I have a complicated relationship with theater. When I go to see a play, my friend Laura will tell you that I am ridiculously repetitive in my pronouncements that I am “so excited!!!” I am enthralled from the very first line, the first squeaks of the tuning orchestra, the first curtain draw. This is an entirely new world, and I am invited inside.
As far as I’m concerned, going to the theater is the closest I get to magic. But that’s when I witness theater. I also participate in it, and this is where things get complicated.
In some ways, I like it more. I get an insight into the magic, and you’d think that would take away from it, but a scientist knows that the more you study, the more you realize you don’t know, and I always see something new. On opening night, that magic is still there, and I feel it all the stronger for having been a part of creating it.
But then in creeps a part of me of which I am not proud. I watch the leading lady on stage, and I think, I could’ve done that. In fact, I could’ve done that better. Why doesn’t anyone ever give me a chance? If I’d just done the audition a little differently … if I’d just gotten the chance to sing … if the director would just come to her senses … .
Leads have the unique opportunity to take the audience away from a sumptuously decorated room with a hole in one side and into a new reality. Every aspect of a play adds to this — the chorus, the set, the supporting roles, the music, the blocking, everything — but it is the responsibility and privilege of the leads to guide the audience.
And I want that. I want that recognition. With every fiber of my being, I want to be the focus. Me. I. Pay attention to me.
I think it’s a problem a lot of us have, but I recognized it about myself just recently. At first I thought it was only natural. Why shouldn’t I want a little acknowledgment?
The question was answered for me last week at rehearsal. I was talking to one of the main ladies in “Brigadoon,” and she spoke how she felt when she stepped into the theater.
“When I’m here,” she said, “I feel like myself.”
I’ve never had the lead in a play, but I do know what it feels like when you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be, doing what you’re supposed to do. It feels like Heaven, and I do mean that in the capital-H sense. All is right. God made me for this, right now.
I’m an okay singer and a middling actor. I might, if I worked hard and kept practicing, achieve my aching dream to star in a musical. Somehow, though, it seems off. My envy of actresses is not based in my purpose or even my dreams, but a craving for recognition that I now see as sinful. It is not my place.
It’s a lesson I’ll have to learn over and over. Every day, probably, and not just as it applies to theater. I am fiercely jealous of who I cannot be, and the only answer to that is repentance and contentment.
I love theater, but it’s not where I belong. If I can be a part of it, I am blessed, because I get to see those who were made for theater doing what God made them to do. And that is a kind of magic.