I participated in a storytelling show on Monday, Spark Off Rose. It was a piece that I had been writing for about three months. There were several drafts and I had regular meetings with this particular show’s lead producer, Janet Blake, who is also a friend of mine. (Started 13 years ago, by Jessica Tuck, Spark Off Rose does ten themed shows a year, with 5 different producers taking turns as lead producer.) It was an arduous process that was ultimately rewarding, one of the best night’s of my life.
The story that I shared on Monday was framed within the context of an acting class I took a few years ago, about my identification with Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. Really, though, it was the story of Ray in less than 8 minutes. I didn’t even know if there was even a story there, but Janet encouraged me. I hated what I wrote. I fought to salvage threads that Janet told me didn’t serve the piece. I complained. I lost sleep. Every looming deadline was something I dreaded. But Janet was faithful. Finally, the two of us arrived at a rehearsal draft for the show. Our rehearsal was on Saturday. I had a flat tire that morning, dropped my phone and chipped it a little, spilled coffee on my favorite sweater. But the rehearsal itself went okay, actually, it went pretty well. Every storyteller shared a beautiful story, some very funny, some haunting, some sad, all were affecting.
And then the night of the show came. Eric didn’t make it to the show because his car broke down. I was nervous. My chest was tight, one of my arms was sore and I wondered if I might be having a heart attack. Also, I had the added pressure of going first. I stood backstage, listening to Janet welcome the crowd, introduce the show, talk about the night’s theme, You Don’t Know Me. And a resolve washed over me. All the work has been done, I thought. At this point, it’s just me and the pages. All I have to do is go out there and read. It was freeing. And then my introductory song, Is It Okay if I Call You Mine, chosen by me, began to play.
And what was on those pages? My journey, in fact, things I’ve written about here on this blog. I read about growing up in Kansas, dreaming of the world out there. I read about Bible college and New York and the game show and working in a restaurant and meeting Eric and finally, about swimming. And the entire time, I clung to those pages. They weren’t just pieces of paper, of course, they were MY pages, MY story.
And it went the way I thought I could only dream it might go.