Since I was a young girl, I have sought escape from the world through Theatre. Whenever reality becomes overwhelmingly painful, Theatre creates a space for my imagination to journey.
I first experienced new realms of theatrical escape at age three, when my family visited Disney World. The singing, dancing, and costumed characters completely mesmerized me. Through all of elementary school, I cycled through obsessions with various Disney princesses. My parents videotaped me pretending to be Belle, reading to goats, dancing with pots, and throwing balled-up paper snowballs at an imaginary “Beast.” Soon, I grabbed my stuffed Flounder, put on a bathing suit, and transformed into the beautiful mermaid who desperately wanted to be human. My dad took part, holding a golden dinner fork, playing King Triton. When I changed into Jasmine’s sparkling, Arabian costume, I sat by the window, longing to be free. My mom made a magic carpet for me, and it took a lot of candy to convince my older brother to sing the part of Aladdin. Acting came naturally. I had found my niche.
In my first experience performing on an actual stage, I played Jonah in a church play. While fun, such biblical reenactments did not teach me what it meant to be an actress. That was a lesson waiting for me in middle school. I realized then that the only way to marry Brad Pitt was to play his love interest in a movie. I took lessons in acting and voice, and in the eighth grade I was cast in a two-person play that toured local middle schools. After my drama teacher handed me the Drama Award at graduation, I began to believe in myself and in this magical medium, through which I could express untapped parts of my personality.
High school theatre demanded more of my time and energy. I experienced Theatre’s full splendor. I spoke in Shakespearian English. I played a man. I died on stage. Then, at the beginning of my senior year, having performed in six high school plays, I had one last chance at stardom. A tough audition and twenty four hours later, I read the posted cast list. My eyes bugged out to see that I had landed a lead role—my first!—in the Insanity of Mary Girard. I had come so far from my Disney princess stage. Now it was eighteenth-century England, and my husband had paid an insane asylum imprison me until death: I, Mary Girard, a sane, pregnant, intelligent woman, victimized by a cruel spouse and a sexist society. Trembling on a black chair in the final scene, a single red light shining on me, I slipped slowly into madness. It is a moment I will never forget.
In each of my roles, I experienced the thrill of being in different worlds, as different characters with different dreams, clothes, diction, and, destinies. I believe in the power of Theatre as a Never, Neverland, waiting to usher me away to escape the realities of my life.
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