Break a Leg

After an amazing morning of movement and mask making with the women at the Lighthouse, Susan, an experienced actress and current social work  graduate student, was teaching us some of the finer points of taking a bow – as it might have been done in the theatre. It was a lot harder than it looked.

Although the exact origins of the theatre idiom “break a leg” are obscure, it is an archaic slang term for bowing or curtsying; placing one foot behind the other and bending at the knee. That “breaks” the line of the leg. It is said that in Elizabethan England  the actors in deference to the queen remained bowed until the applause died and she left the theater. If she was pleased with the performance, applause may have continued for an extended time allowing the cast to make multiple extended bows before the audience. All of that could be quite physically fatiguing as we found out.

Nowadays “break a leg” is an expression of good luck extended to an actor or musician before a performance. As an accomplished actress and playwright, Susan has been accustomed to hearing that good wish frequently. So it was a startling surprise to have her post on Facebook recently that after thirty years of “break a leg” encouragement, she finally had.

Also an accomplished equestrian, Susan has had the misfortune of a horse rolling on her and seriously breaking a leg. Certainly I was concerned for Susan’s well-being, but she was also scheduled to cover most of the therapeutic art workshops with the women at the Lighthouse while I was on summer hiatus. I began to alert the women and staff that she probably wouldn’t be able to do the group workshops we planned. We were all disappointed because the women had loved their brilliant time with her.

A few days later I checked in with her. Scheduled for surgery this week, she’s still in a lot of pain. Even on pain meds, she was working on a mid-term, talking with clients on the phone (from her internship at a local non-profit), and planning on being able to do the Lighthouse workshops by mid-July! On crutches. With a driver. With determination. A whole semester’s graduate work is on the line if she doesn’t. This extraordinary lady definitely has the “show must go on” kind of get ‘er done attitude. I’m a little reluctant to suggest she break a leg, but let’s at least give her a round of applause!

If you’ve ever metaphorically “broken a leg,” what motivated you to make sure the “show must go on?” If you were to create a plaster cast for that brokenness, what would you write or draw on it? What “show must go on” recovery would you like applause for?

Looking forward to any words of encouragement you might have for Susan. I’ll pass them on.

PS – The Lighthouse is a fifteen-month, faith-based residential treatment program for woman recovering from substance abuse.




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