I’m preparing for the largest project I’ve ever taken on before, and of course, it revolves around theatre. I’m going to write a novella about a theatre family, and I have to defend this project to a panel. Being hugely interested in theatre is important, but here’s the thing – I’ve almost never performed before.
I’ve heard stories of the people who “made it” and their experience of going to see a show for the first time. Their eyes light up and usually, they know immediately that’s what they want to do. That was never my experience. To my knowledge, the first musical I ever saw was Big: The Musical (based on the Tom Hanks movie), and I was so young that I don’t remember any of it. Maybe that was a sign that I wasn’t meant to perform.
When I was a kid (like elementary school), I would regularly get parts in the Christmas and spring pageants. Sure, maybe it was just because nobody else would audition, but my music teacher helped me with my one-line parts and it boosted my confidence immensely. I was the wise owl in a chorus line of birds during a zoo-themed production. I was the little old woman who lived in a shoe during a fairy-tale show. Then in grade five, there was a new music teacher and I didn’t get a part. I was an understudy. I still showed up for rehearsal so I would be prepared, but she dismissed me and told me I didn’t need to be there. Understudies were never used or even addressed. I stopped trying to be in front of a crowd. Nobody ever encouraged me to get back on the horse. Nobody ever told me I couldn’t, but nobody ever told me I could, either.
If I had been encouraged into theatre, who knows where I would be now? I would’ve discovered Les Mis ten years earlier than I did and I would likely have the Patti LuPone songbook memorized. I might still be sitting in the exact same place that I am right now.
I’ve been listening a lot to the Theater People podcast lately (which is phenomenal), and I’m only beginning to learn that performing isn’t necessarily exclusive with loving theatre. I’m learning through fantasy job searching that there are lots of theatre companies and journals looking for writers and communicators that have roles nearly as important (not at all as important) as performers themselves. I’m finally learning that I can sing out loud in the car with friends and I don’t have to worry about hitting that note. I can work with what I have and still be passionate about what I do.