I am playing Dorothy in my school’s production of The Wizard of Oz, and I could not be more thrilled. Thursday’s opening performance goes well and runs relatively smoothly.
After a few bumps the first night (an hourglass breaking on stage, tech issues, etc.) we thought that the next two nights would be smooth sailing. Think again.
My school doesn’t spend an overwhelming amount of time or money on our winter musical. With only two months to prepare, we do work tirelessly to make the show as successful as possible. All of the hard work and dedication leads up to a measly three performances, but most would say that it’s worth it.
Not to toot my own horn, but it was sort of a big deal being cast as Dorothy, the lead, as only a junior. Generally the lead is reserved for seniors.
Naturally, I was excited, proud, and motivated to prove myself deserving. I memorized all my lines early, stayed late to rehearse choreography, and sang “Over the Rainbow” more times than I could possibly count. My peers and I practiced until it was near perfect.
I think tonight’s performance will be the best one yet. I wake up, and I feel…off. I can’t put my finger on it, but something just doesn’t seem right.
Still, I convince myself that it’s the excitement from last night’s opening performance, get in my car, and drive to school.
First period: Acting. I get into class, sit down, and my head feels like a hammer is being thrashed into it with the force of gravity and Hulk combined.
I start to feel a little woozy, so I make my way to the nurse’s office. After 10 minutes of lying down there, I realize I’m going to be sick.
On the night of the second of three performances, I had a stomach bug.
I went home, vomited more times than I could count, and sobbed on the floor of my bathroom until I couldn’t speak.
How could this happen to me?
On my big night, on the night of all nights, I doubt my ability to perform.
We call doctors and nurses and somehow get some sort of intense medication to stop the nausea. By this time, it’s only a few hours before the curtain opens. I rest.
I never really understood the phrase “the show must go on.”
Now, it could not be more ingrained my mind.
Sure, I was sick, but there was no chance I was throwing away two months of hard labor not to reap the rewards for my work.
Armed with garbage cans on stage right and stage left, and my escape line in case I was sick: “Whoops, I forgot Toto’s bone! I’ll be right back!” I felt somewhat comfortable stepping onto the stage.
Somehow, I made it through.
Despite the urge to run off stage at several points in the show, I stayed on the whole time with a big ole’ Dorothy smile, too.
I guess the point is: you can plan, and plan, and plan some more, but things can always go wrong.
What’s important is how you deal with those variables, and how you overcome them.
I learned that lesson in the truest of ways. I hope that someone else realizes that, even though things really stink sometimes, only you are in charge of making them better.
Rachel DeChiara, 17, attends Newark Academy and is a member of Nu’s teen board.