“Break a leg, everyone.”
For years, I had been an indirect recipient of those words. As only a chorus singer, my shadow could be seen bent against the steps offstage. During the summer, I was merely the bear in Disney’s “Brave”, crawling down the central aisle of an auditorium. Yet, at home, I was the Sharpay Evans to my own “High School Musical,” and the Matilda to my own adaptation of Roald Dahl’s creation. I always liked acting.
Oftentimes, I ask myself if I failed. Why couldn’t I let myself go and simply perform for an audience? Perhaps it was an artificial label of “theater kid” that I didn’t possess and thus dared not imitate. All those times I barely gained the last straw of courage to pull myself into an audition, even I was disappointed in myself. I could not act. I was awkward. Those lines that I read were not mine. At heart, they were simply words littered out of my mouth, lines from a character––a stranger––that I stole. I fought with my own mind. I told myself I wanted to act, but where was the passion? It hid inside a security box deep in my heart; I knew it was there––I could sense it––but I did not have the key.
In October of 2021, I decided to audition for Andover’s spring production, “Argonautika,” after a four-year hiatus. Perhaps it was a sudden burst of hope, a slit of faith, or a tingling voice that persuaded me. I was not sure if I had changed since middle school; after all, I dared not waste any more time on an art form I impossibly coveted to embrace. Nonetheless, I stepped in, unknowing of the outcome. Was this audition going to unlock the box in my heart? Or would my mind, influenced by factors I could not decipher, interfere with its journey?
The security box, its claws digging deeply into the rim, was left untouched after the audition.
But I was given an opportunity.
Two weeks later, I was accepted into the production; for two terms, my heart filled with pure joy. I felt like a parachuter in the endlessly magnificent sky, a shining constellation superseding the night light. If an astronaut was in space, I was sure my smile could be seen. The production connected my present self to my past, and for reminiscent-I infected with a heavy dose of nostalgia, I was back in my version of “High School Musical,” my version of “Matilda.” No, I wasn’t Sharpay or Matilda yet; that box was still locked. But I was certain I was creeping closer.
I morphed into an uncle, a goddess, and oftentimes even a monster. Their lines were no longer littered out of my mouth, but rather, each having been carefully considered and absorbed, part of my soul. On the stage, I exaggerated my hunchback for an old man, puffed my chest out and tainted my mind with pink for the goddess of love, and glided slyly across the wooden floor to embody a monster. It took time, but I was making progress. I soon felt inseparable to the cast, directors, and everyone who contributed to the show. In the cruelly naked winter days, they made my days a little sunnier. Together, we created the magic.
It was different from any other academic class I took. Of course, I wasn’t always happy with myself––I did learn that I’m not that good at acting, and that my skills were a very large number of Grecian ships away from being captivating––but I was so happy. Slowly, as I grew into my theatrical skin, I meandered my way through the labyrinth of the unknown, guided by some mysterious force that later proved to be the support from those around me. As the countdown to Opening Night ended, I was sure I was so very close to that box. Truly, I was about to unveil the passion inside for the world to see.
I never found the key to that box in my heart. I never will, but today, it is open. It has been open since “Argonautika”’s very first show two weeks ago, and I did not unlock it. Perhaps my eight-year-old-self would be disappointed, but now, I’ve learned to value the very nature of it being open. I no longer care whether I was able to unlock it alone, for it being unlocked is the greatest accomplishment. If not I, who unlocked the box, then? The directors, Dr. B and Ms. Silva. The cast, my comrades. The company. Each audience from our three shows. Together, they made me believe that I would have never been able to unlock the box by myself, even with all my power. Perhaps this show was truly destiny.
“Break a leg, everyone.” This time, I was a direct recipient of these words––and I hope I will be for the rest of my life. Thank you, “Argonautika.” Sha-boo-yah!