That night, everything I saw was filtered through a pane of fogged glass. It captured each fractal of light and transformed them into miniature supernovas. My world was glowing before my very eyes. Moments slipped by like wading through syrup; sweet and thick and perfectly slow. Something had slithered into my mind and inflated it with such delicate delight that I could taste the warmth of time with every breath. My mom was out in the darkness that idled at arm’s length; I was engulfed in the yellow haze of stage lights. Sweat percolated on my neck and seeped through the silken dress that crouched on my shoulders. This wasn’t my moment, not really; it was ours. Shared by everyone who stood by my side as we pinned up smiles - some sincere, some tired, others just relieved - and let the applause ripple through the air.
I had been a performer before. With an instrument perched under my chin and singing for the sake of a thrill I yearned to taste, I often welcomed opportunities to don a new persona and a new piece so I could better explore this funny little world that surrounds me. Those performances are often stale; anticipated for months, picked at meticulously. Any mistakes seemed to shame me. I enjoyed them, nonetheless; I simply took them seriously and marked them as stepping stones to something better and brighter and bolder.
Perhaps that is what drew me to theater. Rumors hinted that although an uncommon ambition, participating in drama was a rewarding experience. Previous actors told me that nothing could compare to the feeling of meeting the crowd with a full grin and the helium satisfaction of a job well done and a time enjoyed by all. My hunger for literature compelled me to dabble in playwriting; which further encouraged an interest of the stage. Which is why I chose to march into an audition room and try out a voice that had only ever accompanied radio stations and the albums of a few beloved bands.
I am, by no means, a great singer. The most vocal training I’ve ever had was at a summer camp with a collection of musicians - unfortunately, a collection where singers were the minority. We attempted a ragged adaptation of Bohemian Rhapsody in front of a bewildered crowd of parents and called it a day. Still, the idea of performing in the annual spring musical had taken root in my mind. So I chose a song from a show I had never heard of and marched into an audition room with courage, but little confidence.
Even when I was accepted, uncertainty hung in my mind. There was always something to attend to between homework and hobbies. Rehearsals took up a solid portion of my time that I wasn’t sure I could spare. But, in a perhaps dangerous gamble, I firmly chose to spare it.
And so I began my role as “townsperson” and “company” in the next spring musical: The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Rehearsals droned into the night. Months slipped away, but I wasn’t looking back to see if they waved goodbye. I was fixated on that moment I had heard so much about. That thrill that encapsulated ever fiber of one’s being as they enthralled an audience and commanded the stage. All of it was done with doubting hopes; I had never acted, sung, or danced as a performance in my life, and not once thought myself capable of doing all three.
By a string of events that swept by in a blur, opening night had arrived. It really was the premiere performance; of me, of the show, of everything I was expecting from the stage. I had memorized lyrics and steps and notes and had practiced them again and again in a jumbled mess whenever I had the chance. Oddly enough, I wasn’t nervous. From the moment I entered backstage to prepare for the show until I arrived home four hours later, I felt only excitement and gratitude. The cast gripped each other’s hands and made a messy circle and closed their eyes to listen to another show tune from Pippin. We celebrated our director’s 100th show - something that I had been lucky enough to be a part of purely by sheer circumstance.
And we stormed the stage without any hesitation.
It was a whirlwind, but at the same time, each twist in the storm had already been anticipated. All the pieces fell into place. The audience was receptive and not afraid to be vocal - precisely what the showed called for. It only spurred my excitement further.
That night, everything I saw was filtered through a pane of fogged glass. Everything I experienced - every mistake and laugh and flawless performance - was painted with my watercolor dreams. The cast held hands and dipped into a bow; I felt the air move heavily through my lungs and saw the sheen of sweat on the people to my sides. Everyone was smiling.
It was my first time acting, singing, dancing, and any simultaneous combination of the three. The cast hadn’t become a new clique for me; more a result of my shyness than anything else. I still felt distant from the group in a way. But in that moment, we had achieved the impossible. We had told a story and dabbled with magic and cast a spell over the audience before us. We made them laugh and frown and sneer and giggle all in one sitting.
In that moment, everything was perfect.