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Everything is chaos. There are exactly 43 of us, crammed into this tiny wing offstage. The noise is crashing around me. My mind is numb as the girl paints rouge on my cheeks and touches up my eyeliner. I straighten my silky blue dress and tap my toes. My mind is everywhere and nowhere. Numb. Repetitive thoughts circling. Then the men and women in black tee shirts and black jeans are leaving. They are setting up onstage. God, it’s almost time. My stomach churns and my heart races. God. God. God. Only now I hear the buzz of the audience. I peek through the curtains. I freeze. My blood is hot and burning, and tears threaten, but I can’t move. This feeling never changes. The audience just gets larger. I wonder what it is about performing that does this to me. The terror of being in front of a crowd is inexplicable. It shouldn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. But yes, it does.

An announcer is saying something now. The hum reverberates from the orchestra. ‘Hmmmmmmm…..’ it sings. And then the curtains are opening. Slowly, slowly, red velvet inching apart. It’s torture. My breathing is fast. Ohmygod. Ohmygod. Ohmygod. My hands are sweaty. I pull my hair out of my face. The music is starting.

One, Two, Three…

My queue is coming. The adrenaline builds and builds. It’s insane, I can’t see.

I am standing on the edge of a cliff. Four, Five, Six…

I jump.

There is one sickening moment in which I realize the full scale of what I have done. I am falling, falling, falling, and I am going to hit the ground hard. The spotlight burns on my body. A thousand eyes glow out of the darkness, all fixed on me.

And then they are gone. There is no one in the world but me and you. We circle each other. The words flow so easily, my movements second nature. So many rehearsals, so many late nights, lines repeated over and over again until they are drilled into my soul, fear and anxiety and stress eating me up in preparation, and it all comes down to this. I have two hours on this stage, and they pass like a dream. I don’t see the audience; don’t see the lights, the orchestra, the stage crew. I am in my own world, a world I rule. We don’t miss a beat, you and I.

And when I leave the stage, I am so awake, so alive. Time speeds up again, and I am exhilarated. The applause roars in my ears, and we are screaming backstage, all 43 of us, because we have done it. Costume people, props people, set people, lighting people, stage directors, deck manager, bit piece actors, leads, all of us. We squeeze each others hands and squeal as the audience claps, and then we are onstage again for one last moment, taking our bows.

The loony grin never leaves my face, and my mind is numb. It moves in repetitive circles. My heart beats fast.

There is nothing like the theatre.



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