When the Curtain Goes Up
When the Curtain Goes Up
I was probably 8 years old. And now as I stood behind the curtain the weeks of preparation finally made sense. The hairspray coma and the fury of lipstick made sense. The changing and re-sizing of my “oh so adorable” gun holsters that swayed in time with my frayed cowgirl skirt when we did the coveted gun twirl… All. Made. Sense.
“Two minutes to stage!”
The syllables bellowed from stage manager to stage manager in the backstage while we were shuffled into our places.
“What if I mess up?” I had asked my mom on the car ride to the show.
“No matter how you do tonight daddy we’ll still be very proud of you,” she had said.
Those words had to be in a parent handbook somewhere.
“One minute to stage!”
Now my stomach was churning at a supersonic speed. The Voorhees Theatre Company’s production of Annie Get Your Gun seemed to be the cornerstone of my young life. The crawling in my stomach got stronger with. All the cowgirls had been arranged in a semi circle around Annie. The instructions seemed simple, but now with the curtain about to rise I wasn’t so sure.
When Annie exited from stage left, the first cowgirl was to kick her toy gun up with her right heel and swing it with her left arm onto her shoulder. One swift movement. And this would continue until the end of the semi circle, passing from cowgirl to cowgirl. Of course I had been placed dead center because of my overactive pituitary gland.
“30 seconds to stage! Good luck girls!”
I stood dead center stage with my stomach bugs and my cowgirl fray and the confidence I had over weeks of rehearsal melted off of my body. The cowgirl on the left and on the right, they might be fine. But me, I was terrified.
But then something happened. The glow of camcorders and the opening notes of the song told my feet what to do. My head was still around the corner, but as my body moved with the music my confidence began to build back up.
“GO ALEXA!” my dad yelled from the back of the auditorium, treating my show like a basketball game, just a little quieter. Usually the embarrassment would have crippled me, but my feet liked the compliment and went a little faster.
When the gun twirl began, it wasn’t a question of whether or not I could do it, or if left cowgirl or right cowgirl could; it was a question of if this cowgirl could.
And when left cowgirl got nervous and was unable to make her swift kick, this cowgirl kept on going.
Because when the curtain went up on my face the nerves turned into grace. The weeks of rehearsal, choppy and annoying, and sometimes ending in tears, were converted into movement that swayed with ease from limb to limb. The words to “show business” were mechanical in my mouth, later but at the same time, left a magical aftertaste making me hungry for me.
When the curtain went up, I wasn’t Alexa anymore; I was that little cowgirl dancer. The lipstick and the hairspray and the fray all formed into one single cowgirl.
To me, acting isn’t just a hobby; it isn’t a way to kill time. Acting liberated me from the girl I once was into the women I am today. The all night rehearsals, the memorization, the commitment. Not only have I learned to organize myself, but I have learned to value every second I get to do what I love.
That gun twirl has followed me throughout my life, proving to me that I can handle a little bit of mayhem if it’s thrown at me; that being scared of my next move won’t move me forward. When the curtain went up on me that first time it taught me that a stage without me on it, well that just wouldn’t make sense.
That 8 year old girl only six years of dance and some fray to cling onto, she has grown up to see that life without a little drama isn’t a life she wants at all. When the curtain went up on that little girl and the lights bore into skin she realized that all she’s ever wanted was on that stage with her.