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Nola’s personal essay about the healing power of theater.

We hide in the shade of the tall, red, velvet curtains and huddle together in the darkness. I see the nervous faces around me and wonder if they feel the same way I do. But I know they do. No matter how hard it is to ignore it, I choose to focus on what happens next rather than the gnawing feeling in my chest. I catch eyes with my friends and exchange smiles, then hold out my two fingers and whisper “break a leg” as we clutch our fingers together in unison like a promise. It means that I promise to be my best and that you will do your best too. 

My ears were alarmed to hear the scattered conversation go silent. I turn around to see the lights beginning to fade, cueing the audience that their wait is over. The crowd that was once a roar of unidentified voices, is now nonexistent for they have vanished with the darkness and became darkness itself. It’s as though the whole world has gone quiet and whispers are silenced as silence waits in anticipation.


Then the emptiness creeps up on me, the feeling I was trying to distract myself from acknowledging. I feel the sensation of my legs give way to numbness. The hole in my stomach gets heavier and drops down to my knees, weighing me down, making me want to sink into the ground.


But once I step out onto the stage it will all go away and I’ll be someone else.

People that I know will get to see a different side of me they may have never seen before. Or people that I don’t know can see the person I want to be. Who I strive to be. The kind of person that people can look up to and wonder “how does she do it?” I want to be the person who inspires people, who makes them smile, and makes them cry. I want to be able to cause a wave of emotions by doing the thing I love most. Hearing people say “I didn’t know you could sing like that” or “You are a completely different person on stage” has made me realize that. 

It’s one of the things I love about theater because I can show the side of me I wish I could show more. 


But then I realize that it’s not just performing that brings me confidence, it’s the people around me. The people that I’ve worked with and grown so close to, this accepting community. We’ve built a home here together and become a family. 


Before I wanted to curl up in a ball, but now I see the faces around me and know I need to be there for them; that we depend on each other. I take a deep breath and see the darkness drift away; I step into the light like morning, like it’s a brand new day full of possibilities. We may not know what will happen but we know that we will do everything we can to make it the best it can be. 


I know that I can be the person I want to be. I can be the person people look up to, and I can be the person who inspires, whether I’m pretending to be someone else or just myself, because that’s enough. 

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