This article was written by Alexis Maze of Reynoldsville about her incredible experience recently in Pittsburgh.
The bright lights shine on the center of the stage. I can’t see them, but I know the audience is out there, waiting. My heart beats wildly in my chest. I’ve been on plenty of stages, performed dozens of times, but I’ve never felt stage fright like this…
Earlier this fall, DuBois Area Senior High School was selected to participate in the Gilder Lehrman foundation’s Hamilton program. With this program, students in AP US History and drama club were offered a reduced ticket cost to see Hamilton with the stipulation that they complete a history and performance-based project. This project had students utilize historical documents to create a song, rap, poem, monologue, or any other performance.
Like every other student, I had to complete the project in order to go on the trip. My friend Jacquelyn (Jackie) Spicher and I decided to write our performance together. Jackie, a Poetry Out Loud enthusiast (and 2019 regional winner) showed me a spoken word poem where two girls told their story separately but used overlapping speech to unite them. This gave me the idea to utilize a common theme of Lin Manuel Miranda: history is determined by those who tell the story. We used the Boston Massacre as our subject and we each played the part of a townswomen retelling the story. We were both telling of the same event, which was shown by our overlapping lines. However, Jackie’s side of the poem was made up of information from eye witnesses and testimonies, while mine was compiled from propaganda. So, although we were both “at Boston on King Street, March 5,” our stories differed greatly.
After all had submitted, the DAHS history teachers and Mrs. Dorothea Hackett deliberated on which student submission would be used to represent our high school. To the great shock of Jackie and myself, they chose our poem. We then had to record ourselves reciting our work, which was sent to the Institute for review.
Weeks past and I had all but forgotten the poem when Mrs. Hackett called me out of class to excitedly inform me that out of all the schools attending Hamilton, our poem had been selected to be performed at the Benedum in front of a terrifying 2800 people.
…2800 people. Sitting out there, waiting. The stage manager, to whom we were briefly introduced minutes before, hands us a microphone. The group ahead of us finishes, and we are urged forward by the groups still waiting for their chance in the spotlight.
The light blinds us as we walk on stage, and for some sense of comfort, I remember our agreement in case of emergency: if either Jackie or I forget a line and can’t recover, the other one is to yell: “The British are coming!” And we would run off stage. This was only ever a joke between us though, we both knew we that failing in front of a crowd like this was not an option.
Even in my fear, I would never dream of missing this incredible opportunity to perform in front of not just strangers, but my friends, my teachers, and the cast of an amazing musical. Slowly, I turn to Jackie and give a slight nod to begin:
“I was there.”