July 29, 2008
By Emily Albert, Upland, CA

The curtain rises and a blaze of light cuts through the scrim, signaling the beginning of the ballet — the beginning of my liberation. Stepping on stage marks an end to pretending, an end to the adult facade that clothes my everyday life. I drop ten of my years in the wings, and without this burden, an inner child is released. It is her seven-year-old smile that dances across my face when I receive the Nutcracker and her giggles that escape my mouth as I pretend to chatter with my little friends. Surprisingly, I feel no guilt for her happiness. The independence of this youth makes me giddy. I am high off the freedom from maturity.

As the scene changes so does my mood. Suddenly my years return, their attached burdens thrown back upon my shoulders. Dazzling lights fade to an eerie grey. The rat king enters, towering over me. But here on stage I acknowledge the fact that I am afraid-- no petrified. For once my terror is tangible and displayed for an audience. My tormenter has left his throne in my mind and looms above my body. I shake and shudder in horror, but without shame.

Leaving my side he thrusts his spear into the side of my prince, opening himself up to a simultaneous attack. Both fall to the ground. Real tears pour down my face and spot my costume, the sorrows of my soul bared. I do not cry my tears into the pillow at night; I wring them out before an audience of thousands. Here it is safe to weep without the mockery of physical silence and mental din. Am I simply an actress weeping for a fantasy?

The torrent is curtailed, cut short just before I lose all control and break down. My prince awakens and the sweet notes join our bodies as we waltz a happy ending. There is a sense of certainty in this act. Every step is planned; there are no unexpected developments. I have escaped to a place of preconceived perfection and order. This is a land where chivalry and morality prevail over evil; where time does not stretch out before me in a taunting series of uncertainties. Entirety is encompassed in two orderly acts and a brief intermission. Rest assured, a happily ever after will occur before the curtain drops.

Each performance is a roller coaster of laughter and lamentation, draining every bit of truth from my veins and leaving me wonderfully anesthetized. Moods need not be stable and static. They can rise and fall and crash with the crescendos of the orchestra below. When I step on stage there is no need to assume a role. I exist in truth. Behind the mask of my character I am emancipated from the restrictions of daily life to pursue a reality that does not exist. Under this guise of make-believe there is true freedom.

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