This year at the One Act Play Regional Competition, we didn’t fare as well as we did last year.
Actually, we did pretty badly: 5th out of 6 schools competing. I remember telling myself early that morning before I cranked the bus to pick up the shivering actors: simply taking the kids out to compete is important, let everything else go.
Hours later, we huddled together in a dressing room and went through some breathing exercises. We lost three of our seniors last year and for 75% of the cast, this was their first time on stage – they were nervous. As we exhaled, I heard one of the girls say that she was trying to breathe all of the butterflies out.
No! I told her, Leave them in. Those butterflies tell us we’re doing something new, that we’re taking a risk. We’ve decided to do something together few people have the courage to do – we’re telling a story from inside of us to people we’ve never met. Leave the butterflies in – you’ll never forget the feeling you feel right now.
There is something to be said for excellence, for being perfect and understanding the reward of discipline. That’s a good lesson I hope to teach these students – but we can’t teach that lesson every time. I think each situation unfolds an opportunity to show them something different. This time it was about the importance of initial risk, of taking a step forward, of beginning, of walking out underneath the lights and telling our story to an auditorium full of strangers.
I think Carol Muske-Dukes describes this risk perfectly in her poem, Ovation:
Now I think I feel the heat you
must have felt rising from the front rows.A gaping fire door, a furnace:your single body standing herewith no shadow, swinging on itself.
Had you been a fool, you might have thoughtthat they loved you. They never love you,you said. They are hungry for the godin his gold eclipse, the pure you on fire.
We might swing another run to state someday, but we learned the importance of taking a first step this year.
I’ll take that.