“Oh my gosh, you’re so brave!”
I was told that more than once last night. Why? Because I stood on stage (in front of an audience – gasp) for Mason’s 15th annual production of The Vagina Monologues. This landmark play by Eve Ensler runs on stages all over the country and world during the V-Day movement – a campaign to stop violence against women and girls. Mason’s WAVES Office (Wellness, Alcohol, and Violence Education Services) sponsors the production every year to raise awareness and money for Mason’s Victims of Violence Fund.
So, yes. I totally understand why my friends and colleagues and several of the students I advise may think it was brave of me to be on stage. Especially given the subject matter. But I have a few thoughts about what I see as brave.
Over these past couple of months, and mainly this last ‘hell week’ of daily four-hour rehearsals, I’ve enjoyed the company of an amazing group of students. Clearly kindred spirits for their love of performing, they are, by no means, a homogenous group of Theater majors. There are, of course, some majors in the group. Some, like Becca, who chose not only Mason, but our School of Theater, with the defined purpose of obtaining a degree SPECIFICALLY for what feeds her soul. As a former liberal arts major myself, and in the context of today’s economy and the push to teach students an easily-definable, marketable skill, I applaud not only Becca, but Nerissa, Kathleen, Elaina, Madison, Chelsea and Lorena who bravely chose to pursue a broader-focused degree for something they truly love. A degree with a wide range of interpretation and application in ‘real life.’
There are even two freshmen in the cast. Freshmen. That means they’ve only even been in college for 6 months, and yet there they stood on stage with the more seasoned juniors and seniors. Kira, who astonished us all with her brave interpretation of her long monologue. And Juliet. Juliet came to Mason as “Undecided” – the most popular major of them all. One simple audition early in her freshman year reminded her of how much she enjoys being on stage. And she declared Theater as her major that very semester. That’s pretty brave.
Ashley majors in Environmental Science. I don’t know that she or Jen, who majors in Managerial Economics, or Efie (Global Affairs) have ever found themselves on a stage before. And yet they threw caution to the wind, fears of embarrassment aside, and stepped out onto that stage last night too. I’d call that brave.
And maybe bravest of us all is our director, Kim. She had the courage to take on not only the creation of this production but of the cast itself. Together with Bree, her stage manager extraordinaire, she set auditions, determined the set, orchestrated the colors and sequence of the lights, chose the music, structured our rehearsals…all of it. To willingly, eagerly, enthusiastically take on something like this? The ultimate group project over which you as an individual have not only an inherently important role but also frustratingly limited control. Brave.
Truly the part of acting that requires the most courage is the audition, not the performance. The putting yourself out there for critique. The leap of faith that you’ll say the right thing, move the right way and make the cue you’re expected to. The willingness to be told that you’re not right for the part. Sort of like applying to college. Let’s be honest, that’s a time that also requires a bit of bravery. The accepting of an offer is the easy part. Once you’re cast in a role, it’s yours. Once that big envelope comes, you can take that deep breath.
So, to the majors and non-majors. To the young women who possibly never guessed that they would step, or even leap, outside their comfort zones so dramatically (ha) in their college careers. To the soon-to-be-graduating seniors who will be steeling themselves to the ‘real world’ outside the tree-lined sidewalks of campus: You are brave.
If I am also brave, I’m in excellent company.