March 23, 2014

KNISELY: A bit of stage fright


---- — Here’s the first thing my father said to me after watch­ing my recent per­formance in “Stage Door” with Civic Players of Logansport: “I thought you said you were going to be acting?”

The script described my character, Judith Canfield, as “wise and debunked.” She was a pinch of snotty, a dash of sarcastic and a heap of attitude. If she wasn’t so funny, you’d hate her. I loved Judith, and I had a blast playing her.

But let’s face it, I was typecast. I am Judith. My family and friends who came to watch the play agreed we were one in the same.

But given the fact this was my first time on stage — minus a horrific incident in middle school — I think it’s a good thing my character wasn’t much of a leap to portray.

And minus a few hiccups, doing the play was a great experience and incredibly exciting. Though I had fun, the weekend of performances kicked off with a moment of sheer panic.

My character appeared very early on in the play. Judith’s first moment on stage came just a few minutes into Act 1, Scene 1. I stood just off the side of the stage, waiting for my cue. I heard the other actors giving their lines and tried to tell myself this was just like any other rehearsal, of which we had many.

“You can do this,” was the mantra running through my head. “OK, at least don’t pass out,” it became.

One of the veteran actresses must have seen the fear welling up on my face. She walked over to me, took me by the hands and said, “Breeeeeeathe.”

She told me it’s going to be OK because I’ve done this so many times already. “It’s just like rehearsal,” she told me.

“Yeah,” I said, sarcastically. “Now served with a side of panic!”

We shared a laugh, which helped the nerves. I turned back toward the stage as my cue was quickly approaching. Just as I start walking out on stage, my mind went completely blank. I don’t think I could have told you my own name much less my character’s name. I struggled to remember the lines I was supposed to say in about 45 seconds.

I hung my coat on the rack, grabbed my prop letter off the desk and headed for downstage. I don’t know where the words came from but they came regardless. And with that, I was off and running.

I made it through the entire performance with no problems.

But then came the second night of performances. I stood off to the left of the stage again and waited for Judith’s first appearance. Just as my cue came and I started walking, I went completely blank. And again, the words somehow came.

This same scenario played out on the third and final performance of the weekend. I thought there was something wrong with me, but other actors with experience said they have the same problem.

Even though I might have shaved a couple years off my life from undue stress, I had a great time and look forward to my next role with Civic Players.

Maybe I’ll play a role completely unfamiliar to me, such as maybe a sane person. That would be a stretch for me.

Misty Knisely is managing editor of the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5155 or at Follow her on Twitter: @PharosMK