As an artist, I’ve had to work hard to imagine myself as the leading lady in my own life. Even as a newly published author and girl advocate with a fabulous slew of friends and wonderful family, I still get that critical voice in my head telling me “You don’t deserve it” or “you’ll never really make it.” I know it’s universal. All of us have that inner critic that wants to kick us into the background- the dark wings of the theater, watching everyone else make their dreams come true.
In Starring Celia, my main character learns to take center stage. Sure, it doesn’t happen automatically. In fact, there’s a moment early on where Celia can’t event imagine herself in a leading role- she tries, but her fantasy will only take her as far as servant to the Queen.
Suddenly, my daydream is interrupted by Quincy Dayton! How did she get inside my dream? There she is, sitting in a tall, red velvet chair with the White House dog at her feet. Quincy is ordering everyone around and they are listening. Then she calls loudly for her servant and there I am, in ratty clothes, hunching over and feeding her ice cream with a silver spoon.
Stop! I hate this daydream! But I can’t stop picturing it.
The thing I love most about theater is that it helps us imagine ourselves in someone else’s shoes. As actors, we get to dream up a character and feel our way into that…a rehearsal for life. And because our character, Celia, is in a Glitter & Razz play, she gets to choose her own character. She keeps imagining herself center stage and eventually chooses the role of Vice President. By the end of the book, she can see herself surrounded by adoring fans, bright lights and applause. She’s strong, smiling, center stage…in her power. Sure, this was on a literal stage. But the feeling stayed with her. Back at school, Celia stares into the face of the girl who bullied her and keeps her cool. Makes a new choice. She changed her story about how powerful she actually gets to be in her real life.
A couple years ago, I got really interested in overcoming my own critical voices. I was determined to change some of the beliefs that were holding me back. I heard about a process for making “self-revelatory theater” through the Living Arts Counseling Center in Oakland. For about 6 months, I showed up to a church basement with a group of other determined artists. We wrote our stories. We shared them. We shaped them into 20 minute solo pieces where we got to wrestle with old beliefs and shape them into new endings. Mine included a flashlight dance and singing to Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.” When I stood before an invited audience of trusted friends and soaked up their deafening applause, something truly shifted in me. I felt like Celia…a Go Girl! standing center stage, believing I could do anything. Sure, it was just a play. But I’ve been different since. Lighter. Braver. More honest about what I need and want. Making that play actually did my world. Time to head out and change theirs…
Share a “center stage” moment with me. It doesn’t have to have any connection to the theater. When did you feel like your happiest, most authentic self? Where were you? What were you doing? Can you imagine yourself as the lead character in your own life?
Allison Kenny is the author of “Starring Celia” and the co-founder of Go Girls! @ Glitter & Razz. “Celia Says” is a series that brings to life the lessons she learned while writing the book. She shares them as a way of helping you you to tap into your inner Go Girl! with courage and compassion.