I am writing on Friday. Our play opened last night.
For two weeks leading up to the opening, I was plagued with nightmares — both my old friend the classic actor's nightmare (in the wrong play, don't know my lines, etc) and another one that has recurred over the years, that it is finals week in high school and I suddenly realize that I've forgotten to attend a math class all semester and now I will fail, I won't graduate, and my parents will kill me.
Yesterday I went into full panic mode. I imagined I was going to go blank on my lines, or that I would be too anxious to engage emotionally. I started regretting that I had ever gotten involved in this project. I thought about the hubris of assuming I could just waltz back into an acting career after a hiatus of 30 years. I decided that I was too old for this kind of stress; that I was never going to stick my neck out like this again.
Then a friend shared this article.
It struck me forcefully. The reason I got back into acting in the first place was that several years ago, I had a life-threatening illness, followed by a (fortunately mistaken) diagnosis of a debilitating chronic disease. During the period when I was laid up, first expecting to die quickly and then imagining that I would merely deteriorate rapidly over the years, I thought hard about all of the roads I hadn't taken because of fear, laziness, or avoidance of trouble. I promised myself that if I got better I would take more risks, seek out opportunities to engage with life on a deeper and more authentic level.
And I did. I started taking singing classes again, then worked up to musical theater and improv classes. I decided that when Ben started college, I would start auditioning again, and though it took me a few months to get in gear, I did audition for and get a few small film and commercial parts. And now this.
I realized that even if the play was a disaster, what was most important was that we had tried, had given the best of ourselves to it. I would be deeply sorry if I screwed anyone else up, but for myself, the effort, risk and engagement themselves were what counted.
In the event, there were some first-night glitches, but our energy and focus were there, and the audience was enthusiastic. I'm looking forward to deepening my part over the next three weeks — and then, I hope, to moving on to the next scary adventure.