I sit in the dark room, excitement coursing through my fingertips and down to my toes feeling the tension of collectively bated breath around me as each and every person waits for the lights to come up on the small black stage. In that tiny moment, I glance at my five companions: three of my fellow actors from the Imaginists Theatre Collective teen ensemble and our mentors, Amy Pinto and Brent Lindsay. The lights come up, and we are transported through time into the New York Footlight’s Club.
That was two years ago in a black box theatre at the Santa Rosa High School Artquest production of Stage Door. I had been a member of the I.T.C for a year, and we were currently working on an original adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. We were scheduled for five performances at our local Healdsburg theatre, the Raven Performing Arts Center, ticket envelopes were passed out, and we still had a month to go. Everything seemed to be on track, until Amy and Brent sat all twenty of us down for a discussion. We were told that finances, due to our non-profit status, were incredibly low, so low that Alice could be the final show of the I.T.C. I was terrified and completely outraged at the possibility of the destruction of this organization I so loved. It seemed to me that our dedication, hard work, and love should have been enough to keep it alive, but theatre needs support, and ours had not been enough. I wondered how Amy and Brent, or any of us actors, could still believe so fully in this art even when our work threatened to just disappear.
This predicament and our desire for hope is what brought us to Stage Door, a play about a group of struggling actors in New York and the main character, Terry’s, desire to stay true to theatre, her calling. The play moves forward to reveal Terry without work and struggling to live. Despite this, she turns down an offer from Hollywood saying, “The theatre beats me, it starves me, it forsakes me, but I love it.” I realized this was what Amy and Brent, and I too, believed. We would go on because we felt we had to, because we wanted to bring people together to experience other worlds (as we were), to present theatre as reality, as life, in a way that would inspire our audiences and each other to look at life in a new way, upholding the truth at all costs. I forged ahead into Alice with these words in mind, knowing that theatre was what I believed in, and I had to fight for it.
It’s been a year, and I still hear those words in my head when I need a reminder about what’s important. When I doubt myself and my acting, and I feel as if I can’t stop falling, Terry’s words provide me a floor to stand on.
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