Drawn to the Stage
I wouldn’t consider myself a party person. That’s mainly because I’m more of an introvert, though I’ll enjoy good music, food, and people when possible. What I do know for sure is my favorite kind of party. It’s of the more intimate variety, I’d say. Less of a traditional party than a generic get-together.
When I was younger, I was involved in my high school’s theatre program. Not purposely, at first, but the community later became so intrinsic to my personality that I couldn’t imagine going down a different path.
The theatre is a scary place. That’s not me being dramatic, either. It’s quite literally one of the best and worst parts of my life. I’ve been on both sides of the stage – behind the curtain and the computer screen.
It started with a Creative Storytelling class. I wasn’t a writer. I wasn’t anywhere close to being the next Edgar Allen Poe. I’d actually wanted to take art, but I wasn’t an artist either. I never truly found out what we were supposed to do in that class besides creative storytelling, of course.
Before opening week, we’d get together for our ‘cast party’ that we called ‘barn parties.’ From freshmen to seniors, we’d travel to the middle of nowhere to have an intimate night where we celebrated our hard work over the past few weeks and our friendships and just generally have fun. Of course, we never could predict what would happen at those parties, but we always knew we’d come out of them closer than ever.
They’d happen in our head stage manager Kathryn’s barn hence the barn party name. It would be pitch black, midnight, and we would all still be up throughout the night, kept awake by the dwindling candlelight from our ongoing game of hot seat. I liked to talk about myself when I was with them. Something about the moment’s serenity made me sure that I was safe, loved, and appreciated.
“McKenzie, you have to scream. Everyone else is doing it.”
If everyone else was jumping off a bridge, maybe. I wouldn’t be screaming in front of all these upperclassmen.
“I don’t know, y’all. I think all my screams are gone….” I said.
“The barn is a safe place!”
“You’ll feel great!”
“It’s so freeing, Mak! You got this!”
After our party, we’d be exhausted but excitedly head into show week. My favorite part about show week was the hour before a show. The lights would be out, and there’d be maybe one or two other people in the theatre. If I played it right, though, I’d be alone with my thoughts for a bit. I’d sit by the stage, right in front of the stairs that led up onto the paint we’d laid down just a week before. The chapel felt different when it was used as a theatre. It wasn’t the same stained wood pews and carpeted floor that swelled with the hymns we had sung in elementary.
Before each show, we’d circle up, a pregame for the party that was our show. Then, we’d pass the energy, smack the basement wall, and wish each other broken legs.
After graduating, visiting the basement wall was a challenging experience. I’m not a crier, but if I had been, I would have shed an ocean of tears. We’d only painted signs for two shows, but years of theatre existed there. I touched the spot where my last ever high school show would have been.
Sadly, my theatre days are over now, but I still find time to go and experience it through the eyes of an audience member. And who knows, perhaps I’ll find my way back to the stage. After all, the party never stops, and the show must go on.