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Reflection in the Wings

Keep breathing………keep breathing………keep breathing. I tell myself this over and over again. True, the breathing is helping me keep my head together, but if I keep it up I’ll start hyperventilating and I’ll have to sit down. I’m afraid to go out there, but at the same time I can’t wait. I turn around and look at the floor. My eyes follow the widening ray of light to the edge of the curtain. Beyond that, I can see the set constructed on the stage. I then look out past the stage lights, and I can see the silhouette of the front row and…….. Keep breathing……… keep breathing.
If I just don’t look out at the audience I’ll be okay. If I don’t look at them I might just be able to pull this off. How did I get myself into this? Oh that’s right; I was dumb enough to audition. When I got this part, I was so thrilled. I had been really on the fence of how well it had gone. But the fun stopped after that. For the past month, I’ve had to prepare for this role by researching one of the most horrible events in history, the Holocaust. I’ve received hateful glare after hateful glare from an ill-tempered director. I’ve dealt with stuck-up cast members who thought they could play my role better than me. And I’ve had to learn lines, stage movement, and scene transitions. Sleep has become a privilege, not a right.
But, I’m kind of grateful for all this stress. As an actor, it’s really helped me to play this character. Our rehearsal process was very unpredictable. Everybody was sick at some point or another, so we never had a full cast for most of our rehearsals. That’s helped me to feel some of the uncertainty my character would have felt being forced to live in a ghetto.
Because of her hostile demeanor, I had developed a lot of resentment towards the director. I used this to help show the frustration and intolerance my character had towards the government responsible for the current situation. But during the whole rehearsal process, I could never have shown my anger. I had to keep it bundled up. My character had a very similar situation. He had to constrain his rage for the safety of his family. If he acted out too much, the Gestapo would have executed him right there in the ghetto. And I personally had been going though a similar emotion.
I had friends in the cast, and they were feeling very similar personal feelings as me. We were getting through this stress together. Whenever somebody felt like quitting, everybody was there with words of encouragement. In a way, we were like our characters that survived life in the ghettos and camps. We wouldn’t have made it through without each other. We had some sense of the community that existed between these people. Looking back, it wasn’t just a piece on the bravery of the children during the Holocaust but it was also a piece that spoke highly of community. That’s how we get through tough times, isn’t it? We have community. Granted, our emotions and circumstances didn’t even begin to compare with those who experienced the Holocaust, but when you’re trying to represent a different person, you have to find these moments and hold onto them as much as possible.
Luckily, the show went on with success. We walked out with confidence, and we performed the scene with very little flaw, if there was flaw to be found. There were points where we were holding back tears. And not faked caught-up-in-the-moment-tears, but real genuine grief-induced tears. We understood the emotions of these people. When you’re an actor, even though they’re fictional characters, you get into their minds and they seem real. They become a part of you.





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