The eternal moment
Kitty Baker | Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Last week, a play ended. Six performances representing endless weeks of rehearsal, long hours in Hesburgh and countless almost-missed assignments finished on the ninth of November. Six performances that are now gone. A few photographs and a group message are all that is left.
I’ve never been able to properly explain why I put myself through hell and back to do something many people see as a thankless and sometimes pointless pastime. Theatre is an experience that leaves you breathless, and it is not for the faint of heart.
There will be battle wounds: a welt left from a badly aimed jab with a practice sword or bruises from being thrown to the ground a little too passionately. There will be tears: the senseless and emotional crying in a single corner of Hesburgh as you stare at an empty computer screen that should be a seven page paper and drink the dregs of the leftover coffee you bought over two hours ago. There will be days when you want to murder the entire cast and crew, simply over the fact that you are surviving on an extreme lack of sleep, which is not helped by your desperate need for two-to-three hour naps during the day. And there will be the day when you give everything you’ve got, think maybe you got it right this time and then have a long list of notes to deal with that prove to you, no, you are actually absolutely inadequate.
But there will also be moments of complete giddiness. The first day you are completely off book after pondering whether it will be truly possible. The day someone decides it would be a good idea to slap five little pieces of gaff tape on your back and you realize halfway through an emotional few lines and burst into real laughter, the kind that stops you momentarily and makes you double over, while everyone else joins in. That insane warmup routine everyone complains about having to do, but secretly loves. Standing in a circle while everyone wishes “I give you my best,” and suddenly realizing you have a bond with these people that you won’t have with any of your other friends (although you love them equally).
But those moments are over. They happened, you loved them, you hated them and now you are trudging through South Bend weather, knowing that at the end of the day all you have to do is go to the library or LaFun or your dorm or see your other friends, and that you don’t have to trek to DPAC in the complete darkness.
But maybe one day you’ll wander back onto the Decio. You’ll stand next to the ghost light no one really knew the real use for, and look at the yellow netting your stage manager used to struggle with after every rehearsal and smile a little. Maybe you’ll close your eyes, and for a moment, it’s the Sunday matinee. Your heel is stuck in your dress, and you’re limping a bit, and your old person makeup has smeared into your gloves and sweat is making the back of your heavy black shawl stick to you and you’ve just carried a little girl, and almost lost someone’s very precious crochet hook. The last thing you want to do is run onstage and look at an audience, but you do it anyway, even if it is just for all the wonderful people who stand on either side of you.
And there’s a standing ovation. And in a whirlwind you take a bow, mindlessly clapping. And you take a second bow and look out at the audience and catch someone’s eye and then you are taking a surprise third bow and there is utter confusion and you have a big mindless grin on your face and then you open your eyes and you are standing on an empty stage, looking out into the dark house and that big grin has not left your face. And that was just a moment. Just like all those other moments. A moment that will live forever on the back of your eyelids, that will pop up when you least expect it. A moment that makes you laugh and cry because it was so wonderful but it can never happen again.
And if that is the only moment you have, then you’re pretty much set.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.