The darkness surrounds me, focusing my racing mind onto the rectangle of light in front of me. I pull at my clothes, the newness of them making them uncomfortable as if they are not wholly mine. I jiggle on the spot, then still as the stage manager smiles at me, giving me a thumbs up. I feel the blood drain from my face but no one will see with the thick layer of make-up caked upon my skin.
The tray in my hand feels cold yet comforting from the long hours of rehearsal with it. I move through the surreal darkness a landscape of angle, joints, sandbag and pieces of set. I stand at the door with its list of entrances and exits. A stagehand, face in the velvet darkness, waits listening intently to his headset for the whispered cue.
I can’t remember my lines! Coldness sweeps through my body, I begin to sweat, my stomach knots and I can feel bile rising in my throat. I think I am going to faint or vomit or maybe even both!
I close my eyes and concentrate on my breathing, I imagine myself standing in a cool soothing forest. The birds chirp and the cool breeze blows away the nerves. I draw my character to me and wrap it around me like a cloak. Taking on his manner and bearing, feeling the costume become his clothes. His word, my lines, drift through my head and out of my mouth soundlessly, the rhythm and taste familiar as my own words.
Suddenly I am plunged back into the dark, the sound of thunder disorientating me. It is the audience applauding and the stagehand is cueing my entrance.
The sound effect of a door knock echoes in the confined space. I grind my fear down into a small lump and step through the door in the blinding light.