If you’ve known me for any length of time in excess of twenty minutes, you have either heard or speculated that I was involved in high school theatre. I was.
The all-encompassing process for an amateur production is more demanding than one might expect. You audition. You judge your audition, hate your audition, cross your fingers for three days, and then miraculously find your name on a cast list one Friday afternoon. You get a script and begin after-school rehearsals for about two hours a day. The first couple of weeks are minimal. You memorize in your spare time and practice whichever accent your director is trusting high school students to master. Rehearsals slowly intensify and require more time. Scripts go in backpacks as lines are expected to be committed to memory. If it’s a musical, you’ll spend the occasional long Saturday in character heels learning jazz squares and lying to the choreographer about your ability to do the splits. You’re measured for a period costume and choke back a giggle as someone’s poor parent measures your inseam. Rehearsals intensify. Greg doesn’t know his lines and Emily misses her cue every time. The director’s kid is sick; rehearsals are canceled. Then you’re sick, but rehearsals aren’t canceled. Rehearsals intensify. Posters go up around school with an opening date that is two weeks away. Your hair is teased more often than it isn’t, and even the boys’ backpacks contain Ben Nye foundation. At this point, you’re eating dinner in the school’s cafeteria every night during rehearsals that go until nine or ten pm. The set isn’t ready and everyone curses the day Greg was cast. It’s opening day and you’re wearing sponge rollers during AP English, answering history questions in British dialect. That night, you stand in a circle and hold hands with a cast of 40 and reminisce over three months of hard work. You hide behind a curtain shaking with nerves and a full bladder. You don’t think you can do what you’ve promised. You always do what you promised. You don’t think about the bathroom again until curtain call.
After the final Sunday matinee, you strike the set, turn in your stinky costume and head home for a nap that has you waking and questioning what year it is. You snap at your parents at dinner. You don’t do any homework. For the rest of the week, you get home before the school buses and wonder what you’re supposed to do with free time. You decide you don’t like it. You maybe cry a little, although you’re not reflective enough to understand why.
I learned to recognize this intense mixture of nostalgia and dread as post-show depression. After three months of working alongside a consistent community to accomplish a creative goal, alone time felt burdensome. My short-term purpose had ended. I went from full speed to a standstill.
I have recently discovered that college graduation offers a post-show depression of its own. After four years of trading long rehearsals for late-night study parties, performances for exam weeks and competition season for studying abroad, I’ve found the end result is the same: days of ugly-crying at the realization that the life you’re used to is about to be replaced with a life you know nothing about.
I became comfortable in this quirky little college town. More than that, I learned to be genuinely joyful to return to the life I had formed here after every Christmas, spring and summer break. I lived in a minuscule apartment for two years that was too small for two, but somehow big enough for pancake parties of 100. I danced at weddings of brides who had confided in me back when those feelings were a simple crush. I sat shotgun during stupid-long trips to Chik-Fil-A and made it to surrounding cities for concerts, Royals games, float trips and days at Six Flags. I lived in a house with roommates who loved me enough to fulfill my desire to bundle up and go trail-walking during one of the coldest days in January. I lived with roommates I loved enough to still be ugly-crying about today.
I find myself wishing that we could start over, naively believing that if we had the chance to do it again, it would somehow relieve the grief of this first end; that repeating this last year would make it easier to say a second goodbye. There’s no truth in that. I only ever found one way to ‘get over’ post-show depression.
You have to do another show.
I have a little while before my next audition. Whereas most of my friends have confirmed their next move and signed leases on apartments that don’t involve me (a comparison trap that I won’t even get into right now), I’m still feeling out the stage and deciding where my blocking will take me. (Spoiler: I think it’s Chicago.)
Things kinda suck today. They might intermittently kinda suck for a while. I’ve just said goodbye to one of my favorite roles to date; live-in best friend, journalism major, American host-student, campus church member, resident house mama, and more. I’ll let myself feel it, and then I’ll chin up. I’m confident I’ll get my role eventually, whatever it may be.
I only know two things with certainty;
- The best is yet to come, and
- The show must always, always go on.