The soft swoosh of the curtain across an empty stage is full of whispered goodbyes and the echoes of applause. Every year, every production, I am filled with nostalgia whilst pulling that curtain closed for the final time after the props are stacked, the costumes hung, and the doors locked.
The feeling has changed over the years. When I was the one on stage, sweating under the lights and the wages of teenage fears, I would always feel joy at the end of a season, excitement for the next year, the next play. I had my One-Act family, friends who brought me out of my shyness in ridiculous ways. A light switch being pressed against my back, a precious bottle opener, an intermingling of sweaty eighth grade hands center stage, a shared root beer, a hollowed fridge, Carlsbad Caverns, black skinny jeans, bowls of spaghetti, shutting and barring the door, a denim jacket, fragments of poetry, a hospital bed, conversations whispered in the back about strawberry shortcake, mason jars, Fall Out Boy and what it means to be sixteen.
And I never thought that One-Act Play could ever mean more to me.
I thought I had gotten enough, more than anyone should ever get from curtains and friends and a wooden stage.
But now, on the other side, in the chair, through the director’s eyes, the stage has given me another gift.
Watching a group of kids, who I see every bit of myself in, breathe life and love and fear into words on a page has blessed me more than I could have ever predicted nine years ago when I got cast in The Lottery. Two years of watching them grow and learn and blossom, two years of tears and shouts and sit-downs. And this year they aren’t even quite mine, but I am theirs. Always, and forever, I am theirs. My heart and my blood and my sweat and tears and burned fingers and paint-splattered hands are theirs, spread across the stage and pinned to the curtains and in every echo rebounding off the back wall.
Tonight as I watched them give their final bow, I was filled with sweet pride and sorrow. To watch them give their all on every stage we’ve seen together, to share it with the one woman who has been there in every stage of my life… It has been the greatest joy of my life thus far.
Thank you, my One-Act Play family. You span across nine years and eight plays, and I consider myself the luckiest actress alive to have known and loved you all. So once more, I whisper to the darkened stage, goodbye for now.
“Where there’s a Wilson there’s a way.”