I feel as though my entire life is culminating in this moment. Suddenly, my mind flashes back ten years as I see myself, small, timid, eight years old, earnestly asking my mother to enroll me in theatre classes. She obliged, of course, as I knew she would. By this time, I had already tried and quit ballet, clarinet, and tennis. My mother, however, was ever comforting and supportive of all my sisters’ and my endeavors. Perhaps she expected theatre to be like all of my other failed activities, but that day, she dutifully looked through the paper and found Barbara Eyges’ Acting Workshop for Children. And there, in that makeshift theatre in a church’s function hall, I found myself.
Seven years later, a freshman ripe from six years at Jewish day school, my mother dropped me off at Walnut Hill School as a boarding student of theatre. I was never one to truly believe in my talent, but apparently someone did, as I found myself as one of nine theatre students at one of the best arts schools in the country. I immersed myself in art for one fateful year away from home, a year that changed my life. I left the school after that year with no regrets, but having discovered that I was not yet ready to live away from the comfortable security of my family.
Home again, my sophomore and junior years came and went in an instant. I thrived and distinguished myself at Swampscott High School, especially with the person whose opinion matters above all, the theatre teacher and drama club director, Mr. Pearse. A scathingly sharp and sarcastic man, a compliment in any backhanded form (“You’re lucky you’re talented, because you’re really high maintenance.”) from Mr. Pearse is a rare but coveted gift. Now, in this moment, there’s no person whom I’d rather see walking so agonizingly slowly down the hall, a nondescript sheet of paper in his hand.
How did I come to this moment? This time two days ago, I was pouring my heart and soul into my audition monologue; this time yesterday, I was reading cold from the script at the callbacks. And then, the present slams into me like a stone hitting the bottom of a well with a sickening thud. Now, despite any theatrical achievements of the past ten years, I can’t possibly allow myself to hope, dream, imagine, that the tears I’ve cried, the rejection I’ve faced, and lines I’ve memorized, have not been in vain. I open and close my cell phone compulsively; it’s all I can do to keep from banging my head against the blank, cast list-free wall. 2:38. I had sprinted down three flights of stairs the instant the 2:30 bell rang, and now eight minutes have passed and no sign of Mr. Pearse or his fateful list.
Dear God, this is the longest that anyone has ever waited. Ever. But you’re going to get it. You were born to play that role. It’s yours. Except that you won’t get it. You know it. How could you, so stupid, ugly, untalented, even dare to hope? Everyone will be so disappointed, but none more disappointed than yourself. You’ve blown it, you’ve let yourself down, you’ve let everyone down, you’re a failure, you’re… Insane. Yes, that’s it. Sanity is no more. Breathe, just breathe. 2:43.
With immense effort and discipline, forcing myself out of my erratic, unrestrained self-doubt, I instead concentrate on the dependably irregular pounding of my heart. 2:44.
My feet begin moving of their own accord, carrying me across the atrium, away from the stifling crowd of friends whose kind words of assurance I can’t allow myself to hear. 2:47. The dull view of pavement and parking lot through the window provides a momentary distraction, and of course, in the instant I let my mind drift, he emerges, a nondescript sheet of paper in his hand. My blood freezes. My heart stops. Trepidation courses through me like lightning. In one swift, fluid motion, Mr. Pearse tapes the list to the wall and leaves without a second glance. My vision tunnels, and that list and I are all that exist in the world. Some invisible force, for it couldn’t be my own useless, trembling legs, tugs me across the room. The paper slowly but steadily comes into focus, first white, then white with black lines. The lines gradually form letters, and the letters form words, English words, decipherable, coherent, blessed words! My eyes focus as I blink once, twice, three times to convince myself that my crazed mind isn’t deceiving me. The Diary of Anne Frank Cast List. Anne Frank: Rebecca Gray. Wait, isn’t that my name? I abandon my body to scream, laugh, and celebrate with my friends on autopilot as my being floats weightless and free into the sky. Gravity is a myth; nothing can ground me now. I am validated, I am not alone, I can and will accomplish all of my dreams. I feel as though my entire life is culminating in this moment. The rest of my life begins now.
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