The knee-jerk response puzzled me. I’ve spent my professional life on one “stage” or another. As a lawyer, I argue in courtrooms. I’ve given presentations at conferences before ballrooms filled with people. I’ve taught paralegals and business students at two colleges and taught public speaking to high school students. I had even survived several Dallas Comedy House (DCH) Jams. Surely my Level 1 Showcase would be a piece of proverbial cake.
Yet, it wasn’t. This was different. As the day approached, I swung between anticipation and dread. Who the hell knew what would happen on that stage with no notes, no script, and no safety net but my classmates?
We had a prime timeslot: 7:30 on Saturday night. The house would be full. Friends, family, and strangers would be expecting us to entertain them. It felt like a huge responsibility. Sitting In the green room on Commerce Street, I began to wonder what I was doing there. The words of our teacher, Sarah, kept bouncing around my head. “These are your friends and family. They love you and want you to do well. This is the best audience you can hope for.” When my classmates and I patted each other’s shoulders with an enthusiastic “Got your back,” I knew it was true.
The time had arrived. Sarah bounded up on stage and started her introduction. We lined up behind the curtain. My heart was in my throat. I was at the head of the line, Mike Asquini right behind me. Mike squeezed my hand. He’s a rock. I could feel him smiling in the dark. Then I climbed the step stool and waited for our cue. I could have been on the edge of a bungee platform or bracing myself in the doorway of a skydiving plane.
“Welcome to the stage, Satan’s Hospital!”
It is true that the butterflies quiet down once you’re out there. One tends to forget that there are actually people sitting in those chairs just beyond the edge of the stage. Then they laugh, our adrenaline surges, and our souls are fed, but we want more. Being out there with my friends, people who had taken that first step with me two months before, I felt like an eight-year-old playing dress up. We did not want to leave the stage.
P.S. Hanging out before our Level 2 Showcase, I was again on edge. When David Allison, our teacher, asked if anyone was nervous, I raised my hand. David immediately appointed me to take the one-word suggestion. He said (and I paraphrase), “You’ll thank me when your butterflies disappear while your classmates are still hugging the wall.”
He was right, of course.
Next up: The Passion of Sarah
Carron Armstrong is currently in Level 3 and has been obsessed with improv and DCH ever since she discovered that someone can actually take classes to learn this stuff. She is currently negotiating to purchase the naming rights for the brand new stairs added to ease access to the stages of DCH’s Main Street theaters (Thank you, Amanda and Kyle). During the day, she’s a lawyer.