Warrior Words: Empty spaces

Wilton High School is home to two cavernous bellies of vacant space. The emptiness with which they sit is not due to lack of physical objects occupying the walls within. Those do exist. It is instead due to a longing, an expectancy of grandeur that will fill their interiors for a few nights a week every fall, winter and spring.

Their exteriors are awfully inconspicuous, given away by nothing but plastic placards beside their uniform wooden doors reading the words “Little Theater” and “Clune Auditorium.” Their innards are lined with rows of cushioned chairs, placed in an angular fashion as to ensure optimal sight lines and their walls adorned with peculiar-looking instruments to enhance the rooms’ acoustics. These hallowed halls are home to the theater department at Wilton High School.

At the beginning of each theater “season,” students of varying talents, heights, girths, interests and confidence pack into these rooms for the ever-notorious audition process. Little can compare to the feeling that fills your body in the moments leading up to when you must perform, alone, on the stage, with the whole aspiring cast gazing back up at you. It is a feeling of nausea, anxiety and panic mixed with adrenaline, joy and anticipation as you prepare to leave yourself behind and occupy, for a moment, the life of someone else. If this can be accomplished with a considerable amount of skill and a lack of projectile vomiting, you will then face your callback.

Callbacks can most easily be equated to the sports ranking of first string in the tryout process. However, the sports metaphor ends here, as it is a simple truth that the swells of Sondheim and the clicks of a tap routine are not the same as the agony of suicides [conditioning exercises] and the calculated precision of a three-point shot. When callbacks are announced it is no longer your objective to demonstrate your skill, but it is now your responsibility to portray a character effectively. The real anxiety that comes with callbacks is the simple truth that the moments you spend on stage will define your role, quite literally, for the next three months. No matter your talent, or your ability to improve during the time of your show, you will hardly ever be able to change your role.

The weeks that follow auditions and callbacks are a blur of marked dance steps, vocal exercises and vain attempts to master British accents. As rehearsals continue, this blur is refined into a product, a calculation of movements and actions so deliberate and precise that little distinction can be made between the people who exist offstage and the characters who live on. As costumes and lighting are added for effect, what was once an amorphous mass of nerves and silent aspirations transforms into something solid and grounding, a family of sorts with connections of talent and the honest desire to produce something to be proud of.

Tonight, Peter Pan goes up at the high school. If you sit in the audience beforehand, you may be able to hear the screams of our backstage psyche from within the cozy belly of the Little Theater, and you may, just may experience the same void of longing, waiting to be filled with what is to come when the curtain opens.

Maddie Hoffman is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with five classmates.