I've had a constant eye twitch for the last three weeks.
I've been at rehearsal every night this week till 11:00, which, for someone whose idea of a long night is tucking into her Snuggie for back-to-back tv viewing of Sons of Anarchy and Mad Men, has been exhausting. Muscles hurt that I didn't even remember I had.
I wake up humming numbers from the show, which have been looping through my dreams all night. (And speaking of dreams, I had one that Justin Timberlake accidentally ripped my costume during my opening number, but was kind enough to repair it backstage with his sewing machine. Which he evidently travels with.)
I had false eyelash glue stuck on my eyelid for most of yesterday.
I haven't had a conversation with my husband in well over a week that's lasted longer than 15 minutes, at which point, my head drops to my chest in a puddle of drool.
But. Tonight is opening night. And that, my friends, is the big payoff for all of the madness that precedes it.
It's been an adjustment getting my theatre groove back. At one time in my life, it was all I knew, both for amusement and social purposes. I knew every word to A Chorus Line and Les Mis. Life was divided into pre-show and post-show chunks of time, and I had a vast collection of tights, leg warmers, and detritus from previous productions: gloves full of confetti, a giant lollipop stapled to my wall, and dozens of programs signed by fellow castmembers, pledging eternal fanhood and friendship.
Then came life, and my children, more precious treasures than the Oscar or Tony award I had dreamed of clinching for years. I hung up my character shoes ('hanging them up' is just a figure of speech--I think I lent them out. If you have them, I could really use them back) put away my Stein's pancake sticks, and filed away the books of sheet music and boxes of cassettes. (Yes, cassettes. Shut up.)
It had been awhile since I dreamed of the big time, and I was very happy performing in community theatre productions. It always felt like home to me: the smell of Aqua Net and musty costumes, fresh paint on sets, the tape spikes on the stage for positioning, opening night jitters and closing night tears and champagne. Friendships grew over long breaks between scenes during Hell Week, and there was cattiness and diva behavior, but always there was common ground, and a love for performing.
I missed it. I missed the applause, the costumes, the makeup, the cameraderie, and the part of myself that thrived on all that wasn't dead, but was hibernating like a bear after Thanksgiving dinner. So last spring, I cowboyed up and went for an audition.
And five months later, almost to the day, I'm sitting here on the morning of opening night, with the beginnings of a few jitters (could be coffee, could be jitters. Either way, the false eyelashes should wait until my hands are steady). We ran through the whole show last night for the first time. Watching the scenes I'm not in was such a thrill: the huge sets are truly magical, the spotlights hit their marks, and sitting in the audience just behind the live orchestra, seeing it the way as many as 900 people will see it tonight, gave me chills and left me a little verklempt. There are some astoundingly talented people on that stage, and I'm proud and humbled to work alongside them.
But the biggest thrill of all? How excited my children are for me. They've been singing along with me for months, and now they know the whole show by heart. (Apologies to my fellow castmembers if you hear two young children singing along with you. They know better, but you must admit: the music is tres catchy, non?) My husband has been wonderfully patient and supportive of the long nights of rehearsal for the past few months, (even if he did watch Sons of Anarchy without me this week) and the first thing Sassy said when she woke up this morning was: "Mommy! It's here! It's opening night! I can't wait to see you on stage!"
I've heard it said that you can't go home again, but you can find a new house, and bring some of your old furnishings with you. There are features about the new house you'll love, and there are things you'll miss like crazy about the old house, so they'll just have to live on in your memory and a few snapshots. But at some point, the new house is decorated, your pictures are up and there are lightbulbs in every socket, the kitchen stuff is put away and you've found a home for all those random boxes that you packed haphazardly just before you moved. And one day you unlock the door and walk in, take a look around at everything you've created, everything where it should be, and it hits you.
You are home.