Declan Rockett ‘20, Scarlett Diaz-Power ‘20, me, Morgan Grant ‘20, Mia Barbuto ‘22, Becca Collins ‘21, Carly Sponzo ‘21 and Sonia Joffe ‘19 pose in their costumes on the set of No Exit
Clockwise from L-R: Declan Rockett ‘20, Scarlett Diaz-Power ‘20, me, Morgan Grant ‘20, Mia Barbuto ‘22, Becca Collins ‘21, Carly Sponzo ‘21 and Sonia Joffe ‘19

It’s opening night. The show was scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m., while the team and I arrived in the theater at 6 p.m. The cast warmed up then changed into costume while Morgan, Declan and I placed furniture, decor and did checks for lights and sound. As the hour approached, people began to arrive and wait in the lobby. Around 7 p.m., Morgan and I started pacing, anxiously floating between the lobby, theater space and the “hobbit hole”, a room in which the actors stay before the show.

I was greeted with a few hugs and “break a leg” wishes. A couple of attendees asked, “How do you feel?” in the same tone my mom does when I hit a milestone birthday. My response, “GREAT!”, wasn’t 100 percent truthful.

As people took their seats and perused their programs, Morgan uttered her first “go,” signaling the beginning of the show. I stood for the duration, realizing from time to time that I wasn’t fully inhaling due to nervousness. I finally took a deep breath after the lights faded to black. And then I heard it: an uproar of applause and cheers. Both shows ran without any hitches and were incredibly well-received, to the team’s joy and my own. It wasn’t until our two-day run ended that I realized how silly it felt that I was nervous to begin with.

One of my most vivid and fond childhood memories is of my dad teaching me how to ride a bike. He tightly gripped my seat, assuring me that there was no reason to be afraid and that falling off was a part of learning. He ran alongside me and, soon after he let me go, he watched me topple over straight into a family of thorny bushes.

Directing “No Exit” felt exactly like that, with a few exceptions, of course. Instead of my dad teaching me, I was taught by a crew of brilliant directors. I observed their communication styles, note-taking and note-giving techniques, control over rehearsals and troubleshooting methods, and stole bits and pieces of each one I thought would be useful. Each one of these people, oblivious to them, had a hand on my metaphoric bicycle seat and played a part in letting me go. And I pedaled hesitantly forward into the not-so-thorny bushes of my first directing experience. This experience, just shy of a month, was truly one of the most rewarding I’ve ever had. And I can’t wait for the next. Is it too early to get my personalized director’s chair?