Actually not being a theater major had nothing to do it. I usually figured I’d be less than welcome most places.
I stood near the doorway in my washed out jeans and denim shirt, my long blonde hair held back by a blue bandana, looking bored while I pulled out one of the few foods I didn’t mind eating. I took a bite while I stepped up onto the doorstep and leaned back against the open door to watch the audition. No one seemed to mind. No one seemed to notice. I was practiced at being invisible.
What I saw made me put the sandwich back in the bag. Food wasn’t that interesting, and it couldn’t distract me from what I was seeing. They were auditioning for Alice in Wonderland and the child—I call her a child. She was a freshman in college—was a roly, poly young woman about 5 feet tall, who had no idea what it was like to be an intelligent female child on the brink of puberty. I didn’t spend time trying to figure out how this might be. I found the portrayal of Alice as a six-year-old too disconcerting.
I felt myself leaning in the doorway. My skin was itching to protect Alice. I couldn't stand to see her so misunderstood. It wasn't fair.
I set down my self-consciousness with the white paper sandwich bag on the blacktop just outside the door and went in. I signed up to audition. Gone were thoughts of not belonging—not forgotten—gone. They were replaced with soft feelings of a job I knew how to do that needed doing. No one took much notice of me, which was good. I got my chance to read—first as the dormouse, then as Alice. Shortly after that auditions were over.
On the way out I met the director. He asked my name. I told him. I asked if he had a problem with a six-foot tall Alice. He said no. Where I got the nerve for that question I’ll never know. The next day when the cast was posted, next to Alice’s name was my own.
I don’t stand in doorways anymore thinking I won’t be welcome. I’ve learned to like the person that I see when I look in the mirror. I think I started to know her that day when I set down that sandwich and my self-consciousness for Alice.
Alice took me through the looking glass with her.
—me strauss Letting me be