Leaning Into Fear by Mallory Hewell

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Mallory Hewell is the Production Stage Manager for My Fair Lady.

You never know what you’re going to get when you go to a new place with new people and new surroundings. To be completely frank, I had a lot of fear surrounding my trip down to Naples. Chalk it up to bad experiences out of town elsewhere and my deep love for the people who are a part of my life in New York but something about Cory and Kristen’s phone calls about My Fair Lady seemed right. Rory Vaden explains in Take the Stairs that fear is an acronym: False Evidence Appearing Real. I believe we, as a society, spend a great deal of time allowing fear to control our actions and then live in a world of “what ifs.” Upon grappling with the fear for about a week I realized that getting on a plane to Florida was exactly what I needed and the challenge of this beautiful show was going to push me outside my comfort zone while bettering me as a human, a stage manager, and a collaborator.

The moment I stepped off the plane and was greeted by the Playhouse’s amazing company manager, Shay Dickerson, I knew everything was going to be alright. However, I still didn’t know how fulfilling it would ultimately be. In the days leading up to the first rehearsal (we stage managers get to work before the rehearsal process starts so everything is in place for the actors’ and designers’ arrivals) there was such a buzz of excitement in the air, it was contagious. With the first show of the season opening and the first musical in nearly a decade the whole company had a to-do list a mile long and still maintained the ability to help out the newcomer all with a smile, grace and kindness.

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The cast of My Fair Lady on the first day of rehearsal. Photo taken by Bob Chase.

Enter: the cast, our incredible creative team and our first table read. As a woman growing up in the 21st century, any story about a strong female finding her voice and inner strength speaks to my soul. I was in tears of joy and pride at the end of the first read knowing that I’d be helping bring this musical to life.  With Kristen Coury, a force of courage and strength, at the helm we were destined for greatness (Our fully female stage management team didn’t hurt matters in my mind either ;] ). In a matter of days, all of my fears surrounding leaving home for a couple months were completely eradicated. I actually sat in my car driving to the beach on a day off crying tears of joy upon the realization that we are creating a work of art full of heart and passion with a group of people who give so much of themselves to each other.

The road we traveled to opening night was winding and full of learning opportunities as the Playhouse made the transition from a 75 minute, 2-person play to a 2.5 hour 12 (10 actors, 2 piano players) person musical! After many hours of tech rehearsals we were ready for our audience. I knew we had something special on our hands, but you can never be sure how an audience will respond. It turns out I was on to something. It is such a treat each night when our 13th cast member arrives and takes their seats in the house and breathes a different air into the performance every night.

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Jeffrey Binder (Henry Higgins) and Patricia Noonan (Eliza Doolittle) in My Fair Lady.

Naples has provided an environment of love and care and passion to a group of people who traveled away from their homes to take the risk of exposing their emotions onstage and backstage each night. Leaning into the fear of moving to Naples for a couple of months has undoubtedly made me stronger, smarter and better. Pushing yourself outside your comfort zone rarely ever ends in a loss, but that can be hard to see at first. I highly recommend you try it often; you’ll be surprised at how you can function on a higher level when you just try something new. It has been an absolute pleasure being here in Naples and bringing Lerner and Loewe’s work to life every night!

*When not stage managing, Mallory maintains a blog at www.malsfitnesstour.wordpress.com about her travels, fitness, mindset, and general well-being. If any of these things sound interesting to you she’d be honored if you checked it out and connected with her!

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