Once upon a time, I was an actress.
There’s like a mountain of backstory involving my ten-year theatrical career that I will definitely write about at some point in my life but let’s just sum it up for right now with that one sentence.
One day I get a call from a guy I know that runs a company that was putting on a series of short plays, and he and one of the directors were looking for someone to play a role in one of them, and they thought I would be perfect. This was the first time I had actually been called and asked to play a part without an audition or anything so I felt like hot shit for about ten minutes and then started panicking because the show was in less than two weeks. I don’t remember how many pages it was, but I do remember staying up late reading it over and over and over every night for a week. It wasn’t a difficult part, but for me acting was never that hard, honestly. I was a pro at make-believe as a child, and I have no problem slipping into another character. Also, they wanted me to play God.
Literal God, as in Lord and Savior. A God who was female, and progressive, and schooling a Christian on evolution vs. intelligent design. At the time, I was a liberal, feminist stage manager, so it wasn’t that far of a stretch for me to play a broadminded creator of the universe.
Anyway, I learned the lines and did the part and got the applause. I did it in about a week. It was stressful, but I went at it like a beast and accomplished the goal.
So why, a decade later, and I freaking out right now?
I wrote this poem called Halloween that you can find here. It was the first poem I had published since I was a teenager, and I went and entered it in a Halloween poem contest at my local book store on a whim because the prize was Stephen King books, and I love adding to that branch of my library. Then after I did that, I read a little more accurately and found that the prize is also an open mic slot. Which means that I have to come up with material to possibly read in front of a crowd. Now, as stated by my God story, it isn’t so much the audience or the performance aspect that bothers me. It’s the choosing of the poems, which is a direct reflection on myself as a writer, and the mingling with the people, which I was pretty good at back in my theater days but not so much anymore.
First there’s the poems. I have a very love/hate relationship with my work. The ones I don’t like are always the ones others like and the ones I love are never picked up by anybody. I don’t want to get up there and go on about a bunch of stuff I care about but no one else understands, but I also don’t want to read stuff that I think sucks just so others applaud.
Then, there’s the mingling. I went to this poetry group last month with Beth and I was not too nervous to read but as soon as it was over and people started talking, I clammed right up and needed some air. I used to OWN rooms like that! I think back to my first experience in theater when I was sixteen and joined a youth troupe that met on Tuesday nights. I was scared that first time, but I made myself go back. But there was Rose, you see. Rose was this woman that ran the group, and she made me feel so welcome, instantly. I knew I belonged there, so making myself go back was easier. I don’t know if I belong in this group. I want to, as it is right near my house and I have been desperately wanting to connect with other writers outside of the Twitterverse. But I have to push myself to go, solo this time.
I also think it’s a costume party, which I hate because you never know who’s really going to wear a costume. I usually wear black so I’ll just go with that and hide a witch hat in my purse in case of emergencies, I think.
Oh, and this is tomorrow. I don’t have two weeks to prepare like when I played God, I’ve only got a few hours and I still don’t know what poems I’m reading. What am I doing blogging? I have to go figure this out.