A role I tend to play in life is “know it all.” Yes, I understand and fully know that there is always room to grow in this world, but what I mean when I say “know it all” is that when I understand something, I feel like I tend to close myself off from learning anything else about whatever the thing is that I have now come to understand. This comes up in relationships, in school, in internship, and in therapy. When I get it— I think I get it and that is the end of the story. But what I love about Recovery Through Performance is that this idea of getting something and closing myself off to learning and growing has been challenged.
The journey of UnMasqued has taught me to understand that no matter how many times I think I get something or understand it, there is always so much more for me to learn.
After the first week of rehearsal, I thought I understood the concept of therapeutic theater. To me, it was just like playing a role and maybe saying something personal along the way. The role you play serves as kind of like this “bridge” between the theater part and the therapy part. In my mind, the concept of therapeutic theater was very simple and easy to understand as well as apply.
But what I am learning is that therapeutic theater is not just about it being simple and easy to understand. It’s about the process and the journey and the growing and the developing that comes with this journey.
Last night, as UnMasqued opened for the public, I felt like I let myself open up again to the option that maybe therapeutic theater is more than just what I have accepted it as.
Last night, as I played the intense role of Helen Baldwin who holds this idea of “false recovery” for the cast, I realized that me playing this role and standing on stage is literally doing therapy in public. There were moments last night where I was saying lines and I honestly felt like I could have had the same conversation with someone so close to my heart. As we closed the show last night, and I sat on stage next to a group of women that have been through it all with me, and I took off my “masque,” I just cried. I cried because this moment was real. This moment was present. This moment was so beyond healing. This moment was being witnessed by people that have known me since birth and by people that have known me for an hour. This is a moment I want to never forget because it changed the way I look at this process and all the work I have been putting in to my recovery over the past ten years. The crazy part for me was the fact that I have read the closing monologue of the show so many times, but last night as I sat there and everyone around me played the role of the witness, I took part in therapeutic theater.
Crying on stage in front of strangers and my best friends all at one time is probably one of the scariest, most amazing things I could ever think about doing. But as I sat on stage in that moment and felt all that emotion I knew I was going to be okay. And this idea of “okay” was a new feeling for me. I somehow knew that 100 people were staring at me and waiting for me to talk, but I knew I could handle this moment. I could handle this moment of imperfection and humanness. Because to me, in that moment last night, as I let myself feel with a full heart, I walked away feeling no shame. Of course I woke up with that little voice in my head today that expressed how embarrassed of myself I should be today and the coming days for crying and being so vulnerable like that in front of so many. And even in the moment as I sat on stage and I could not see very many people in the audience because of the stage lights— I could see Laura Wood. So I locked eyes with her and opened my heart. In that moment, I had two thoughts in my head, one being that she hates me for crying on stage because I have ruined her show and these tears were not in the script, or that she is with me and proud of me and rooting for me with her entire being. I closed my eyes and I decided to go with the second thought. Because the second thought is humanness and real and growth and something that I needed to have witnessed. So much of my journey has been about struggling to cry and then bring myself back into reality after the tears. I struggle with letting myself revert back to a child-cry many times thinking that when I cry this will be the last time I will ever cry again. This is kind of like a binge in the sense that sometimes when I used to eat I thought I needed to eat more then normal because this was the last time I could eat for a week. But last night was different. Last night was what we call an “adult cry” and I don’t think I have ever done such a thing like that in my life before. I don’t think I have ever cried and felt and been present and transitioned all at the same time. I have never felt like it was possible for me, but sometimes its about letting the moment happen and realizing you are ready open yourself up to learning and understand something new.
So yeah, when I think about last night and the tears and the vulnerability, I sit with happiness and acceptance and pride because last night I was a witness and an active participant to therapeutic theater.