A promo picture of my co-star and me, for our current Fringe show.
I was sitting at cafe by myself last week, when Lauren published her latest blog (which you should totally read, if you haven’t already). And, per usual, it was amazing and I envied everything about her: the writing style, the confidence, but most obvious, her general Lauren Anderson-ness. What I wasn’t expecting, though, was to be envious of what happened to her in the post.
No, it’s not that I want a random stranger that I’m buying salsa from to call me a b!tch in front of my mother at a farmer’s market. What I was jealous of, specifically, that she was given an opportunity to stand up for herself, and when the opportunity presented itself, she spoke out against this misogynist, privileged pig. It made me wonder, if something like this were to happen to me, how I would react.
And this Saturday, I found out. Sort of.
You know, usually I don’t like when you ask someone how they are doing, and their response is, “I’m busy.” Because busy is not an emotion, it’s a preoccupation. But let me just say, for the past month, if you would have asked me that very question, I would have said, “I’m bu—” before I run away because my anxiety forced me to remember everything that I have going on in my life.
One of the biggest projects that has been a focus this summer, has been the show I’m writing and acting in for the Minnesota Fringe Festival. (Shameless plug, it’s still happening this week if you want to see it). But it wasn’t until we showed up to our only tech rehearsal, that a sobering fact sunk in: I hadn’t memorized anything this substantial since high school. Except I was never cast a lead in a play, so this show is probably the longest piece of memorization that I’ve had to do my entire life.
Then, I reflected on all of the brain cells that I have killed in the past years. Wishing that I could grab onto them again. But they were like a balloon already in the clouds — long gone.
So let’s just say, the days between our tech rehearsal and our opening night, during every given waking hour, I would be that kid, talking to himself incessantly, even in public. But that’s what cell phones are for, right? To give the illusion that you’re probably talking to someone.
Before I knew it, it was Saturday night, and all I could imagine was standing on that stage, with my mind completely blank. And to be honest, it did happen a couple of times. But it wasn’t too bad. Except for those few seconds that seem to prove the existence of black holes, where time and space stretch onto infinity.
It wasn’t until our show was almost over, however, that I had my moment.
I was in the middle of my last story, where I am talking about all of the things I’ve learned from being a drag queen, when I heard something in the back of the audience. Our show was at Huge Theater, so at first, I just wrote it off as someone ordering a drink. But, the constant murmur would not stop.
And at first, my brain started to get the best of me. This guy was probably talking about how boring my story was, or worse, how terrible this whole show is. What if he’s talking about leaving before we are done? Other people were turning to look at him. Maybe they agreed. Maybe all of this was such a terrible self-indulgent piece of art, and I just didn’t realize, because I wrote it.
And his quiet but constant whisper was the same quality and timbre of the voice inside my head. The same one that was worried about forgetting all my words. You know this voice. It’s the one that tells you to slow down in the middle of a run. Because you aren’t that fast. It’s the one that tells you that you probably can’t lift that heavy. Because you aren’t that strong. It’s the one that says you will never be the worth that you already are.
Which is when it happened.
In the middle of my story, I broke and just said, Whoever is talking in the back. Can you stop? It’s really distracting. And I thought that I had won, because he stopped for a second. Until I kept telling my story, and he picked right back up, as did the insecurities in my head. At which point, I just had to stop and say, Will you please shut up?
Which is when everything went quiet, including inside of myself. I had spoken up, and told someone that they do not get to talk over me. Not now, not while I’m telling my story. And actually, not ever.
Maybe I was inspired by Lauren. Maybe I was inspired by Maxine Waters. But either way, I was reclaiming my time, and reclaiming my voice.
Which is why, when the bartender escorted said voice out of the room, I made everyone applaud. Not for me. Not even for my performance, necessarily. But because, for the first time, that voice was nowhere to be heard. And I was able to finish the show, as confident as I’ve ever been.
So when I bowed with my co-star, I felt such an immense sense of accomplishment. And when we gestured our hand to the tech booth, I was giving credit to our technician for a job well done. But, also, I was showing that insecurity the door. They are not welcome here, not anymore.