I search the faces of the tired actors and stagehands, as if I can tell by simply looking at them whether or not it is time to begin. A couple of girls stand at the side of the curtain, opening it just enough to peer through to find family and friends amongst the growing crowd. I can hear them as they laugh and whisper in hushed tones, but I don't dare breathe a word. I rub my sweaty hands on the stiff fabric of my unwashed costume. My thick stage makeup feels as if it is melting off my face in the unbearable heat.
I am ready to go on. My lines have been running through my head and haunting my dreams for the past several days. I can walk through every scene without even thinking. I know which prop goes to whom, and who says what in exact order. Yes, I am ready, but right now I lean back against the black, brick wall and try to soak in everything around me. Tonight is our last performance. It is almost hard to believe we are here already. In this past short week the theater has become a home to us, a place it doesn't matter how old we are or where we came from, we are all family backstage. I know that once we take our final bow tonight, after the curtain closes and the audience goes back home, it will be all over. We will take down the set, pack up the countless hair brushes and tubes of mascara, and go back to our old lives.
I know that over time we will probably forget our parts, what we said, and where we stood on the stage. The one thing that we will not forget, however, are the memories we made at this old theater. I will remember exploring trap doors and hiding places, sneaking candy into dressing rooms, and exchanging secrets with other actresses as I applied more layers of red lipstick. I will remember taking naps on old sofas stuffed with bobby pins, daring the stagehands to climb up the never-ending ladders that poke through the ceiling, and the strong scent of sweat and hairspray that never seemed to fade. I have made more memories at this theater than I have in my entire life. This is what the audience cannot see tonight.
Suddenly, the house lights flicker and dim. The audience goes completely silent with anticipation. I stand and brush myself off quickly as a man in a suit goes onstage to introduce the performance. My head is spinning. Everything is going so fast, but I don't really mind. The curtain opens with a heavy squeak. It's show time!
Resurrecting an old composition because I miss this more than you can imagine.