My Millenials

The Upside of Being Excluded

Over the summer I saw a large group of my theatre friends’ kids all attending a night out together- dinner and a show, all to support another theatre kid who was in that particular production. When I asked two friends, “Your daughter wasn’t there…was she doing something else fun?” I was shocked to learn that two of the prominent members of the theatre kid clique were not invited. This wasn’t just oversight on the part of tweens and teens, a mom had organized the outing. Recently, another mom in this group started organizing all sorts of “fun” for these kids, still excluding others. The snub is so deliberate and so huge, that I can’t help but agonize for the victims.  

We talk so frequently about kids bullying one another, about adults bullying one another. When we discuss adults bullying kids, it’s framed by abuse. In these social settings, though, as these moms deliberately disregarded one child while cultivating relationships with others, doesn’t it feel like bullying? It’s classic mean girl lunch-room kind of exclusion. As I continue to wrap my head around how grown women are acting this way in a zip code the size of a walnut, all I can do is care for the young beings who are enduring this behavior. I offered to them a letter:

 

Dear Teenager,

When I saw the photos of your friends all going to dinner and a play together, I couldn’t help but notice you weren’t there.   I thought maybe you had other plans, but I later learned at least two of my favorites (you and another) weren’t asked.  That is lousy.

One of the greatest hidden gifts of my life has been exclusion.   Since I was a child I have been excluded by my peers, especially the “cool kids”.   It used to upset me.  I’d cry.   I would hide in my room and teeter on depression, taking solace in music and books.  As I navigated my high school years without a clique of giggling teens at my side, I didn’t realize that I was the strongest among my classmates.  I had no fear in standing up to make a speech or toast.  I didn’t worry about what others thought when I stood up for what’s right or stuck to my convictions. I didn’t miss out on eating at a great restaurant or seeing a fab film because I was solo- I just went. I didn’t have an inner circle of besties to “help” me make decisions, so fashion, school, hobby, and decisions the like were all mine- no committee rule.  (And to be clear: they were all awesome decisions. 🙂 )  Adults welcomed me into their social circles early in my life, allowing me to cultivate job, communication,  and social skills that many of my peers STILL haven’t mastered. As a theatre person, this repeated exclusion has fostered the skills needed to excel at direction, stage management, and performing alike.  I don’t seek validation from a huge group of “friends” or need to be loyal to whomever the nicest mean girl is that moment.  I am loyal to the script, the process, the art.

Socially, some of the best friends of my life came to me in college.  I still connect and communicate with some high school classmates, but only because of social media. By standing alone and strong, I am better equipped to present my truest self to people I meet. And that’s where REAL relationships come from.   The exclusion I experience – to this very minute – by alleged friends and best friends allows me to see their true colors. And know that they aren’t really my friends. Their behavior reflects on THEM, not YOU.

Finally, as I look back as a technical adult, I am cognizant of the adults who did or facilitated the excluding.   Why wasn’t there one mom who spoke up and said, “What about Juliet?” Why were there moms who planned outings with my entire cast or team and didn’t think to call me- or worse, deliberately didn’t call me? Those moms raised kids who do the same.  My mom raised a grownup who will never let a kid sit alone at lunch, never let a cast gang up on the outsider, never ostracize a weak softball player.

Being a teenager is one of the very hardest things I’ve ever done.  It sucks.  I think you’re talented and smart and kind.  I also know you would never let one of your friends be left out of a group event and you would worry endlessly if someone was feeling bad.  Keep being you.  There’s no one better.

 

Maybe we all need a reminder once in awhile about how kindness is truly the only path in life.

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Dear Theatre Interns

The Summer Season at the theatre has ended, taking our interns back to their respective colleges.  I shared with them some thoughts…and a week after writing to them, I realized that maybe more than just these five could benefit from some of my thoughts.

 

Dear Abby, Brandon, Casey, Jacob, and Megan,

Alphabetical order, ya like that?  🙂

What a summer!  Here’s where we insert all the cliches like, “It feels like yesterday…,” “It was gone in the blink of an eye…,” blah blah blah.  

But they ring true.  We were just stumbling into rehearsals and finding our groove as casts, and now it’s time to say goodbye.  Think of what you encountered this summer:

*Unexpected Stage Management duties     *Prolific careers as understudies     *Gender studies *Lice     *Pink petals     *Mareya leaving you too early     *1,267 cabarets   *Spiders     *Bees     *Vomit     *Kids passing out     *Momentary mini-strokes during the curtain speech     *The scrim     *Pink feathers     *”[insert awkward quote here]”      *Scabbers’ antics     *The rooftop     *Lots of sandwiches from The General Store     *Warnings     *Fines     *Tech glitches     *Farts & Fog     *Invading- in strange scenarios- Juliet’s dreams (nightmares?!?!)   *The same musical performed 21 different ways over 21 performances     *Countless iced coffees from Dunkin’     *Missing family events     *Sleep deprivation   *Canoeing down the Delaware River     *Yellow teeth     *Power Ranger gloves     *A musical with at least four cast/crew casualties     *Dante     *Hunger Games SPH Summer 2016

I hope that personally you’ve each built new friendships and remembered the value in existing ones. I hope you found strength in your character and uncovered tactics to improve yourself. I hope you connected with people who bring out the very best in you. I hope you’ve discovered characteristics you admire in others and strive to cultivate them in yourself. I hope you’ve enjoyed your summer.  This, I hope, was the first of many times you’ll “live the dream,” getting paid to be in theatre.  

Professionally, I hope you found ways to be challenged, even when you felt you weren’t. I hope you tapped into new facets of yourselves as performers. I hope you never settled, that you pushed to achieve a better character and performance with each take. I hope you learned more about the vastness of the proverbial “village” that affords us performers the luxury of “just” showing up to perform. I hope your flexibility and adaptability increased. We endured more changes and modifications and upheaval than many seasons you’ve been part of so far. Your ability to adapt will take you far and earn you opportunities. And seriously: there was a slew of college students slinging hash for minimum wage this summer.  That’s honest work for honest pay, and it’s work everyone should do. We all got to do what we love, chasing a dream, bringing joy to audiences for dozens of performances, building personal and professional relationships….all while getting paid.  This is the stuff entire songs are written about….living the dream.

As you close this chapter and begin the next, I hope you can find the positivity in every lesson this summer brought. It’s easy to dwell on negative incidents. It’s even easier to find the bitter, jaded, glib comment.  Don’t take the cheap joke or sarcasm:  rewards are plentiful for those who can turn every interaction and experience into a lesson, into growth, into a smile.  

My short list of advice: never forget the importance of backstage decorum. Always leave the space better than you found it. Never abandon Theatre 101 notions like: don’t touch other people’s props, never give another actor notes, always return to the script, find your beats, get off book, wear your shoes.  Learn every aspect and be willing to help. If you’re called in for extra time on a show, you might just be the person who steps in for a life-changing role. Never let yesterday define your tomorrow. Don’t diminish one person along your path- we’re all here for a reason. No kissing until Tech Week. Learn to take a note (say “thank you”). Hydrate.  

John Steinbeck wrote in Once There Was  a War, “The theatre is the only institution in the world which has been dying for four thousand years and has never succumbed. It requires tough and devoted people to keep it alive.” Theatre requires more than talent. To succeed, theatre people must possess qualities that often act in opposition:  confidence with humility, natural talent with honed talent, drive with free-spiritedness, and most of all self-preservation and thick skin with a desire to build and respect relationships. Everything we did this summer had a purpose. From cleaning toilets to turn the space over to the audience (the last element to join any production) to strike and set up of all five shows in rep: what we do as theatre people has purpose. The greater our spectrum of experiences within the theatre, the greater our purpose within the craft.  Theatre people are the best people around because of and for this.  Thank you for what you brought to our “village” this summer.  

Before I leave you, a notion that is NOT meant to be a religious statement.  Despite the recent canonization of Mother Teresa by the Catholic church, this is only offered for its poignancy:

“I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?'” ~~St. Teresa of Calcutta, MC

If you don’t love what you do, don’t do it. If it is worth your effort, it is worth everything.  

Wishing you the best,

Juliet