Tag Archives: Theatre

To those who taught me to dream.

2 Jul

When I was little, I wanted nothing more than to be a ballerina. Around Christmastime, my grandmother would take me to see The Nutcracker at the Koger Center. As I sat up in the balcony in my checkered dress and patent leather shoes, I stared with admiration at the character of Clara. I imagined myself twirling around in my own leotard with a toy nutcracker in my hands, lost in the music and a dance that was all my own. When I got home from seeing The Nutcracker, I’d put on my leotard and tutu, grab a favorite stuffed animal at the time, and twirl in circles to the music only I could hear.

It was in those moments, in the safety of my childhood bedroom, that I began to dream, imagining doing things I knew I wouldn’t be able to do in reality due to my disability. I imagined dancing with a grace I had seen only in ballerinas. I put on my ballet shoes and twirled until my unstable balance got the best of me and I fell to the floor in frustration. I even remember asking my parents if I could take ballet lessons, determined to learn how to create the beauty I had seen in the character of Clara. The opportunity never arose though, simply because I didn’t have the balance to be a ballerina. Despite walking on my tiptoes, twirling around in circles on those same tiptoes was out of the question.

As I got older and I filled my head with more realistic dreams, I never stopped imagining doing the things I’d never be able to fully experience. I thought of dancing to the music of my world. I imagined running down the street and feeling the wind on my face as I chased the orange and red sunset I saw in the distance. I pictured myself climbing the huge oak tree in my backyard, wanting nothing more than to find a sturdy limb I could sit on so I could rest my back against the tree’s broad trunk and escape into my favorite book. The creative imagination I possessed placed me right into the worlds I dreamed, though I knew I was so far away from actually experiencing them.

I am forever grateful to the people throughout my life who have encouraged my imagination and dreams. Though I was constantly reminded by other kids around me of the things I was unable to do, so many of the adult figures in my life understood the importance of believing in my creativity. Because of those individuals, I have learned what it means to still hope and strive for the things that still seem a bit out of reach. Through my ability to dream, I developed a determination that has propelled me through my life, despite stumbling again and again. While I may not have had the chance to be a ballerina who twirls endlessly with the grace of a perfect melody, I have sung my heart out at a voice recital, capturing an entire room with the simple sound of my voice. I have participated in theatre productions, achieving my moment in the spotlight by being Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz. I have written of specific moments of pain during the months following intense operations, creating the same tears in the eyes of my readers that I possessed during my moments of defeat. Though I may not have had the chance to live the experiences I longed for, I have continued to move to the song of my own life, continuously grateful to those who taught me to dream and create my own destiny.

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To Grace (Part 5): Gaining strength in little fears.

8 Oct

Here are the previous posts in this series. Take a look! To Grace. To Grace (Part 2): Walking Through The Fire. To Grace (Part 3): Accepting Love. To Grace (Part 4): Finding Your Voice.

Dear Grace,

Saying that I’ve been feeling scared recently is an understatement. Over the past month, my muscles have gotten tighter than usual, which is causing me to fall more. Even though I know the increase in muscle tightness is connected to the colder weather, it is still scary, and it often causes me to worry about years in the future where my walking could become limited due to tight muscles and severe back pain. I don’t know how much you worry about the future. Even though you are only 12, I know what you’ve been through so far in your life. I know your pain. Therefore, I wouldn’t be surprised if you did find yourself worrying about the years ahead. However, since I know how much I worry, I do hope that you don’t find yourself worrying as much as me. It’s not emotionally healthy. I think it causes me more anguish than happiness. Though it is something that I’m trying to work on, it’s not as easy thing to fix since I’ve had trouble with anxiety ever since I was a little girl.

You and I are incredibly similar in the hobbies we’ve had over the years. We both became involved in community theatre, and we also had years in which we both rode horses. Even though you were more involved in horseback riding than I was since you’ve participated in events and won blue ribbons, I know that it’s an activity that we both benefited from. Participating in “hippotherapy” was an alternative to constantly having physical therapy in same room with the same therapist week after week. Before I participated in “hippotherapy,” I thought that horse therapy was primarily used with autistic kids. I didn’t know that they could be used with kids who had physical disabilities as well. According to the American Hippotherapy Association, “Hippotherapy is a physical, occupational, and speech-language therapy treatment strategy that utilizes equine movement as part of an integrated intervention program to achieve functional outcomes.”

In terms of the hippotherapy that I participated in, I focused primarily on balance, trunk strength and control, and building overall postural strength and endurance. The specific exercise that I remember really well was called “around the world,” in which I’d start by sitting normally on the horse and then swinging my legs over the horse multiple times until I’d done a complete 360 while sitting on the horse. Now that I think about it, even though this activity sounds fun to me now, I was incredibly scared when I actually had to do it. The thought of falling was terrifying to me, and without the encouragement of my horseback riding teacher, Miss Mary, I know that I wouldn’t have been able to complete my exercises. Despite the fear of falling, it was an understandable worry since I did end up falling off multiple times. Even though I know those falls and having Miss Mary tell me I needed to get up and go get my horse was hard at the time, I know that it all made me a much stronger person. Miss Mary was a very important figure in my life because she was one of the first people (not counting my parents and my physical therapists) who helped me develop a tougher skin. Therefore, despite being afraid of falling and afraid that my horse would start to canter with the other horses (which was much faster than I ever wanted to go), I know that it made me stronger.

I know that your hippotherapy experience was probably much different from mine. However, I don’t doubt that you gained some of the same strength that I did when you worried about falling but then knew that your teacher wouldn’t let you fall. Either way, those little fears: the fear of falling, the fear of the horse going faster than you want him to, the fear of what lies ahead in our future in terms of our abilities, they are what make us who we are, Grace. We wouldn’t be who we are if we hadn’t learned in the beginning to let those fears propel us forward instead of hold us down. I don’t know how much that applies to you these days, but I have a feeling that you work hard too. We have to. It’s the only way through the situation we’ve been faced with. Without the strength that I’ve gained from the little fears in my life, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t be a junior in college who’s lived away from home since she was 16 and spends her days blogging and writing her daily story. I wouldn’t be able to talk so openly about what I have experienced.

I know how easy it is to let the fears bring you down, Grace. I’ve been there. I know how hard it is to push through and tell yourself that being more independent will be just what you need. But it’s the only choice we have. Keep on keeping on, and remember that I love you.

Amelia

My own kind of ballerina.

28 Aug

When I was a little girl, my grandmother took me to see The Nutcracker every year at Christmastime. I’d put on my black and white checkered dress and my patent leather shoes, and my grandmother and I would drive up to the Koger Center in Columbia. As I sat in the audience watching the Sugar Plum Fairies dance, I’d think about what it would be like to be a ballerina. I’d watch the gracefulness of their movements and imagine being able to move almost effortlessly. That’s what it looked like to me: like the ballerinas were moving so fluidly that it was as if they were floating on air.

Even though I was never able to take ballet lessons, I did as much as I could to feel like a ballerina. I bought a pink leotard and pink ballet shoes. I even had to have a bright pink tutu with sparkles. The tutu was my favorite part. I loved the fact that I could spin around and around and the tutu would fly up like a balloon. I remember feeling pretty, and I remember the days that I would spin around in my leotard, tutu and ballet shoes like I was a true ballerina. Simply wearing the outfit was enough for me.

I got my own experience of being a ballerina when I joined the Calhoun Players, a community theatre group in my town. However, in the beginning, it wasn’t like I imagined it to be. Even though I got to dance on stage, for many of the productions I was placed in the back. Though I knew that it was because there were other people who were better dancers than I was, we all want to have a chance to shine. I got my chance in 2007 thanks to my theater director, Chuck. In 2007, I was in the cast of the Wizard of Oz. However, the best part was that for the first time since getting involved with the Calhoun Players in 2001, I wasn’t in the chorus. I had one of the main roles. I played Glenda the Good Witch. Even though I didn’t necessarily play the part of a ballerina, playing the part of Glenda was the closest that I’ve ever gotten, and it was probably one of the happiest moments of my life. I wore a blue sparkly dress that had puffy sleeves and a puffy bodice. It wasn’t a leotard and a tutu, but in my opinion, it was even better. I also had a wand, and I wore a tiara on my head. I felt so happy in those moments on stage that I felt like I was going to burst from happiness. The “shining” moment for me during those performances (other than playing Glenda and feeling as pretty as a ballerina) was getting to stand out on stage in my pretty outfit and sing a solo. For a few minutes during each performance, all eyes were on me. However, for the first time in my life, people were staring at me in awe rather than looking at me and wondering what was wrong with me. Granted, it probably wasn’t the first time I was looked at in awe or happiness, but it felt like a first time for me since I had grown so accustomed to being stared at in a negative way.

As I sat in the audience of The Nutcracker performance, I didn’t know that one day I would be able to be my own kind of ballerina. Even though it wouldn’t be in the way that I imagined, I feel like it was much better. Rather than sitting in the audience watching the performance, I got to be the one on stage. I may not have gotten the chance to dance like the Sugar Plum Fairies, but I got to do something I loved even more: I got to sing. I got to sing like I’ve never sung before, holding a wand and wearing a tiara. I got to wear a blue sparkly puffy dress that still hangs in my closet at home, reminding me of the moment that I got to feel like my own kind of ballerina.

When in Ireland, find home in the most unlikely places.

17 Jul

Twice in the past week I have heard two different Irish cover bands play “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show. Other than “Wagon Wheel” being one of my favorite songs in general, it’s also a song that speaks of North Carolina, my home state. It’s just so weird to think that twice in one week I’ve heard a song that instantly has me thinking of North Carolina, Asheville, the mountains, bluegrass music, and the place that I feel most connected to. I’ve realized that even when I’m in Ireland, I can still receive the strong pull of home.

There are mountains here in Ireland, but they are nothing like the Blue Ridge Mountains that I call home. Every so often I find myself searching for the blue hue that holds so much security and comfort inside me, only to slowly realize that the specific color that holds so much emotion for me cannot be found in the mountains here. At the same time, however, I think if the Ireland landscape was more like the landscape that I’m used to at home then it would make it that much harder for me to leave next week.

It’ll be hard to say goodbye to a place that I feel has taken root so quickly in my soul. Before coming to Ireland, I was a bit hesitant. I didn’t know if I would like it or not. I had no idea what to expect, other than the fact that I was looking forward to seeing the green beauty that I had poured over during all the times that I watched P.S. I Love You. No words can describe how amazing it has been to realize that home isn’t always one specific place. When I come to think of it, I’ve found home in multiple places.

My first home was in a small town in South Carolina. It was where I grew up, and even though it has now become a place that doesn’t hold very much meaning for me, it will always be the place where I first learned about life. I think of riding my Barbie Jeep, my gocart, and my four-wheeler. I think of making mud pies in my Barbie kitchen. I think of my childhood friends…and the friends that ended up not being very friendly towards me. I think of finding my love of theatre, which is also when I realized that it was possible to have another family outside of my immediate family that was there to love and support me just as much. I think of growing up, of the days that I lost myself in books because I needed a way to escape the days when the pain was too much. I think of the nights when I made my own little space in the bottom of my closet that was equipped with a light, blankets, a pillow, a book, and a pencil and paper that I used in order to write away what I was feeling. I found security sitting in my closet…with the realization that the harsh world lay just outside. I found out what it meant to dream.

My second home was Salem Academy, an all-girls’ boarding school in North Carolina. Though I didn’t consider it my home until my senior year there, by my senior year I didn’t want to leave. It took a year to find my own place, but once I did, I knew that I’d never be the same. I found a part of me…a part of me I hadn’t really embraced before. I found my true self…or at least the beginning of my true self. I wouldn’t have been able to embark on the journey of figuring out who I truly was were it not for my best friend Skidmore. I met her during my junior year at Salem, and she was the first friend that I discussed my entire life with, the good and the bad. Skidmore was the first person I completely opened up to, and having someone who reacted so positively to all that I knew I needed to say was also something that was necessary. Without Skidmore’s love and non-judgemental acceptance, I wouldn’t have been able to start to figure out who I was…or what the meaning of home really was.

My third home is, as a whole, North Carolina….but more specifically…the Blue Ridge Mountains and Asheville. I’ve always been a mountain girl, but I’ve never been able to say that I have had the chance to live among a landscape that I love….until last August. And being in Asheville makes home feel even more real to me because I’m in such an artsy city…while also knowing that it is a mere 5 minute drive to reach the Blue Ridge Parkway…or the place that makes me feel completely alive. Writing has done the same thing…given me that feeling of being truly alive. Therefore, being able to write among the landscape of the Blue Ridge Mountains…it’s unreal, and yet, it’s what I’ve been doing.

It’s hard to imagine that Ireland has, in a way, become another home for me. And yet, I’m not all that surprised. I can’t think of one person that I know who has come to Ireland and not fallen in love with its beauty. But it’s more than just the beauty. It’s the people…it’s the quaint little village towns and the college cities…it’s the pubs and the pub atmosphere (which, I’m surprised to report, have held more character and comfort than I ever imagined), and it’s the music. I’m a true music lover, and I listen to music every chance I can get. Here in Galway, live music can be found all over the city on every night of the week. I love that opportunity. It’s probably one of my favorite parts about being in Galway. It’s not just live music every night though…it’s free live music. For a true music lover like me, it can’t get much better than free good live music every night!

So even though I’ll be leaving a home next week, I’ll also being going home to a place that I love more than anything in the entire world. Despite the fact that I’m leaving, I know I’ll be back. A place can’t take hold in my soul so quickly and not be a place that I don’t plan on returning. I don’t know when, or under what circumstances, but I know that I’ll be back. I can feel it. After all, there’s only so long that you can stay away from home, even when, sometimes, home has the ability to be so many different places all at once.

Photo Friday: The Wizard Of Oz.

10 Feb

I will always have a strong connection with The Wizard of Oz. In 2007, I played Glinda in a community theatre production of The Wizard of Oz. It was one of my most memorable experiences during my community theatre years with the Calhoun Players because it was the first time that I got to play a main character. I got a blueish-green Glinda dress made and had a tiara and a wand. It was nothing short of magical. The performances of the Wizard of Oz occurred during a time of high emotion and heartache, since the sister of the guy who played the Scarecrow passed away due to an unknown heart condition the night before opening night. Though the elevated emotion added to our already present nerves, I look back on those performance nights and am proud that I got to be a part of such a strong group of people. The Calhoun Players weren’t just a theatre group to me. They were my family. During those performance nights, we came together. We came together with sad hearts, while also knowing that we all needed each other if we were going to make our performance nights as amazing as they could be. Though I have an incredibly supportive family, the members of my Calhoun Players family were also all there through a lot of my rough patches during surgeries and lots of physical therapy. They taught me that it’s possible to rise above obstacles and find a way to shine. In 2008, I did my last production with the Calhoun Players. Though I miss the “family” that I was able to be a part of, I know that all the wonderful memories will always stay with me. Through the Calhoun Players, I learned that I could be completely myself and be loved even though I was different. I learned that through tough times, everyone needs support. People like to think that they can make it alone, but we all need people by our side to be happy when we’re happy and to lend a shoulder when the harsh realities of the world just become too much for us to handle. I learned that courage is found through pain. And just because you don’t have wings doesn’t mean that you still can’t try and learn to fly.

The Power of Music and Theatre.

14 Nov

“Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.”-Ludwig Van Beethoven

I’ve always been amazed at the power of music. It has the power to transport you back to a time, an exact moment, an emotion. Throughout life, we associate music with memories, and when we hear particular songs, we’re able to relive those memories with the same amount of emotion as when we first experienced them.

For instance, right now I’m listening to Mamma Mia by Abba, which reminds me of one theatre rehearsal at Wofford last year. The director, Tori, said we needed a random dance party to get us energized and focused. So she played Mamma Mia. In a matter of seconds, everyone in the cast and crew was dancing around, acting silly, twirling each other around, and laughing so hard that they had to stop and catch their breath. It was also a reminder that everyone in the cast and crew depended on everyone else, so it was a great way to unify us again and make us remember why we love theatre.

It’s been hard not being involved in theatre this semester. Though I’ve still made some great friends, I feel like I’m still missing something. Theatre was one of my sanctuaries as a kid, a place I could go and not worry about being judged. It was a place where things I was good at could shine, but the things that didn’t didn’t matter. It was also a place where I was accepted and loved by being true to myself, and I needed that so much as a kid. I didn’t just find a theatre community, I found a family. Last year when I got involved in theatre again, it made me remember just how much I love it. So next semester I’m going to try and get involved again. Though it’s a huge time committment, I may try and get involved in an area that’s not quite as time consuming so that I can still be involved without feeling overwhelmed.

Has there been something in your life that you’ve always found comfort in?