It was the strangest thing of my life. My stomach wasn’t filled with butterflies; it was a lead ball. My hands weren’t sweaty or clammy; they were buzzing with pointless activity. My feet weren’t frozen in fear; they were causing me to pace incessantly.
What the heck was this? Believe me when I say I wasn’t the type of person to get nervous. Public speaking which caused many a person to freeze in fear had nothing on me. Stage fright? I’d been performing for seven years and never known what it feels like. But stepping back and watching my own vision become reality in front of hundreds of my peers? Now that was frightening.
Unlike acting, directing was completely new to me. “Uncharted territory from whose bourn no traveler returns.” Well maybe that’s getting a bit dramatic, but as much as Hamlet pondered suicide, I questioned what I was afraid of.
Essentially it wasn’t that I was feeling vulnerable. Acting had already taught me that it was impossible to give a grade-A performance without showing a part of your true self. It wasn’t that I was afraid of criticism. In fact I welcomed people’s opinions so I could learn and do an even better job next time. SO what in the world was the reason behind the fear that caused insatiable and unwelcome adrenaline to course through my heart?
As I was making my rounds around the theatre one last time, checking set pieces and assuring actors, it hit me. Once places was called and the lights went down, a ball would start rolling that I was powerless to stop. The show would begin and there would be no more for me to do. No reading out a forgotten line, no running onstage to replace a prop and no stopping the scene to give further direction. They were on their own and so was I.
I imagine it was like watching a child leave to begin their next chapter in life. I’d prepared them as best I could and now it was up to them. Any problem they faced or occlusion they came across, they would have to overcome by themselves without any interference from me. My heart ached from them to succeed to the point of tears, and I would have given anything for them to know it. I had given them my all and now, as the curtain rose, I could give no more.
That night, they blew me away. It was a stunning performance by all and I couldn’t have been more proud. They deserved every moment of applause the received and then some. We’d all come a long way and despite any hardship we came across, it was worth it. We prepared, rehearsed and gave it our all until there was nothing left to do but sit back and enjoy the show.
Directing was hard. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And the anxiety beforehand was intense and almost crippling. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.