I stopped at the door, took a deep breath and gathering all the courage I could, slowly opened the door.

The old National Guard Armory was abuzz with activity. Musicians were playing parts of tunes, warming up. A girl in a tutu was pirouetting about, strangely in tune with the musicians. The din was produced by several loud conversations, people calmly shouting questions and orders.

But I was HERE, at a real audition, with a real director from New York.

Basil Gilchrist, the one person I vaguely knew, was somewhere in the crowd. Mother had told me to look for him, tell him who I was. If I wanted to be in the play, he’d be the one to see.

The tall, clean-shaven man who found me in that crowd was the “angel,” as mentors are referred to in theatre-ese, who was to introduce me to the world of entertainment. He made sure I got a “dumb blonde” part. With the first roar of audience laughter, I was hooked! I have never left.

Through laughter and tears, good times and lean times, the Gadsden Civic Theater (Theater of Gadsden) on Wall Street has been my emotional rock. The old building has been my place for dreams, triumphs, chagrin, remembering and forgetting (mostly lines!) and the wonderful, marvelous, creative people who congregate there, give their talent to the masses and then move on.

Only the faithful few stay behind to watch each new wave of starry eyed actors. For 50 years, I have watched the talented come and go, loving them as only I, who have watched them all, can love them — unconditionally and unselfishly, because I have been each one.

Sunday afternoon I experienced that love returned during the rousing performance of Johnny Cash’s life and music called “Ring of Fire.”

I saw my student Dr. Billy Jenkins clogging and dancing and singing; I was so proud! When Haley Rodgers sang and danced, my heart sang and danced with her. When Sammye Hill slipped up beside me and said “I just love you” — when Wayne O’Bar hovered by me for a few minutes in his role as lobby manager — on and on, from student after student, I basked in the love I knew and understood.

It is the “Hey, Rube, I’ve got your back” kind of love, though it seems a bit elementary to have to explain it, It’s the kind of love that would let you deliberately misspell a word in a spelling bee so your friend could win.

Forgive the sentiment, please. I saw a fantastic show; I knew I would. I saw a whole lot of people I haven’t seen in a long time; I knew I would.

My daughter Christie and I were discussing Sunday afternoon. She said “I bet you’d stay there, I bet you would spend the night there. I couldn’t, I’d be scared.”

I caught a glimpse of the memories locked away between the walls. I would! Why not stay where angels hover, ‘Round Town?

Glenda Byars is a correspondent for The Gadsden Times. Send submissions to glendabyars@comcast.net.