In June 2013, I auditioned for The Mousetrap at The Valentine Studio A Theatre. Not only would this mark my seventh show in a row, but it would also be my first "professional" theatre credit.
We rehearsed for over three months, sometimes 5 nights a week. For my role, I had to hone my dialect skills, learn fight choreography, brush up on British history, and prepare for some intense, emotional scenes.
As always, this show taught me a great deal about myself. Most importantly, I learned how to push WAY out of my comfort zone. Since I was a portraying a character with significant stage time and dialogue, I had to be extremely focused. It's not just about the lines, it's how you interact with those around you and the story you tell with your performance. I was lucky enough to work with an amazing theatre, talented actors, a demanding director (in the best sense of the word), and a well-organized stage manager who made this possible.
On a happy note, during the production, I learned that I was pregnant. Yes, I was performing, moving into a new house, kicking off a new school year (with my first intern), and carrying a tiny life. There were moments when I felt like I didn't have the energy to get out of bed and start another LONG day, especially since I temporarily lost my evenings and much of my weekends to rehearsals, performances, and putting together a new home. Somehow, though, I made it and now have a cool story to tell my little actor.
On a sad note, after our production closed, one of my friends died unexpectedly - someone who was close to many in our theatre community. I was lucky to have the support of fellow actors and crew members, but it didn't stop the grief from affecting me professionally. At work, I still taught my classroom lessons, ran my small groups, remained focused during individual sessions...I just found myself, when left to the quiet of my office, jumping from thought to thought, task to task. Minutes felt like hours. I came home with bottled up emotions that would fizz and bubble beneath the surface, just waiting for something small to jar my senses so they could explode.
Luckily, I have only known a few tragedies in my life that have occurred during a school year that have affected me this deeply. However, when it does happen, I forget how to function. Even when we don't have personal stress and grief, our work is emotionally and physically draining. How can we take care of ourselves while still being effective school counselors? Grief does not go away overnight, it's a process. We simply can't stay home and avoid our offices until the most intense feelings subside. So, how do we do it?
I'm still trying to answer this question...a question that, ironically, my character in The Mousetrap found herself struggling with as well. I suppose all we can do is breathe, listen to our hearts, and accept the love and support that is all around us. Then, we may just find the peace we need to make it through the worst moments.