What a gift the theater has been. It’s something I discovered a long time ago and I’ve always loved it.
Maybe it’s an insatiable need for attention, or maybe it’s just a lot of fun. I do not know. The older I get, the more observations I make and the less serious I am about it all.
The theater world I’ve been in has been interesting – a different kind of community, kind of a weird and unusual subculture sometimes.
As a youngster, your first theater experience is usually when you get bitten by the virus. You do a little something in front of an audience, you get a laugh or applause, and it draws you in. It’s a bit intoxicating. It’s addictive. It’s something you want to do over and over again.
Usually someone tells you early on that you’re good. Sometimes people tell you you’re fantastic, when you’re really good. Sometimes you get enough applause and accolades that your ego gets inflated and self-importance takes over.
These people are in all the community theatres. They consider themselves theater experts after securing a few shows under their belt. Their full theatrical resume may have come solely from their work in community theater, but somehow they achieved a higher status – at least in their own brains.
How dare I tell you that? Well, I’m talking about me. I am that person. I’ve done a few shows, had some really juicy parts in some productions, and hung out with a bunch of people who told me how awesome I was, when in fact, I was probably pretty mediocre or a novice at best.
So I knew a little more than most people. I expected to always be cast and I expected to get the roles I wanted.
Eventually I started to see that it wasn’t that easy. Sometimes you are uncast. Sometimes someone else sings better, sounds better, and (gasp) even looks better. Sometimes you don’t match the director’s vision. Sometimes you are too big, too small, too old or too something.
And luckily, it happens to all of us. There comes a time, hopefully, when we’re all taken down a notch or two.
I think if most people in the theater accept the fact that everything is supposed to be just storytelling and fun, they will save themselves a lot of heartache. Of course, be serious about your role and do a good job. But for heaven’s sake, don’t be over the top and think you’re too good to play overall.
Also, don’t talk down a director because the whole audition process didn’t go the way you want. This is a typical response when a “full of themselves” person is uncast.
For some reason, they think it’s helpful to text and call people to tell them how awful the experience was.
I was in a show a few summers ago where there were multiple leads and a really big ensemble. Most of the children in the ensemble were very good actors who had all tasted the fame that comes from high school, college and community theater productions. But, they were cast as a whole in this particular show.
It is difficult for young people to understand what it means to be part of a whole. I can’t tell you how many of those kids wanted to do something special during a scene in which three of the main characters had a bit to do.
These kids told the director that they wanted to do various fun things during said scene. I wanted to jump in and say “But you’re taking the audience’s attention away from the main characters!” No one seemed to care, and I would have sounded like a pompous diva if I had talked. But I can’t be the only one feeling this.
Community theater is really like a study of personality types. Most of us are full of ourselves and maybe think we are better than we really are. Most of us have inflated egos. Many of us are self-centered and competitive. Many of us think we should have larger pieces than we usually get.
Then there are people who are mature, ready to listen and learn, and simply grateful to play a part, big or small.
But just as life becomes when we decide to push ourselves, theater can become a fun, drama-free environment.
I had the chance to be part of such a production this spring. The cast was phenomenal. No one seemed to be too self-centered, too selfish, or too self-absorbed. No one sat and talked endlessly about all the past productions they’ve been in, or told stories of all their past theatrical triumphs.
Some theater people who have been there for a long time like to hear themselves talk. But this time, I decided to hide it all and shut up.