The Normal Girl On Stage

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“What’s the point of entering a room if you’re not going to light it up?”

I improvised this question during one of our first rehearsals for UnMasqued. I was trying to be funny. And I also wasn’t. My goal in every situation has been to light up the room, to be memorable. Otherwise, I’d risk being forgotten, not cared about. I imagined myself in a spotlight, all eyes on me. Would I perform? Or would everyone get bored and walk out? Either way, I would be alone. Disconnected.

Connection is essential to eating disorder recovery. And making art has been essential to mine. Over the last two months, I’ve thrown myself into the process of creating UnMasqued, telling my and witnessing my peers’ stories over and over through the container of metaphor. This took trust—trust that the group could hold these often painful stories, trust that the metaphor would read on stage, trust that my world would not come crashing down if I stood in front of a hundred people and admitted to them how hard I try to be special, and my wish for permission to be a “normal girl.”

Over the last two months, the astounding group that put this show together listened, laughed, cried (sobbed), disagreed, Got to Work, and found a level of connection that still has me floored a day after closing UnMasqued. I was scared by the disagreements for a while—conflict doesn’t light up the room. But, occasionally, it would electrify it. Again, I had to hold on to trust. The conflict was normal, workable, and brought us closer together. By tech week I was periodically taking a beat to reflect on how breathtakingly close I felt to the cast and team, and how much I trusted them.

Over the last two months, our group has shrunk as it lost members. And it has grown. It’s grown into a wild woman Wolfpack that gently guided me to the realization that I will be loved as a normal girl, cared for ”when I light up the room and in my dark corners,” as Laura told me opening night. During one performance, I began to cry during my monologue in which I pleaded for that permission to be a normal girl. They were tears of grief over the loss of the girl who lights up every room, the girl who put so much pressure on me every day. At the end of that monologue, my sorority sister Rory was there to lovingly ask me, “what if you could be normal, and be okay?”

I still don’t know the answer to that. Maybe I don’t need to. Today, I am okay with that.

To the cast and team, my Wolfpack… I’ll try every day to find the words to describe how grateful I am.

Yours in normalcy,
Annie P

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