The first time I was told that I needed to kiss someone on stage, I was mortified. In my last year of high school, I felt as though I had not had enough preparation, enough experience, in order to incorporate that kind of thing into my acting. It was high school and anything vaguely risqué was met with titters from cast members, and stage kisses were accompanied by exaggerated “ooohs” from snickering students. A stage kiss was a mark of Real Theatre™, and I agonized over it for a month.
Two years later, in college theatre, I was asked to kiss a girl for the first time. That, too, seemed new and scary. It was, until I realized I had been taking my heterosexuality too seriously and that kissing a girl is literally no different from kissing a boy.
Two years after that, I find myself in a play which features a thoroughly bizarre, stylistic, uncomfortable sequence we’ve dubbed the “sex ballet.” There’s a line in the play which states: “We all must get uncomfortable now. It’s our civic duty.” While this is an apt description for the play—our intent for the audience and our experience as actors—I think it’s also an apt description of theatre in general.
The blessing (or curse) of the Timehop app has allowed me to trace my development through my high school years, which were characterized by vague Facebook statuses and encouraging comments by theatre directors, saying, “This is just one step toward getting you out of your comfort zone!” “We’re going to bring out the sassiness inside of that shell!” “This is the perfect opportunity to break out of that ‘quiet girl’ persona!”
And while I can neither confirm nor deny that I’ve unearthed the fabled sassiness or discovered the secrets of a “loud girl” persona, I find personal pleasure in juxtaposing those comments with some from a year later: “Look at how far you’ve come.”
I like that phrase. “Look at how far you’ve come.” It helps to look back once in a while and observe the impressions of your footprints in the earth. Until you do, it’s easy to forget exactly where you started.
Now, for a brief moment, I want to thank theatre for giving me footprints so huge I can see them for miles. I want to thank theatre for the little impressions it’s made in my life, the way it has stretched me and molded me and forced me into the sunlight outside of the comfort zones I’d established for myself. While I will likely (hopefully?) never experience anything entitled “sex ballet” in my actual life, I will experience again the opportunity to say yes, to try new things, to set aside my apprehensions and embarrassment and self-consciousness and actually engage in the act of living without reservations.
It has helped me differentiate between what I consider my limits and what I now recognize as walls I’ve put up—the walls, fortunately, can be broken down.
Thank you, theatre, for helping me break down those walls. Thank you for teaching me to love and explore my creativity, my fears, my body, my mind, myself. Thank you for giving me the opportunities to develop as an artist and as a person, and thank you for giving me the tools with which to trace those identities.
Getting out of your comfort zone is scary—often utterly terrifying—but, in my experience, it’s so worth it.