Dressing room talk is the best. When you get a group of girls together that genuinely like each other and throw them into a room together every night, you get very close and there is promise for hilarious banter.
A few weeks ago, I was talking with a cast mate, Maggie, about our childhoods and which musicals were integral to our upbringing. What started as a light conversation about VHS tapes ended up with us both in tears talking about trying to get to Neverland.
As children we escape to these fictional places when things aren’t going well. When school is a challenge we dream of getting our letter and passing through the platform to a train. We wish to fly away to an island where there are no responsibilities and no parents to tell us what to do. When we feel alone we want to click our heels and find ourselves with three new best friends. But the narrative changes quickly with age, as does our view of paradise. Our dreams switch quickly to pay raises. Our escapes look different, preferring beaches with cocktails to Yellow Brick Roads.
That pre-show conversation with Maggie reminded me what’s great about being an actor: We get to live in both worlds. While we do receive paychecks for the work we do, they are in exchange for giving us the chance to paint a canvas of fantasy for ourselves and those around us. Maggie got to live her dream as a teenager and play Peter Pan. The three months I spent playing Dorothy and traveling to Oz were the best months of my life. I’m still working on getting to Hogwarts, but I think I can make it happen. We have the ability to create these worlds together and invite the audience to come along with us. It’s such a gift.
Steve and I just bought a place, our first, a tiny apartment in New York City. It is small, but it is ours and we couldn’t be more thrilled. I’m proud of us. Proud of us for being able to pay off my loans. For saving money. For sustaining ourselves on acting work for so long. But the pride doesn’t just come from the mere possession of the property. It’s the joy of having the opportunity to create something that is totally ours. In the four small walls, we can create and harbor whatever we choose. We can display our treasures. I can feed the bellies of my loved ones out of a kitchen that belongs to me. We can grant comfort to traveling friends. We will weave a web of love that surrounds the place so fully that you can feel it. I want people to walk into my home and feel safe and valued. They are permitted to cry, rejoice, mourn, sing and celebrate.
New York is a difficult place to call “home”. I don’t deny it. There will be challenges along the way. Pirates, Dark Wizards and Wicked Witches who will try to knock us down. Let them come. My home will be Neverland, and I will fly on the A train to the place where I am welcome. My home will be Hogwarts, full of my books and of magic and possibility. My home will be Oz, where my friends will gather and we will help each other navigate through life as a together. My home will be all the things my husband and I make it, and there will be no place like it.