And I'm learning too, that I'm perhaps not as good an actor as I think. Or maybe just that I don't have to be as good. That there are people all around me who see through that and maybe even see a little glimpse of the almost-invisible-child and still accept me. And that years and years of acting has created something real, too.
I suppose if one plays a role long enough, one eventually becomes that thing.
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