Being an actor has many sides to it. Many think it’s easy, others terrifying. The thought of standing in front of a crowd playing a part that isn’t you, can be scary. But for me, that’s the easy part. Performing becomes second nature when I stand on a stage. The heat of the spotlight adds to the fire of excitement within me. I never feel fear while standing in front of an audience. I become a professional liar to fool and entertain my audience. Things become more complicated however, when it comes to small crowds. For example, auditions. Every fear and second guess comes to the surface. It amplifies when I’m “on deck”, meaning I’m up next.
My heart lurches into my throat as the door opens and a girl comes into the vestibule, tears streaming down her face. I look to the closing dull beige door when she came, horror. Not very assuring. I take a calming breath, shaking away the onslaught of fears. I open the door and step into my imposing doom. I walk through the wings and onto stage, my heart beating rapidly. I smile at the directors, being as pleasant as possible. My knees feel weak and my hands are shaking, but I still smile. I still hold myself together, if not barely. The music starts, and I focus on the little blue dot on the far wall of the theatre. Mesmerised by it, calmed by it. I fall into the same trance I do everytime I sing outside the comfort and seclusion of my room. The words I had meticulously memorized falling from my lips almost effortlessly. My voice is shaking, I can feel it. I can’t meet their eyes. I can’t break this trance. My mind starts to wander and the words become jumbled. I fumble and lose the note. I clutched the sheet music tighter in my hand and glance down to the line I missed. I quickly catch the rhythm of the next phrase and begin again. This time my eyes glued to the words. The music comes to an end, and I finally look up. The directors scribble comments down on yellow sheets of paper. I stand anxiously waiting for them to say something, anything. Finally they look up. The director points to stacks of other music and tells me to take two songs. They wanted to hear me again. I take the music and thank them before quickly leaving the stage, holding back the tears.
I enter the vestibule shaking, the next girl looks to me, just as scared as I was. She walks in the theatre before the door closes. I look through the open doorway at my friends, sitting at the far end of the black box. They were laughing and joking. The first tear blurred my vision, and i ran out of the theatre. I couldn’t face them yet. Couldn’t let them see me like this. I got to the far end of the theatre facing the road where the sun was almost setting in the distance. I took breaths, trying to calm myself. I looked down at the music in my hands and bit back tears. I could do this. I had to. After a few minutes, long enough for several people to have auditioned and come back I walked back into the theatre. When I approached my friends I was immediately berated with questions about how it went. “It was fine,” I lied, “I feel confident about it.” Maybe if I said it enough, I would start believing it. When I got home that day, I let out my frustrations in the side of a palm tree using .25 mm airsoft rounds. It was only downhill from there. The rest of the week was the same. Auditions that weren’t my best topped with watching the success and excitement of others. Then the fateful day of the cast list release was upon us.
Auditions at this point can go two ways. Both I have experienced far too close together. The first way is seeing your name with small dots leading to the character that you had hoped for. The rush of joy you feel seeing that is indescribable. You can’t stop smiling as you hug others, and rush to call your family of the news. One the best feelings in the world. The second however is anything but. I am practically dragged to the theatre, dreading the news that awaits me. By the time I get there the list is already up. The crowd cramped around the small piece of paper with so much power. Phones are raised high trying to get pictures. I hang back in no hurry to see what’s written. Some claw their way out from the mob holding their phones. I stop a friend of mine asking to look at the list. She hands over her phone to me. And in that moment, my world crumbled. My worst fear came true. My chest and throat tighten and my eyes betray me. I had back the phone, wishing them ‘Congrats’ on the part they received. I could feel the pity for me radiating from them. I turn, wanting to run, to get as far as I could. I look up to meet the eyes of the last person I wanted to see in that moment: my best friend. Her brown eyes looking at me so pitiful and sad. She knew. Of course she did. She whispered my name like she was about to comfort me. I couldn’t do it. I beat her to it. “Congratulations,” I said, “You got the lead.” I smiled through the ache in my chest. She was about to say more when someone pulled her attention away with their well wishes. I did the only sensible thing I could think of in that moment. I ran. By the time she turned back around I was gone. I managed to find a hiding spot near the art room. A large pillar against the wall gave me a shadow to squeeze into. I didn’t cry. I just tried to calm myself. It worked for a few minutes. I denied the calls from my friends, ignored the messages from them, and just hid. That weekend, my best friend and I were supposed to go to Big Bear, a trip planned weeks prior. We were leaving that night. When I finally got into the car and she came walking up. I kept my eyes downcast. It was the longest and painful weekend of my life.
Everytime someone brought it up, I laughed at the joke, or made a comment about it myself. I had to. It hurt like hell, but I did it. I lied everyday, to everyone. But that’s what actors do. We are professional liars. Stand in front of others and make them believe we are someone else in a different world. So that’s what I did. I got through it. This process, this torture, I and others put ourselves through, breaks us. But from it we grow stronger. That list and experience taught me so much. I was hurt, confused, frustrated, annoyed, but I came out the other end a better person. More knowledge. Would I go through it again? Not if I had any say in it. But I’m glad I did. A little bit of failure can highlight and make the success all the better.