It’s been almost 10 years since I quit acting. I’ve performed since then, but one time performances, concerts and things. Nothing that demanded much of a rehearsal schedule and since having kids, it’s worked just fine for me. It’s all I can handle right now.
But there are days I miss it. The 8 show weeks. The one-nighters. Hell, I even miss the painful Sunday matinees after staying up too late and drinking too much. (Don’t judge, you’ve done it, too).
It’s such a complicated thing, this swirl of emotions, aching to go back and do it all again but having no desire to give up the life I have now. And it’s weird to feel this way, like I’m constantly betraying myself.
There was a time I lived for the stage. My free time, my relationships, I would give them up for a chance to tread the boards. My high school didn’t have a great theatre program. I never did school plays, unfortunately, but I did community theatre and found great support there. I did my first show when I was 18 and was hooked ever since, I mean, until I had kids.
As fate would have it, I took a detour to the land of parenthood. This decision to quit acting completely wasn’t difficult to make, but it was painful. I briefly considered maternity modeling but I wasn’t carrying well. I may have looked fine, but I felt awful. My babies grew big very quickly and that was tough on my body. Everything hurt all the time. So I quit it all. Walked away. I literally threw my audition book away. I figured by the time I came back those song choices and cuts wouldn’t fit me anymore.
I do not regret this choice. There are days I question it, but I do not regret it. The answer is always the same. I continue to choose this life and I embrace it with all my heart. Yet, in the quietest moments, that ache to perform thunders softly in my heart, reminding me of what I used to love.
What I miss most, though? I could go on and on about the electric energy between the performers and the audience or the diving deep into a text or making a song my own…no, it’s none of that. I miss the camaraderie that comes with company bonding. There is something truly magical about the friendships forged under the heat of stage lights. Cast and crew alike, the collaborative nature of theatre is one hell of a glue. It brings people together in a way that is almost irreplicable anywhere else.
That’s what I miss the most.
The ache in my heart for theatre is incredibly complex. I’ve been hurt badly in this industry, from not playing my dream roles to dealing with all the -isms (racism, sexism, ageism, nepotism), but I’ve also never felt so myself when I’m onstage, no matter what role I’m playing, ensemble or otherwise. I want to go back but I also…don’t. This tug-of-war between passion and responsibility is really annoying and the undercurrent of nostalgia is ever present.
There isn’t an answer I can give to the question “when does it stop hurting?” I don’t think it does. Even if I never go back, I’ll always miss it.
If you feel this way, I get it. I see you. There is validity even in confusion.
Take comfort in knowing you aren’t alone. The theatre misses you, too.
While my journey as a parent has taken me away from the stage for now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. When and if the timing is right, I will return to the world of live theatre. Until then, I cherish both the role of a dedicated parent and the echoes of applause that still resonate in my heart.