Many people mistakenly think that all there is to a school production is the two hours of acting they see on stage, but the real show happens backstage.
When spending hundreds of hours with other students, you gain insight on their passions, their fears, their desires, and most importantly their morals. We spend the majority of our lives wearing masks offstage. We smile when we feel like crying, and try to keep a poker face when we are close to bursting into laughter. We pretend to be someone we’re not, and in this was we use acting in everyday life.
As actors, we are required to put on a different mask for the play, a new mask that has been created by us so we can assume the role of our character. When we walk into rehearsal, we must take off the mask we have been wearing all day and put on the performance mask. In the short time between the two transformations, actors’ true identities are revealed. Unfortunately, not all of them are pretty.
My first impressions of many people were wrong, and I am sure that people think of me differently than they did when they first met me as well. Students who I initially assumed were crude and ill-mannered turned out to have some of the purest hearts I have seen. This discovery was one that I made after hundreds of hours together, countless conversations, and many small favors that built my trust with these people. On the other hand, I came in contact with a few people who did not mesh well with me. I do not have the right to judge a person without knowing their background, their thoughts, or their stories, especially since I have been trying to stop people from doing that to me. I will say that there were numerous tense situations backstage. These events created a negative atmosphere in which I felt like crying, screaming, and maybe even walking out of rehearsal and never looking back. But having humane friends who shared that they were also feeling the painful emotions helped me push through and remember what was important. After the first two months, I spent every minute of rehearsal longing for the day of our final show, for that would be the last day before I was free.
I didn’t have anyone to blame but myself for the position I was put in, and my self-condemnation took a big toll on my life. I was the one who signed up to audition for the play, and that was the reason I was caged in the auditorium for hours upon hours, weeks upon weeks. I began to feel as if the play was taking over my life, sucking all of the joy out of my teenage years.
My friends began to drift farther and farther from me, and even stopped asking me to go join them in get-togethers because they already knew that I wouldn’t be able to go. My family barely saw me and we stopped having meals together because I came home much later than they did. My grades were slightly struggling as the projects I was given during the week piled up until I had time to do them on Sundays. My homework was rushed and messy because I had started them during lunch and finished them throughout rehearsal between the times my scenes were being practiced. I would sit in a corner with my notebooks sprawled out across the floor, creating a divider between me and the students who were playing video games on the TV or kicking balls across the room. I think this isolation may have painted me as a cold, arrogant person when really I just didn’t feel comfortable pushing myself into the cliques that had already seemed to have existed long before I began to participate in the plays.
Acting has been my passion for as long as I can remember. I spent my years as a toddler playing games with my aunts in which I would pretend to be a princess or a famous model. I essentially lived in my acting class in middle school because it was the most fun class for me. I used acting to find myself when I was lost and confused about who I am. The day I saw my name on the list for the Musical Theatre group at Millikan Middle School, I cried for an hour. And when I saw that I was cast in the play in high school, I cried again.
These tears of joy were brought out because I was overwhelmed by the honor I was given. I was offered the opportunity to express myself, to show the feelings and emotions that I am not allowed to in my everyday life. If I am rude or loud as Sarah Kim, I am despised but if I act that way as another character, I am applauded.
All in all, being in the play was an amazing experience that I would definitely love to partake in again. The process had many ups and downs, but the magical feeling in the last few seconds of the show is worth the blood, sweat, and tears that are required for the preparation. All I’m saying is that there is a lot that goes on behind those curtains that you may not have been aware of. Until now, that is.