Roller Coaster

Last night, I had my first full-length staged reading. I’d never experienced that level of existential panic before. With a one-act, there’s someone else to share the bill, the spotlight, the blame. This time it was just me. The realization that everyone in the theatre was going to go home happy or unhappy, bored or entertained, was lying solely on my shoulders. I wanted to hide.

Despite the fact that I was aware of a pretty good audience reaction during the first act, I had no desire to step into the lobby during intermission. I was eventually driven out there by thirst, and my intent was to simply scuttle out, grab a bottle of water, and skulk back to my seat, feigning invisibility. Once in the fluorescent glare of the lobby, however, I was a fair target, and people started telling me they were enjoying the show.  Even then, I remained uneasy. I know something you don’t. I know how it all ends.

Oddly enough, getting on stage for the talkback was easy. Once I’d heard the applause, realized that people were going to stay and not dash for the exits, I knew I was safe, even though I was the most visible, actually up there facing them.

The actors had done me proud, the audience had been engaged and were there to share their experience. I walked out of the theatre that night with two overwhelming emotions: gratitude first, to the actors, the director, the theatre manager, and also to the people who gave up their evening (several who I didn’t expect at all) to sit and watch and listen. Secondly, I felt like I’d crossed a threshold, that I didn’t need to feel self-conscious any more about looking people in the eye and saying “I’m a writer.”

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