Coming to the Stage- Part 2

I do love a good metaphor.  In Part 1, I wrote about stages: stepping to them, being on them, going through them, sharing them… you get the point.  However, I am happy to report, that it is not just a metaphor; I really am coming to the stage again.

Two days ago, I went to an open audition.  I haven’t auditioned in a ridiculously long time.  That’s not to say that I haven’t been performing.  I have been dancing and even singing on stage quite a bit up until recently, but for whatever reason, either I haven’t had to audition (#winning #MyReputationPrecedesMe), or I haven’t been taking enough risks.  Unfortunately, we know which one was more commonly the case.  The underlying problem has been that I haven’t had the capacity to do more.  Now that I have made some schedule changes and sacrifices (more on that next Tuesday), I have the opportunity to do more with all the creative energy that I have been bottling up.  So imagine my giddiness, while reading the playbill for a theatre company that I admire, and noticing that they were holding auditions only 3 days away!  My heart sank as I realized that I had a work conflict.  It only took one text message, inside one minute, to switch my schedule around (that has never happened before!!!  Switching schedules usually requires a high level of begging, bribery, and/or blackmail akin to those in public office, but miracles do happen everyday!).  I was able to audition!

After emailing my headshot and a rather unimpressive resume of my meager body of work, (darn The Struggle for being so real!!!  If all you do is work, then of course your extracurriculars suffer) I received my audition time.  It was really happening!  Then, I had a brief flashback, remembering how awkward I was in high school during auditions: I was the dweeb in the bathroom reciting lines over and over again, and even practicing tongue twisters (“Red leather, yellow leather, red leather, yellow letter” “the seething sea ceaseth, and thus the seething sea sufficeth us”).  I did this nervously up until the very last minute.  When my name was called, all my preparation immediately went out the window; I became someone else, and unfortunately not the characters I was trying out for, but the mild mannered Clark Kent version of myself, hiding my super powers.  Auditions often begin with the director asking a few questions, they’re getting to know you and/or trying to put you at ease.  I was wound so tight, that no amount of preamble could have put me at ease.  This level of performance anxiety derailed most every audition.

If you think I am over exaggerating how badly I bombed at auditions, allow me to introduce exhibit A: I tried out unsuccessfully for my high school’s theatre company two years in a row.  I continued to take theater classes, in both technical theater and performance, however procuring a place in the company always alluded me.  The only reason, I think I made the company after trying out my junior year, is because my theater teacher overheard me telling another classmate, that if I didn’t make it in this year, I’d be done with the theater program.  To this day, I am not sure whether I made it in based on the merit of my audition, my record of outstanding work in class, or out of pity.  Either way, I was elated to finally be “in”.

So this is what I recalled first, as I read my confirmed audition time.  I quickly regrouped by flashbacking  over all the time that has passed since high school and all the times I successfully performed, feeling at home on stage and connecting strongly with the audience.  I’ve come a mighty long way since my lame days of high school, but it left some residual phantom pains of lameness.  I foolishly wondered, “I don’t have it anymore, but can it grow back!?!”  I made a choice, in that moment, to no longer entertain those thoughts, and chose instead to be excited for the opportunity.  The take away from all the flashbacking is that being prepared, remaining calm, and confident in my abilities is key.  Maybe I don’t have much experience with auditioning since high school, but I have a lot more performance experience since then.  I told myself, “I got this!”  Also, I wore my confidence-boosting secret weapon… red lipstick.

I arrived surprisingly early, because I found the place without any trouble.  There were signs on the door outside that told me I was in the right place.  (For all my fellow metaphor lovers, I shamelessly point out the last sentence.)  I took a seat and a deep breath.  “You got this!  Just have fun!” I assured myself.  I could hear laughter coming from the audition in progress.  Finally, the door opened, the last auditionee stepped out, and then my mispronounced name was called (the unique name struggle).  I remained myself, no Clark Kenting.  Inside were the director and two company members.  The black and white image I provided for my headshot looked up at me, smiling reassuringly, from the director’s table as I grabbed the script we would be reading from.  I got a brief description, from the director, about the short play and the characters within it.  The two other company members were my scene partners.  Talented and funny, they didn’t just read the lines off the page.  They acted out the scene with enthusiasm, and instead of being intimidated, I simply reveled at our play.  I got to “read” for different parts, and then it was over.  It felt like an enjoyable roller coaster ride: the anxious butterflies at the beginning, the thrilling euphoria of rising and falling, the hilarious yet awkward reactions to the unexpected, the joy of feeling suspended in time, and finally the abrupt disbelief that comes with the unavoidable return to central standard that signals the end of the ride.  “What?!  It’s over already!?!  Can I go again?!”  I tried out; I made mistakes; I kept going; I got a few laughs.  I just wanted to get right back in line and ride again.

In the end, the audition did have a bit of awkwardness (though extremely watered down; it was more of an eua de toilette hint of high school lameness).  I wouldn’t say I #nailit, but I can honestly say I had fun.

I find out later today whether I’m “in” or not.  Whatever the outcome, I am going to keep coming to the stage.

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Coming to the Stage- Part 1

I readily admit that I don’t know what I am doing.  I am an amateur at mostly everything, especially life.  But I love to learn, and I keep stepping to the stage.

ACT I

It started out small.  I remember being no more than five fingers old, packed tightly in a car full of my loved ones, grown-ups in the front seat, little cousins perched precariously on the laps of big cousins in the back.  We were on our way to the Alamo.  I don’t remember much about the Alamo, despite that being it’s thing… REMEMBER THE ALAMO, but I do remember the road trip.  The time spent in the car, the time wasted out of the car because of the multiple unscheduled stops my urgent and unpredictable restroom request caused (my young bladder was not cut out for the open road), the game of Catch-22 (long before I understood what a Catch-22 was) I played with my uncle where I tried to get candy (if I asked for skittles, he mischievously claimed to only have “ski-diddles” and when I asked for “ski-diddles” he confusingly only had Skittles).  This road trip to the Alamo contains my first memory of trying on other people’s lives: observing actions, speech, mannerisms, and then reflecting them back.  It is the prequel story to the saga of my passion for acting.

The first scene, takes place in front of a mirror, hanging on the wall of the motel room my extended family shares together.  I notice my Uncle “Ski-diddle” grooming in the mirror.  I have been captivated by him ever since our game of “chase the rainbow”; he is a giant and kind and playful, and without trying he nurtures my silly side.  Eventually, observing isn’t enough, so I stand next to him in the mirror, just barely tall enough to see over the dresser, and mimic his every move.  We wordlessly continue our little drama:  he brushes his hair… I brush my hair; he adjusts his clothes… I adjust my clothes; he shaves his facial hair… I shave my non-existent facial hair.  My very first improv scene.  My very first stage.

As a young girl, I wanted to be many things when I grew up, but I always included actress.  Growing up in church offered unique opportunities to “perform” before an “audience”.  One story, which I shall share in another post, and which my big cousins have never let me forget, involves having to be tactfully removed from the pulpit and separated from my new best friend, the microphone.  I was way too comfortable on stage.

Another moment, I can never live down, involves being obsessed with the movie “Coming to America”.  I loved the scene where the Prince of Zamunda meets potential wifeys.  My favorite thing to do was reenact one part in particular: I hold an imaginary lighter beneath my palm as the flames dance along my unflinching flesh, and quote in a most serious and monotone voice, “I was Joan of Arc in my former life”.  Oh yes!  Waaaaay too comfortable on stage.

INTERMISSION

Fast forward in my timeline past my awkward, insecure pre-teen adolescence, past loss and grief, and pause for a moment at my high school self.  I took acting very seriously.  I believed I was good at it, and I certainly loved telling stories and playing roles on stage.  But there’s is a but.  Having to audition, be judged, and compete for roles made me feel insecure.  I was no good at auditioning, and in fact, I had to tryout over again for three years before I ever made it into my high school’s theater company.  My senior year, I was finally able to perform in front of an audience, and yet I began to shrink on stage.

Shakespeare wrote that all the world is a stage.  The bard’s metaphor definitely applied in my case.  I shrank from a lot of stages in my life.  I continued to hold tightly to the desire to share stories and tell them truthfully, but I was less bold, it was like a birthday wish that you never speak aloud because you are superstitious it won’t come true.  I was afraid it would never come true.  I was conditioned into believing that it was not a sensible dream at my age: “you should study computers”, “do you have a backup plan”, “hardly anyone makes a living like that”.  Advice meant to helpfully shield me from the pain of failure, only redirected my energy at my short comings, and I acted out (or rather opted out) of fear of failure itself.  I traded in my dreams of writing and acting for more practical ones.  I didn’t major in theater or writing, and then later I became a slave to The Struggle (a perpetual cycle of working to earn money to pay bills and rent… only to work more to pay even more bills… saving little yet owing a lot, never getting much farther ahead); I reached a stage in my life where it was nothing but work or study: I neglected my personal needs and relationships and ignored my dreams completely.  But the thing about a calling is, it won’t shut up.  The small voice, no matter how drowned out by distractions or distorted by self-doubt, it remained nagging me during the quiet hours or in my sleep.

ACT II

Now fast forward to the part of the story where, I finally decide to listen and trust the small voice, to be more intentional, to take more positive risks, to once again step to the stage and follow my dreams, and to even have the nerve to blog about it.

I’ve shared my intentions, my struggles, and my hopes, but I realized I have been leaving you out of the process.  Up until now, I have only been sharing my dramatic revelations, the stories that, despite being delayed by tedious perfectionism and harsh self-critique, would not be silent and insisted on being told.  I haven’t connected with others who can probably relate to my struggles, people still learning and unlearning similar lessons.  I have been sending postcards after the fact, as opposed to keeping you informed the entire time.  I haven’t let you in on the everyday moves I make toward that elusive horizon where my dreams live.  I haven’t let you follow along as I co-create my new life.  I left you out of the process.

Sharing in this manner, only when I have profound revelations, does a disservice to both storyteller and reader.  It is giving you an obstructed view of the stage.  And how can we connect more deeply under such conditions?

Henceforth, my goal is to post at least once a week.  Publishing a new post every Tuesday.

I don’t have this whole, “what to do, now that you’ve started a blog” thing figured out, but I did learn that it is important to schedule post instead of posting on a whim.  I have a schedule now!  And now that I have shared the schedule, I have more accountability to anyone reading this.  See how I am learning new things!?!?  (Writer pats herself on the back, as she smiles way too enthusiastically at the fact that she created a schedule).  Have I told you how happy it makes me to share my work with you?!  Thank you so much for reading!

I am inviting you back on that field trip I promised a couple posts ago.  I want to share a more complete picture of the journey I am on.  I happily share this stage with you.