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BWW Blog: Waiting in the Wings

How Stage Fright Taught Me Civic Responsibility

BWW Blog: Waiting in the Wings

Every single blog post idea I had saved in my Notes app doesn't suffice at a time like this. In fact, I put off writing until the last possible moment. Anything I have to say about movie musicals or student life or the Tony Awards (did we just forget about them?) pales in comparison to the state of our nation. Every waking moment since last Wednesday, I am consumed with an overwhelming anxiety about our country. I could not stand by and watch as we fell to shambles, but as a college student in rural Pennsylvania during a deadly pandemic, there is only so much you can do.

I felt that I had only one option: to make some calls and make my voice heard. I've never been an incredibly outgoing person. In fact, I frequently score somewhere around 90% introverted on personality tests. I'm a writer and an artist- somebody whose motto is "I'm better on paper than in person." And yet, when my junior year of high school rolled around, I auditioned for a supporting role in the musical.

It's important for me to emphasize the fact that this was, perhaps, the most safe space I could have possibly been given in which I could break out of my shell. I was close (and remain close) with our teacher/director. I was surrounded by all of my closest friends, and it wasn't my first time at the school musical rodeo-for the four years before my first venture onstage, I was in charge of hair and makeup.

I don't have to go into the play-by-play of how I managed my scenes as Gloria Upson in Mame-and I'm not going to. Suffice to say, I did my job, and I like to think I did it well. I auditioned for a (supporting) role the next year in The Sound of Music, and even though I was now incredibly familiar with all of the inherent feelings of performing, I found myself once again barely able to hold my hands steady as I delivered my lines. It's not a choice; it's an inherent nervousness within myself-the same anxiety that rears its ugly head when I have to make a phone call or go to office hours.

This would be a really terrible story if it didn't come with a lesson. The truth is, I'm still working on myself and my worries, and I don't think I'll ever get to the point where I won't be just a tiny bit nervous before having to perform-whether it be in a play or in everyday life. But, the coping skills which I have learned come in handy.

So, after the horrific scene in Washington, D.C. that we all watched on our televisions and phones last week-a scene after which 147 lawmakers (including my own representative) still officially objected to the certification of the 2020 election in some fashion, feeding into the beliefs of those that stormed the nation's capitol-I made a promise to myself. I was going to call.

I was going to get over myself, pick up the phone, and call the offices of my three congressional representatives to express my concerns and anger and sadness. Once again, I was filled with that shaky-sick feeling that so often consumed me as I stood stage left, waiting for my cue. This time, however, I knew that I could ignore it. I knew that it would not last; that the second I finished my performance, I would feel proud and satisfied.

In the end, it only took three minutes. Three minutes for three phone calls. Making your voice heard is simultaneously the easiest and hardest thing you can do as a citizen in a democracy-and all it took was some lessons I learned in my character shoes.

To quote Alexander Hamilton-this is still a BroadwayWorld blog, after all -"those who stand for nothing fall for anything." If you're upset, if you're frustrated, if you're watching Twitter and TV with a sense of impending doom, stand for something.

Pick up your phone. Find a tool to help you; a site like 5calls.org provides phone numbers and issue-based scripts. Curtains up. Get to work.


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From This Author Student Blogger: Sydney Emerson