that girl onstage isn’t me

Tomorrow night, I take the stage to bare a piece of my soul.

Mine, and a thousand others’.

Tomorrow night, I take the stage with a little fire in my feet and a spark in my eyes and I bring the world into a story I might’ve told a hundred times by now. I bring the world in, and I shut myself out.

You see, that girl onstage isn’t me.

Sure, she wears my face and laughs and cries like I do. She carries with her the same sense of wonder, the same reactions to old wounds made new again. She lives a story that is rich and complex and devoid of the words I’d choose to write for myself. Her experiences shape her, ever so subtly, in different ways than mine shape me. Sometimes they look the same, outwardly—she falls to the floor at all the same times that I probably would—but her motivations, her qualms, her relationship with herself is dramatically different.

If I had to pinpoint a time frame, she’s probably a little like who I was two years ago. Unsure of the wisdom of sharing her stories. Adapting to the ways her worldview differs from her friends’. Hoping for some conformity she could reach that would allow her to feel like she fit with everyone else, but unsure she could attain it without giving up the most important parts of herself. Striving to keep hold of the strange things that pique her curiosity and encourage her enthusiasm, while wondering if moving away from the things that are comfortable and safe made her less than her peers.

And to a certain degree, it makes sense that two years down the line, I am where I am. There’s very little point in making comfortable, safe music in a world where you yourself feel neither safe nor comfortable. It’s pretty analogous to the stock “it’s fine” answer I dish out (still quite regularly, I’m afraid) when people ask how I’m doing or how a particularly stressful project is going. When it’s accompanied by a practiced smile, chances are I don’t mean it. Why? Because over the last two years, I’ve done my best to start channeling the full force of my enthusiasm into the projects that make my heart sing. If something’s truly going well (and I’m not dead on my feet), there’s a nonzero chance I’ll proceed to talk your ear off if you ask me about it more than in passing. This work—this show—is something I want to share, even though I don’t have any concrete way of telling just how it’ll be received. Tomorrow night, I will leave all the effort of my past year of work out there on the floor, but some small part of me will remain tucked away inside.

I need you to understand that precaution is for my own wellbeing.

The girl you’ll see onstage tomorrow night won’t be me, because I need her to be different. I need her to like different things and have different opinions and think it’s a necessary thing to spend significant amounts of time practicing the second movement of the Haydn trumpet concerto (even though that means I, too, need to spend significant amounts of time practicing the second movement of the Haydn trumpet concerto). I need her motivations to drive her in slightly different ways than mine does. I need you to understand that this is a show that will be developed and honed and performed—hopefully again and again and again—and to make that possible, I need it to be something that I feel safe performing again and again and again. We’re going to spend the night talking about all of me, but while I’m out there, I need just a sliver of me to keep to myself.

So please, remember: that girl onstage isn’t me. But she carries me with her. ♦

Thanks so much for reading! If you’re interested in music and concert theatre work exploring the many realities of victimhood, please consider watching the recording of my graduation recital (here), originally performed and broadcast Sunday, March 3, 2019 in the ROD at CalArts. To learn more about the show and see the content warnings, click here. Look out for more posts in the coming weeks with behind-the-scenes content and more on how we put the show together!