This was going to be a solo show. That's what I do. I write and perform solo plays. Dramatic tales with multiple characters, for adults. Comic plays and folktales, for children. I've performed for half a million people, in tiny theaters and high- tech performance spaces, in international theater festivals and school cafeterias, on four continents.
I rarely get stage fright. But the thought of performing this story in front of an audience was like willingly entering my recurrent dream— the one where I am standing under a blinding spotlight on a rickety proscenium stage. I face the audience, open my mouth to speak, and realize: 1) I can't remember my lines; 2) There is a marching band entering the theater; 3) I'm naked. Shouting over the brass section, I stammer and blurt out improvisations, hoping my lines will come back to me before the audience showers me with rotten vegetables, but the band drowns me out. As they approach the stage, I see that the musicians are wild animals in military dress. I wake in a sweat.
On Friday, the eve of the Jewish New Year, September 10, 1999, I was rushed to Lenox Hill Hospital for an emergency CAT scan. "I'm here with your patient," said the radiologist on the phone to my doctor. "She appears to be in shock."
I sat down to write this story as a solo show, but I got stage fright and couldn't write anything for years.
Seven years later, on Friday, the eve of the Jewish New Year, 2006, I started to write. Unexpectedly. Urgently.
I won't be performing this story. In a book I am just as naked, lit under as unforgiving a spotlight, but I'm willing to divulge these secrets for one reader at a time. I've been writing as fast as I can, without telling anybody. For fear that I'll stop. For fear that the Evil Eye will catch up with me. Again.