By Nidia K. Flores
When I was in high school, I was lucky enough to get cast for a very serious role after playing a young little girl in a previous play. The show was “Go Ask Alice,” and it dealt with a young girl living in the ‘70s who struggles with anorexia, prostitution, and drugs. When I first auditioned for the play, I wasn’t prepared for the demands of the role. At that point, I was just excited that I was cast as a lead and I didn’t consider how the role as Alice was going to affect me. Nonetheless, I went to rehearsals and I started to realize how dark this play was. I started to relate to Alice in many ways that surprised me.
Still, as opening night approached there were a couple of scenes that we never managed to rehearse fully. The first scene was when Alice is poisoned and starts to hallucinate. In that scene, she thrashes and scratches herself around her room because she begins to think that there are worms all over her body when there really weren’t any. The second scene was Alice in a hospital having an emotional breakdown in front of her psychologist because of her guilt, insecurities, and remorse over her decisions. The third scene, her death scene, she again hallucinates and to make it stop ingests a large amount of pills and dies of an overdose.
The first time these scenes, and the play as a whole, were performed was the first time I felt completely emotionally naked in front of a group of people. It was interesting because the audience was seated on stage with me. It was very intimate. I remember opening night thinking to myself, “Oh my gosh. I hope I get through this.” At that point, I was a senior in high school and was overwhelmed by my future. You can say that the show helped me tap into emotions that were buried deep down.
During the first and second dramatic (unrehearsed) scenes, I was thrashing, crying, and screaming my lungs out in the auditorium and I remember hearing someone in the audience say, “Oh, my poor girl.” I am not sure if it was the stress of senior year or my connection to Alice that helped me portray or live through those intense scenes, but I did. No one expected this performance because during rehearsal I was intimidated by the intensity of the scene. I think it was because I am very guarded with how I feel. I try to stay happy and peppy, and avoid the sadness. But when those scenes ended, I went backstage for a quick change and began to cry hysterically.
To this day, I am not sure if I cried because I was still in Alice’s mind or if my emotions had escaped me. When I went backstage, I was sniffling and the stagehands kept whispering praises and surprise of what they had just seen and heard on stage. I kept saying thank you, but as I did, I burst into tears. I was hysterical. I could not, by the life of me, understand what was going on. I had to be held and comforted. Mind you, this was during a quick change. I was in trouble because the next scene was a very happy one. Somehow, I managed to get myself together, wipe off the tears, and act like the happiest person in the world. Two scenes after, the last scene, was the final and most dramatic death scene.
When the show was over, I again became hysterical and could not stop crying. The cast and crew had to hold me up and were all scrambling to make me feel better for the curtain call. This happened for three nights straight without fail. For days, I felt as if my emotions were like a sore body that had run a marathon without training. I was left sore for about a year, and for that time I was not emotionally stable. I had to slowly figure out which emotions were mine and which belonged to Alice. It was a lot to work through but I eventually felt like myself again.
I essentially sacrificed my sanity for art. In a way I feel like it was worth it because it might have helped or educated someone. Maybe, in response to my previous answer, helping others or telling a story is the purpose. But even then, it seems too simplistic.