I have loved theater all my life. Mom and Dad always took me to the famous (and sadly now defunct) D’Oyly Carte opera company in Boston once a year to see Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. When I was older, Mom and I would go to the Rochester Music Theater on summer nights to see wonderful shows such as “Damn Yankees,” “Guys and Dolls,” “South Pacific,” and so on. We would drive home in the warm darkness, singing all the songs from the shows.
In high school I was in each year’s musical. Later on I got into community theater, and when I lived in Dallas, TX, I was part of a light opera company that put on Gilbert and Sullivan shows every year. It was all so much fun.
I learned some great life lessons while performing. The first show we did in our town’s new regional high school was “The Guy From Venus.” I tried out for and got the lead in it. I learned all my lines, memorized all my blocking (meaning how the actors stand and move around the other actors and the set) correctly, but I did get pretty nervous close to the opening night of the show.
I was having trouble with being the character I played, a mousy bespectacled business woman—exactly the kind of person I never wanted to be. The leading man was the handsomest boy in school; one of those great guys who was good at everything. All the girls were crazy about him, and here I was, Miss Nobody, who in this show had to kiss him. In real life he wouldn’t have looked twice at me.
During our rehearsals, I was having trouble separating myself from the character I was playing. I still felt too much like me. Our director, who was also my English teacher, saw that I was nervous and took me aside. He told me something I never forgot: “if you believe you are [the character], the audience will, too.”
Long story short, it worked. Even when I kissed the leading man on stage, I didn’t fall over in a dead faint. (Neither did he!)
Since then, I’ve used this same technique for many things, even negotiating a a raise in salary on a few jobs. I believed that I was worth it, and behold and lo—I got the raise.
It’s true; if we believe strongly enough that we can do something, we find that we actually can do it. There are many times in our lives when we have to really believe in our abilities and worth, whatever the circumstance may be. We may not always get the result that we want, but even that experience is valuable.
I have never forgotten that phrase: “If you believe it, they will, too.”