The other side of the curtain


(Photo Credit: Mandy Puga)

The lanyard picture my parents received when they walked into lobby of the theatre before the show.

Mandy Puga, Staff Writer

I remember the feeling of walking onto the stage. I handed my music sheet to the accompanist. I was surrounded by darkness except for a bright light that was shining on me from above.  The director’s voice came from the audience, “Alright, you can start now.”  I inhaled, gave a nod to cue the music to start, and began to sing “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid.


Little did I know that this terrifying moment would be the best decision I’ve made so far in my sophomore year. I have absolutely no idea who I’d be if I hadn’t decided to audition for “It Starts With a Dream: A Musical Revue,” written and directed by Mr. Marrone.


Around the end of August, I was in the middle of cross country season, and I needed to find something to do after school when the season ended. Most running athletes would think, “After cross country season ends, you start track season.” For most athletes, yes, this is the normal path to follow, but it wasn’t going to be mine.


My love for the theater started at a very young age when my mom took me to see the musical “Annie.” The reason why this musical was so special to me was the inspiration of seeing girls my age on stage. I thought, “That’s going to be me one day. One day I’ll be on stage just like them.” I made a promise to myself that I was going to be on the other side of the curtain.


Fast forward to seven years later: I see the audition packet for the winter musical on the Trinitas Arts Conservatory website. “I’m going to do it. I’ll just try it out and see if this is right for me,” I told myself. So I started preparing. I chose the lower key version of “Part of Your World” as my audition song and practiced the audition dance over and over until my legs ached.


Audition day came, and I was horribly nervous. I went in there with a look of worry and left with a sigh of relief and anticipation.


I remember when the cast list came out. My heart was beating out of my chest. This was my first time seeing a cast list that would have my name on it. I opened the tab in the email. “I’m definitely getting ensemble,” I thought. “There’s no way I got any part.” I looked vigorously at the list. My eyes went straight to the ensemble list. Name after name after name. Mine was nowhere to be found.


I thought, for a moment, that they didn’t cast me in the show. Right before I was about to close my laptop, I looked up a row. My name was in a list of six other girls under the title: “Mersisters (She’s in Love)”


“There’s no way,” I thought to myself. Did I get a featured ensemble role? For my first show? I couldn’t believe it. I screamed with joy on the Rosary campus lawn. I called my parents, letting them know the news, and facetimed my theater friends.

The exact cast list that came out on the long awaited email. (Photo Provided by Trinitas Arts Conservatory)

Even though this was a very minor role, this was a major event in my eyes. This was my first audition, and I just couldn’t believe it.


The first couple of rehearsals in September went how I thought they would. We all went over the sheet music and tried to figure out what we had to sing. I was an alto, which is the lowest range a female singer can be.


Even though I loved singing, especially since these were all Disney songs, and the rehearsals were going well, something was still on my mind. I wanted to make friends.


As the rehearsals went on through the month of October, I enjoyed the songs more and got the hang of them. I even started to get closer to people I didn’t know. I remember practicing the songs over and over in my room, struggling with how high of a key “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” was in.


Before you know it, November came around and Mr. Marrone had a rehearsal for all of the Mersisters and Flounder to stage our number. A Mersister is one of Ariel’s sisters from “The Little Mermaid”. This was probably the most fun rehearsal I went to, other than tech week. Even though the number was difficult, it was upbeat and exciting to perform.


We began to stage the show, which included learning various dance combinations. The stress was clearly setting in. During that time, I was so happy with where I was in life. I made new friends, learned how to do my hair and makeup, and got my first theater production sweatshirt. It was the best.


But the most important thing that I did in theater was doing something that made me happy. I had never been a part of anything where I was purely surrounded by positive people and the things I loved. I never thought the stage could bring me so much joy.


Christmas break came around, and these were some of the best rehearsals. We were all having the best time putting the show together. We eventually did a full run through of the show, and performed it for the crew. With people missing, the show wasn’t quite ready for an audience; but even though the crew was a little confused at first, they eventually understood the concept.


The show was in two weeks. Disney had been a big part of my life forever, so this show meant a lot to me. Next week was pre tech week so I needed to give it my b-, “ahh AHHCHOO!”


Oh no.


A sneeze, a weird feeling in the back of my throat, and a headache. It couldn’t be.


The Covid test came back: positive.


That week was filled with absolute terror and sadness, making me believe that I would be cut from the show. For a week, I was terribly sick in bed, congested, had a runny nose, with body aches and a harsh cough.


I FaceTimed my friends who were at the theater to see the progress they were making during pre-tech week. I felt miserable and alone.


As the week went on, I slowly started to regain my strength and went back to the theater on the Monday of opening week. I had never been happier to return to anything in my life.


We started doing full run throughs with costumes and microphones. I had forgotten how much mic tape hurts when it’s being ripped off the back of my neck from my experience with Red and Gold. But it was all worth it.


When most of us were off stage, we would dance and sing along quietly to the cherished Disney songs. There were so many moments that I’ll never forget.


I’ll always remember being in the wings, dancing with all of my friends. Being on stage with the people you love is just a whole other feeling. “She’s in Love,” the scene I was featured in, was the most nerve racking, yet exhilarating thing I have ever done. I remember all of my Mersisters going on stage with spirit, knowing that this was a full on jazzy dance number.


Before I knew it, it was the day of opening night. I’ll never forget sitting in the pit below the stage, just 30 minutes before the show began. I paced back and forth while my friends tried to calm me down. I was so nervous. Would I fall? What if my voice cracked?


Thoughts ran through my head as I heard the words, “two minutes to places!” It was time.


The time finally reached 7:00 p.m. and we were ready to begin.


I looked straight at the black curtain that faced me. I reflected on this wild musical theater journey I had been on since “Annie.” Is this what those girls playing orphans on stage felt like? Were they this nervous?


I took in the things around me: the mic tape on my cheek, the cough drop that left a minty taste in my mouth. I felt my core shaking with nerves. My friends’ whispers surrounded me with excitement and worry.


Finally I heard the loud bold words being spoken, “Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to It Starts with a Dream!”


The crowd cheered.


It was so weird to hear this introduction because I was used to being in a seat next to my mom or a friend when these words were spoken.


I looked at the curtain facing forward. A smile grew on my face and I  quietly said to myself,  “I did it! I finally made it to the other side of the curtain.”


Performing in this show was an experience to remember. It almost felt like a dream.

All the mersisters singing to flounder about how Ariel’s in love.
(Photo Credit: Giovanna Watson)
The cast gathered together for their last group photo on the Sunday of their last performance. (Photo Credit: Angie Puga)