Stage Fright

I froze. My world turned black. My mind went blank.
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I sat in the back of the chilly auditorium, my fists clenched tight as my heels repeatedly tapped the black concrete floor. I was next up to audition for a part in the school play. I anxiously awaited my turn, all the while kicking myself for letting my friend Moira talk me into this. Moira was trying out for a part, too, and she thought it would be cool if we did this together. Two weeks ago it had seemed like a great idea. Now, I wasn't so sure.

I tried giving myself a quick pep talk.

You can do this! I told myself. You know your lines. You've practiced a hundred times in front of the mirror. You're ready!

Suddenly the drama teacher's rough, raspy voice pierced my jumbled thoughts.

"Christy! Christy Heitger!" Mrs. Forester called.

Just the sound of my own name made my racing heart beat faster. I stood up on my wobbly legs and made my way down the long theatre aisle. When I stepped onto center stage, I froze. Suddenly my world turned black, my mind went blank.

This can't be happening! I screamed inside my head. I wanted to melt into the hard, wooden floor to escape embarrassment. Tears filled my eyes as I frantically tried to think of an excuse for why I couldn't perform—laryngitis, bronchitis, the flu. But it was too late. Quitting now would make me look like a fool. Not that I didn't already.

As I stared out into the dark auditorium, blinded by the bright stage lights, I began to silently pray for strength to simply survive this experience. Then I took a deep breath and proceeded to stumble through my monologue. Afterward, I kept my emotions together long enough to make it to the parking lot. And then I crumbled, sobbing over my first—and likely last—acting attempt.

The next afternoon the casting sheet was posted on the theater door. Even though I knew I'd blown the audition, I checked the sheet anyhow. Sure enough, my name was absent. But just as I turned to walk away, I heard a familiar raspy voice. It was Mrs. Forester.

"Christy, have you ever thought about taking a drama class?"

"Uhhh, n-n-no," I stuttered. "I'm sure you could tell I'm not really a natural on stage."

"So what?!" Mrs. Forester said. "That's what the class is for—to help you improve."

Then she leaned in as if she was about to share some important secret. "Christy," she whispered. "You're not perfect. … And I like that!"

Is this lady crazy? I wondered. What is she getting at?

"You were a nervous wreck yesterday," Mrs. Forester said. "But you faced your fear and plowed forward. You're the kind of student I love to see in my class. I guarantee you'll change in ways you never imagined. … So think about it."

At first I brushed off Mrs. Forester's suggestion. Flubbing lines, forgetting stage directions—why would I want to subject myself to that kind of humiliation again? Plus, Moira said that Mrs. Forester did lots of improvisational exercises in her class where you had to make up lines and scenarios on the spot. I couldn't handle that kind of pressure!

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