That Time You…Took Center Stage

All the world’s a stage until we quit the role we were cast to play

My favorite sound in the world has many parts and it also isn’t consistent. It varies each time I hear it, and yet it always achieves the same outcome.

There are lots of sounds that make my heart swell or split my side with laughter: my dad singing, my children’s chortles, and my husband’s Sylvester Stallone impression. Other sounds put a spell on me: water lapping up on a wharf, tree frogs drumming, and the crescendo of cicadas.

I have a thing for the nostalgia of sound, but only one is consistently inconsistent while always promising the same transporting feeling: a theater buzzing in the moments before curtain.

It’s the harmony of the woodwinds rapidly going up and down scales, the slow back and forth of the bow on the strings, and the horns holding a note while the musicians condition their lungs. Mingle that with the chatter of the audience, the flipping of pages in a playbill, the periodic darting of ushers, and the occasional appearance of a stagehand in black adjusting something on stage. Regardless of the mood I arrived with, from the moment I sit to the moment the house lights dim, I experience something altering. Something’s about to happen. It may be inspiring or it may be a flop. But I anticipate a journey is to come.

Audiences are at the mercy of artists. Like putty in their hands, we’re there to bend to their wishes, and we sit there willingly allowing these strangers to beguile us. It’s funny when you think about it at face value. We’re like droids in that dark, over air-conditioned theater, eyes forward, stupefied, all for the glory of the old razzle dazzle. And thank God. Because when we step outside into the piercing sunlight, we’re back where we started before the swirl of hope enraptured us as we listened to a theater prepare for something spectacular. When the curtain drops, the problems we forgot during the journey return all too quickly, and all at once the show is over.

I’m a glutton for anticipation, that energy that runs through our nerves promising excitement. I’m mostly spontaneous and enjoy not knowing what will happen if I chance it just a bit more. I say mostly because I tend to correlate this interest with situations like taking the scenic route or other non life-changing adventures. But when it comes to real world opportunities, I often miss my entrance.  

We can’t predict that what we await in the moments before the curtain rises will be a humdinger or a blunder. Such is life. And yet, too often we are unwilling to be our own trusting patron, anxious to see what we’ve got in our own repertoire. It’s less frightening to anticipate another’s entrance as they chance failure, criticism, and disappointment—all valid reasons why we don’t even try ourselves.

But I think if we really study our true character, what is scariest is committing in the first place because that certifies that risk. That resoluteness to try is scary as hell. Ask any actor when they feel the most stage fright and almost all of them will answer that it’s just before they enter the stage. But once there, something magical happens. Their nerves settle in the warmth of the can lights. They sync with the orchestra and costars, and they find their own rhythm. Everything falls into place as it should. But they had to first make their entrance. They had to commit to the role they were cast to play.

Life isn’t always going to be a box office success. We’re well aware that success isn’t a guarantee. However, when we’re more willing to anticipate what we fear rather than the joy that could be, we miss the possibility of ourselves. Exposure and vulnerability aren’t easy, but they also aren’t the stuff of legends either. Anyone can take center stage if they expect to have just as much fortune as the next guy.

I know enough to know that I owe it to myself to be my own greatest showman. I should thrill myself with my own razzle dazzle. I must squirm with anticipation for my next act just as I do for others. We are all stars in our own right but only when we first trust our instinct to step into the spotlight on whatever stage it might be.

Like the moments before a curtain goes up, life is in a hum of preparations and expectancy. The orchestra warm-up is our creative juices bubbling. The chatter of the audience is the voices in our head—confidence and doubt. The stagehands are setting the scene, and the ushers are pointing the way. In the seconds before, the buzz is most intense. There is a show that must go on whether it’s a smash hit or it sucks. But just giving your all is reason enough for a standing ovation.

 

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