When I was out of college and embarking on my young married life, I had the wacky idea to try out for the local community theater. Now, I had never acted on stage, and I hadn't been in a choir since I was about 12, but I thought it was a fine thing for me to do. I was encouraged by the director who espoused that community theater should be made up of community members. You see, I had always harbored a silent desire to sing and act on stage. But I was terribly frightened by the thought. So since I reasoned that no one was going to encourage me to do this, I might as well encourage myself.
I tried out for a chorus part in “Annie Get Your Gun” and I got it. I had four costume changes, sang in the chorus on all the big numbers and uttered one word on stage: “Charmed.” Needless to say I milked it for all it was worth!
It was a wonderful experience. So wonderful that I decided the next year to try out again, but this time go for a part with a few more than one word.
And try out I did. For “Hello, Dolly.” And I got a part. THE part. I played the lead, Dolly Levi.
I went from speaking one word to speaking all the words! I had to quickly get over my angst about being on stage. The whole cast was counting on me. And I could not disappoint.
I admit that when the director offered me the lead I had a moment of disbelief followed by thoughts that I couldn't seriously do this. He assured me that I was the one that he wanted for the part. And after considering it, I realized that this was my big dream being handed to me. If I said no, I would regret it forever. And I might never get this opportunity again. So I did it.
There were a lot of bumps along the way. It was 10 weeks of nightly rehearsals and choreography to learn. Miss Dolly spoke at a rapid fire pace, even while eating. I had to learn pages of dialogue and be able to fill the stage with my presence while singing many solos. I lost my voice 5 days before the curtain opened due to stress. I got it back just in time for the curtain to go up. I had 30 second costume changes every night just in the wings with everyone backstage getting quite a view. Once I got stuck in my lines while doing the dinner scene where the male lead and I were actually eating, but I eventually found the right words. It was terrifying and mesmerizing, nerve-wracking and exhilarating. It was one of the definitive moments of my life.
I will never forget the moment when the curtain first went up, singing the first notes, wearing the costumes, being backstage. But there is one moment from that experience that will stay with me forever.
When I came out onto the catwalk around the orchestra pit, I passed by my cast mates to their reassuring pats on my back. I was relieved to have made it through the first of several performances. I made my way to center stage to take a gracious Dolly bow. The lights were bright and the spotlight was turned to me. But through the glare I realized that every single person in the theater was rising to their feet. My heart was fluttering as I bowed again and again. The feeling that all these people were there to cheer me on validated that I was meant to play that role even if I had not believed it when it was first offered. I have never felt so euphoric, so in the moment, so sure that I was where I was meant to be.
This experience made me stronger by allowing me to trust my abilities and also trust that others have good judgment to see that thing in me that I might have trouble seeing myself. From that experience I came away with a renewed sense of self. And a firm conviction that every person needs at least one standing ovation in their lives.
What have you done that deserves a standing ovation?
Tell me about it and let me applaud you!
* (picture courtesy of marfis75 http://www.flickr.com/photos/marfis75/3272079115/in/photostream/ Creative Commons)
You can learn more about Erin on her blog, Treasures Found