‘Life is Distracting and Uncertain,’ She said and went to draw the curtain
A line from Edward Gorey’s story The Shrinking Treehorn.
Naturally, as I begin my journey online and at home to move my stories from my private world to the public world, life gets in the way. I remember this quote because I once was in a play titled “Gorey Stories” in my community college. It was a fascinating production for me especially since I was already a bit of a fan. I was cast for only a very small part, but for the purpose of experience, I attended every single rehearsal and the set design meetings as well. During one meeting, not too far from opening night, we were told one of the leads had a broken ankle and could not perform. I suspected she might have actually just dropped out because ours was such a small production and it was indeed a strange play. Whatever the reason, the director needed someone to stand in her place, and because I had been to every rehearsal and only had one or two lines of my own, I was given her part. I was already familiar with her lines, I simply needed to learn the blocking and of course all the other important pieces of being in a play. I was slightly intimidated by the rest of the cast who had much more experience than I did, and in fact, they weren’t all that friendly since I was clearly an outsider. But I did become friendly with a few wonderful people.
On opening night, as I was on stage behind the curtain, the director ran up to me and asked in a very panicked whisper “Is this really your first play? You’ve never performed live before?” I answered honestly and he seemed shocked and asked, “Are you nervous? Will you be ok?” I assured him I would be just fine, and I was. The curtain rose, and not a single person in the audience recognized me as a novice. I even got a mention in a local newspaper, but only for my one small role as the silent Osbick Bird, not as the lead. Our programs had never been updated to reflect all the parts I played, but it was fun getting a mention.
The cast thanked me, the director thanked me, but it was all short and sweet and the memory of that particular play faded from people’s mind rather quickly. I’m sure the other actors all moved on to bigger and better things with bigger and better audiences. I, however, was simply proud of myself for helping out in a pinch, and not failing miserably like so many thought I would. Years later, it dawned on me that my enthusiasm and dedication was there because I was so willing to help others. Sure, I loved the idea of playing a lead role, and being on stage, and who doesn’t love the instant gratification of applause? I thought of maybe one day doing more, but the motivation was not genuine. My motivation at the time was curiosity and helping other’s with their goals, and of course the idea of storytelling and collaboration. Personal ambition was lacking and without someone in need of an extra person on stage or behind the scenes, I slowly slipped out of the Theater Program.
This may be the hardest part of my current project and goals. They are not for anyone but myself. And since no one really needs my stories, since no one really cares about them, it is why I have not shared them or edited them or perfected them for years. I can have my stories with or without sharing or publication. So when life gets in the way, I tend to let it. Apparently, I need to be a crew member, or have a combined goal, or find worth in my work via someone else’s ambition. Working alone seems, well, selfish. That’s a writer’s life I suppose and one I will need to get used to. But I do not plan on drawing the curtain just yet. I’ve shown up this much so far, I’ve learned most of the lines, so I think I just may be able to play the part, even if it is a one-man show.