At the beginning of each rehearsal, we start with a warm up, physical and vocal. This is the time to shift the focus to the present, prepare the voice and body for what awaits, and leave any crap at the front door.
On this particular day, we took some time to work on my alignment, or what I thought was my alignment. It turns out that whenever I thought I was standing up straight, with my legs solidly under me, I was in fact standing with my right foot slightly turned out.
As I closed my eyes and ‘tried’ to stand straight, we realized it wasn’t just my foot, but my entire right side that had this slight slant towards the right. All of a sudden, I had this insight: standing like this, with my foot turned to the right, felt as if I always had one foot out the door. Wow. Standing like this, I was always prepared to run, divert, duck. Hide. Holy Cow.
I have no idea when this pattern began, at what point in my life I felt like I needed this escape route, but there it was. Turns out, this insight was like shining a light on a whole bunch of other patterns that were keeping me from fully stepping forward. I had a tendency to cut off my own sentences before I finished a thought. I would drop my voice down at the end of a monologue, to the point where I could not be heard.
It was incredibly ironic, that even as I wanted to be up on stage, sharing and revealing this experience, these emotions, I was, at the same time, doing quite a bit to make sure that didn’t actually happen…
Yet, I had said yes to this piece. I had said yes to this director. I had said yes to doing the work, to honoring the words, these characters. I had said yes to my own soul’s calling. I wasn’t going to back out now.
When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
So, we worked on it for over an hour, standing up straight and walking (I was literally sweating at that). I repeated lines over and over, saying them loud and proud, singing them to the back of the room. And then I tackled one of the harder monologues and let it rip. It was exhilarating. It was liberating. It was delicious to give myself permission to be all of me on the stage.
I don’t know that I would have ever understood this tendency through any other venue. And even if I had become aware of it, I’m not sure I would have felt the same urgency, the same deep desire to make the change.
But with saying ‘yes’ to Widows Anonymous, it is more than just about me. It is about honoring the story, the characters, the journey that is losing a loved one. And not just my loss, but other’s as well. So, I will do what it takes to allow the audience to hear and fully witness this piece.
And here is the sublime part, the part that leaves me in awe of the great wisdom that is our soul. There are lessons I am learning here that are preparing me for this performance. But they are also lessons I will take out into the ‘real world.’ As I stand straight and tall, as I speak so people can hear me, as I stretch my courage on stage, I am also creating new patterns for how I will be in the world, how I will let myself be seen, heard.
We sometimes think there is a distinction between life and art. But I would disagree. I would say our life inspires, informs our art. And our art helps heal our life.