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This I Believe essay: Yet Another Chance for Me to Talk About Hamlet

The tear slipped off my eyelashes and cascaded down the bridge of my nose, landing on the open script in my lap as Ophelia talked of Polonius’ death yet again. “He is dead and gone, ladies. He is dead and gone.” No matter how many times I had witnessed the scene, it always upset me. It broke my heart knowing that Ophelia had lost her father and in just a few moments she would slip into the fragile state of insanity. It didn’t matter that my sister was the one lamenting or that “the deceased” was safely chilling backstage less than twenty feet away from the light board I sat behind each day. For me, that moment was real, that emotion was palpable, and the words of Shakespeare moved me to tears. I believe in suspending my disbelief.
Yes, I know that what happens onstage is not real. I saw with my own eyes each day the processes actors went through to memorize their eloquent speeches, and I strategically manipulated the lights to create a moonlit atmosphere. I was there through the early rehearsals when Hamlet would yell “LINE!” in the middle of his dying words. Yet, each night this Fall as I sat through rehearsals, run-throughs, and shows the character’s words and emotions spoke to me and the powerful light bulbs behind me were more convincing than the bright sun waiting for me just outside.
The first play I ever saw was “The Jungle Book.” I was in kindergarten and I saw it with my classmates. It left me with the overall impression of “what the heck?!?!?” I couldn’t comprehend how I was supposed to appreciate a bunch of puppeteers and actors in wildlife costumes when it was so clear what they really were. I was not naturally inclined to suspend my disbelief. I could tell quite clearly that I was not in the jungle; after all, I was in a chair that kept folding me in half because I was too small for it. I couldn’t enjoy what was clearly not real.
That all changed of course, my freshman year when I saw “Pound” by Christian Kiley. The set-up seemed ridiculous: a bunch of high school kids dressed as animals? Oversized cages? A five and a half foot tall toddler? These preconceived notions of “this is not real” left me wondering what I had just spent my valuable four dollars on. Oh, who am I kidding, my mom’s valuable four dollars. As I watched Pup’s life in “Pound,” however, I began to relate to the emotions and themes portrayed in the play. I stopped wondering why these animals were walking on two legs and I began to open my mind to this new and exciting form of expression. By the end of the night I had laughed, cried, and fallen in love with the magical world of theatre.
Soon after, I joined technical theatre to help bring productions to life. I’ve seen plays ranging from church Christmas specials, to community productions, to the real deal of “Wicked.” Through the theatre department I’ve been able to help make tangible the visions of Shakespeare, Christian Kiley, Ayden Lopez, Damien Darr, and so many other playwright prodigies. Thanks to the Etiwanda High School Theatre Department, I believe in looking past the inconceivable. I believe in a world where a spotlight is the sun, where people speak with perfect eloquence, and where emotions last long past curtain call. I believe in suspending my disbelief.




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