I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to play the lead role in a musical called Hats. The experience began with a phone call from my brother-in-law Jesse asking me if I would be interested in “doing a show.”
I have mentioned a few times over the years that if a show came along that had something I could audition for, to let me know. In my mind that meant something in the chorus or a minor walk on part. I have some experience with community theater projects and entertaining in general, but the thought of a major role on a “real” stage never entered my mind.
Of course I said yes to the show, but still assumed it would be a minor role. A few days prior to the first rehearsal Jesse revealed the role I would be playing. She is a woman about to turn 50 and the setting is a surprise birthday party thrown by her mother and some older friends. The character, Maryanne, is not happy about the age or the party and certainly not interested in joining her mother’s friends in becoming a “Red Hatter.’
I was still oblivious to the situation until I began to read the script, learn the songs and saw the show programme as I was proofing my bio. I noticed “starring Cheryl Hunter as Maryanne…” I asked about it and Jesse looked at me kind of funny, then explained that yes, Maryanne is the main character.
Now I was nervous. Not only was I stepping far out of my comfort zone doing a musical on a big stage, but I had a major role. Add to that the fact that Jesse is the producer and his dime is on the line and I was feeling a little pressure. Once rehearsals began and I fell into a routine of practicing at home and staying very focused at rehearsal, I became more confident.
The most interesting thing about the experience up to that point was how the show and all that went with it seemed to parallel my life. The character talks about wanting to be a writer but getting side tracked with life (kids and a job), feeling invisible as she ages, plus fear of all the physical changes and a general foreboding of middle age.
All of the things the character goes through are the very things I have been experiencing over the past couple years. Now, I realize that the reason the play was written was to celebrate this time in every woman’s life and to share some recognition of the fears. But each member of the cast seemed to be living the life of the character she was playing in one way or another. It was emotional and freeing all at once.
Another thing about my character that made the experience so interesting was her raunchy humor, wit and sarcasm. While I tend to suppress much of my vulgar side to most who know me, my family must endure the real me all the time. The role allowed me to truly be me. It was amazing.
Finally, the story itself was a lesson for me. The last line I said at the very end of the show prior to the final two musical numbers was “Write your story, even if it’s just for you.” This is poignant because whether writing, painting, creating music, singing or playing my bass I have complained to my husband and family that I am not inspired to do it for myself. I believe my creativity is not worthwhile unless it is shared. Those closest to me continue to remind me that inspiration comes from my need to turn inward, to commune with Spirit and refresh my joy energy. I should create from that place of joy regardless of when, if or who the result is shared.
So at 53 years old I am embracing the second half of my life still learning. In my head I still feel 30, in my heart I feel like a child and my eyes see the gentle signs of aging. I am beginning to see those signs as beautiful markers of each year on this planet. My mind is still an infant, soaking up everything that stimulates learning, this will continue until my final day of this life. Every moment is to be treasured regardless of pain, joy or circumstance. Life is for living, Love is for giving. I am alive and I love it!