My dear friend Chichi and I share a devastating ailment.
Theatrophobia: Fear of theatre that leads to significant anxiety and consequently, avoidance of the theatre.
As a therapist and licensed clinical social worker of 30 years, I assure you, it’s real.
Not cinema theatre. That doesn’t scare us. Chichi’s a sci-fi buff, and I love settling into big-screen recliner seating. I fist pumped the ceiling during Black Panther, adored Incredibles 2, and wept at the end of Fences. I also share my father’s love of shoot-em-up-bang-bang productions, along with my mother’s affinity for happily-ever-afters. Movies are wonderful. However, the red velvet curtains of the stage…horrifying.
Chichi Enu, Nigerian-born opera singer, finds it impossible to watch other opera singers on stage. It makes her doubt her singing ability. Though her soprano trills can mimic the playful flutter of butterfly wings, and fill the void of the largest opera house, still, she crumbles in the presence of Renee’ Flemming. And don’t even mention Audra Mcdonald.
We are kindred spirits. Me, I cherish Broadway musicals. However, when the curtain closes, I feel my chest tighten, shoulders scrunch to my ears, and my chin sinks to my chest.
I will never be able to write something that amazing.
Following each performance, weeks pass before I can resume my own writing. In ten years, no amount of friend-chats or self-talk has ever cured me. However, this week, something changed. I had an urge to buy tickets. Fearlessly, I pushed the envelope. Hamilton?
Why wasn’t I terrified? Then it hit me.
Recently, I was invited to direct the annual Christmas musical at my church. A grand production attended by thousands. In researching all things musical (staging, choreography, lighting), I spent a weekend watching bootleg YouTubes of Wicked, Frozen, Carrie, Legally Blond, and an entire season of Legally Blond: The Search for Ellie Woods.
As I watched the final YouTube show on my list, I swelled with ideas. For two days, I hunched over my Chromebook tapping out blocking, staging, and choreography until 3 am. I was eager to capture every detail.
My shoulders relaxed, no butterflies, chest fine. Something was happening. Different. I wasn’t feeling battered by Broadway. Those fantastic performances were now my allies.
In therapist-speak: I flooded my weekend with Broadway and unknowingly forced myself to experience the very thing that petrified me.
My Broadway-binge didn’t destroy me; it helped me. It never really had the power to hurt me. It’s Broadway; it ain’t that serious, and it was never really about Broadway anyway. It was about closing the final curtain on my self-doubt.
Hi. I’m, Pam. I’m a recovered Theatrophobic.
What thoughts keep you stagnant?
What petrifies you?
What can you do this week to face your fear?