When my senior year ended, I thought I’d never again have a chance to sing on my high school stage. Theatre was the center of my life in high school, and leaving was one of the hardest adjustments I’ve made. And then I was given a chance to sing on that stage again, with other fellow theatre alums — my theatre family — and it was magic, just like it always was.
On Friday, for the first time in over five years, I stood on my high school stage and sang, and it felt like coming home. It felt indescribably good. For the first time since leaving Chicago, I felt so completely happy that I wouldn’t have traded places with anyone.
Even waiting in the black box to rehearse our song, I could barely contain my joy. Literally, I was almost squealing — and I just couldn’t control the sparkle fingers. Seeing my beloved theatre director and tech director (I almost fell on the stairs in my haste to hug my tech director, after speeding around the entire theatre — I very, very deliberately restrained myself when I saw my director so that neither of us fell over), seeing theatre friends, actually being back in our old home theatre spaces and rehearsing to sing on our own stage — I was so overcome with emotion that I nearly cried at least three times (What can I say? I’m emotional. I’m a Pisces. I’ve accepted it). We sang “The New World,” from Songs for a New World, which was especially poignant for my four alum friends and me because it’s the song to which we danced for the big finale of the winter dance show of my senior year.
And then yesterday was the actual show. It was a little surreal. The costume rooms, signs here and there backstage from productions I was in, rehearsing in the black box, waiting offstage — it was so very much like when I was in theatre. I adored it. We prepared for the show in the costume room; we gathered in the foyer after the show, chatting with people who came to the show. We even went to Perkin’s the way we always did after we struck the set when a show closed. It was almost like business as usual (mind you, glorious, favorite-thing-ever business as usual), and yet there was this new energy because we six alums never thought we’d get another chance at this. The saying goes “You don’t know what you have until you’ve lost it” — well, we now know, and it makes a world of difference.
I’ve moved on since theatre in high school. I spent four amazing years at Bryn Mawr, and I had an absolutely transformative time in Chicago. It’s not as though I’m still pining for my high school theatre. And yet, being back there (and performing on our stage!) has been an incredibly intense reminder of how much I loved — and still love — my theatre group. Our traditions, our shows, our spaces, our community: there’s nothing like it.
The alums and current students spanned almost ten years (the person who organized the concert and I graduated in 2006, and there was at least one current frosh) — just for this benefit concert. It wasn’t even an official, school-sponsored event. Given that high school lasts four years, ten years is a huge span of time. And that it still means so much to all of us really speaks to what a special group my theatre group was and is.