friends

The Case for Theatre Majors: Rejection, Part 1

The women at my gym are fascinated with the idea that rejection isn’t a reason to take to my bed. They are devastated that I never heard back from an audition I submitted for a local community theatre musical production. In trying to explain to them my feelings about it (in between TRX and yoga classes, of course), I was essentially making a case for why theatre folks are extremely well equipped to “deal” in life, across the board. When I sat down to formulate my thoughts into a journal entry or blog post, I kept returning to one of my soapbox topics that I touted regularly to “my” kids during their educational theatre experiences. Theatre prepares us for success in life. Theatre majors should not be discounted in the workplace. Theatre kids get it all, and can give this knowledge easily. This is a huge topic to write about. As I hash out each element of my list (TBR….to be released), I hope you’ll join me in an episodic presentation.  First up:  Rejection.  Rejection is a multi-faceted part of this theory. Part one, comin’ at ya.

In the last six months I’ve auditioned for theatre projects only twice. I didn’t get either part. Both times I submitted my interest, I expressed the desire to be cast in ANY role, not just the lead or featured role (respectively) for which I was reading. I can regale you with the first audition later this month, today I’m telling you about the audition that my fitness center pals are so invested in.

I submitted a video audition for a community theatre musical production, citing my interest in a specific featured role, but stating that I was interested in ANY role. I received the polite, “we got everyone’s auditions stay tuned as we begin assembling the cast” email and then….nothing. Not one word. Not a text, not an email, not a call, not a carrier pigeon. This next part is lengthy without any fun graphics or memes to keep you entertained. It is the personal backstory of my rejection, my theory of my rejection, my bad or questionable decisions, and concludes with my lessons learned.

Step One: Prepare for the Audition

I downloaded two different cast albums. I researched the desired role. I bought [overpriced] sheet music for the character’s bigger song. I downloaded the karaoke track for said song. I sang for a trusted friend who encouraged me while keeping my hopes and ego in check. I scripted and memorized a brief monologue to introduce the song. I memorized the song. I hired my nephew to film the audition.

Step Two: Accidentally Learn Background Information and Question the Validity of the Audition

Three different “friends” told me that several roles were pre-cast. One of the friends was the recipient of said pre-casting. Upon consulting the audition notice and seeing “all roles open,” I questioned one of the proverbial “powers that be” as to the truth in this. I had been told very reliably that several roles, including the one I wanted, had already been offered to other performers. This is confirmed and I decide to not audition. Why waste my time and embarrass myself?

Step Three: Make Other Plans and Then Have Chaos Erupt

I decide against auditioning and make other plans. I let my nephew off the hook to film. Then I get another message from the aforementioned representative of “powers that be” saying s/he was mistaken: that nothing is pre-cast and please audition. Please be involved. I’m welcome. Now I’m torn: I’ve literally named names and will likely be auditioning to be cast in the ensemble. I can do it; I love theatre, I value arts in the community, and I have quite a bit to bring to many aspects of the production.

Step Four: Re-hire Nephew and Submit Video Audition

I sent it. I swallowed my pride, pushed the rumors out of my head, and did what I could. I was confident that at very least I’d be cast in the ensemble. It kind of sucked to have invested that much time, energy, and money in an audition for an unpaid gig as an ensemble member, but that’s what loving art is. I needed to check myself. I also constantly remind myself that if I want to be the person who “calls out” others, I have to put action where my mouth is.  

Step Five: Re-hear the Pre-cast Names/Roles

Literally twelve hours after the nice email that nothing’s been offered or cast yet and to hang tight, one of the pre-cast rumor actors tells me TO MY FACE she was offered the role before auditions. I ignore it. I smile, I think, “It will be super nice to be in the ensemble and support a friend in a nice role. This is a test of humility and enthusiasm.” I go home and am sad, but I’m not surprised. I’m disappointed that I keep getting lied to.

Step Six: Hear Absolutely Nothing

I never got any communication. No formal rejection, no offer to be in the ensemble or backstage. The actress who was alleged to be pre-cast in the role I desired confirmed it a second time by offhandedly mentioning the part while talking about something else.

Step Seven: Evaluate the Rejection

I have thirty-five years of theatre experience. I have fifteen years of community theatre credits in this area. I have eight years of professional theatre credits. I have a freaking degree in theatre. I can’t get cast in ensemble of a community theatre show.

Step Eight:  Evaluate My Errors- Past and Present

I am currently beating myself up for every single thing I’ve ever done in theatre, or at least how each of those things could be interpreted. I’m raking myself over the coals remembering moments in which I was difficult to work with. Moments in which I chose candor over ass-kissing. Moments in which I was guided by the work, not the feelings of others. I am frequently asked to watch rehearsals to help the director give notes or troubleshoot problems in a show. I am often the audience member that the cast fears seeing after a show, worried about my opinion of the production. I am the person who spots the weakest link or moment and wants it repaired. I am always the person who works really hard to bring the best show possible to its feet- whether as an actor, director, stage manager, choreographer, or audience member.  I tell you, reader, honestly:

*I never criticize that which I can’t fix. If I don’t know a way to rectify a problem with a show, I don’t articulate my dislike. I strive to be constructive, not destructive.

*I am infinitely harder on myself that I ever will be on others or complete productions.

*I hold everyone to a high standard.

*I don’t subscribe to cliques. I don’t like when a cast member is excluded or “Mean Girl’d.” I don’t like when outsiders don’t get equal treatment. We all started as outsiders.

*I don’t sign on for disrespect. Don’t disrespect the art. Don’t disrespect the script. Don’t disrespect the cast. Don’t disrespect the creative team. Theatre is a machine in which each cog has a function. When one cog is out of whack, the whole mechanism malfunctions.

*I don’t like fake relationships. It makes my blood boil when a friend will talk smack about a director or performer at length, and next be seen buddying up to them for a role. Integrity trumps popularity in my book.      

 

Step Nine:  Resignation and Acceptance

I didn’t get a part.  There is always another part. There is always another show. Onward. But I also have to check myself- again. My mouth gets me in trouble.  Sometimes it’s calculated, sometimes it is not. Usually, I feel justified.  You know that meme that’s based on George Carlin’s comedy?  “Everyone loves honesty until you’re honest with them. Then you’re an asshole.”  DING DING DING.  BUT………………… and it’s a big BUT…………

I will hold my tongue more. Not be deceptive, just be quiet. I don’t have to sacrifice my personal integrity by letting someone else exercise the lack of theirs. I don’t have to hold a mirror to every person in every situation. I can learn and practice more subtlety. I can embrace this reality and adjust my behavior accordingly.

Step Ten: Rejection Lessons

For my ladies at the gym, theatre rejection teaches you to keep going.  Not getting the part doesn’t mean I’m giving up on theatre. Theatre rejection teaches you that there are always factors out of your control. You can’t control the whims of casting agents or directors. You have to do your best and present your best. Theatre Rejection teaches you that every action has an equal reaction. Called a director lazy? You won’t be in any of his shows any time soon. Said you “loathe” a particular leading man? You’ll never be cast opposite him, no matter how much you want the part. You have to be accountable for everything you do in your life, knowing that a bad experience someone had with you a year ago may influence decisions in the present. Diplomacy is important in most of our lives. To hone this skill in creative environments is to perfect it. Most importantly, theatre rejection teaches us to evaluate how we can improve. Sometimes it’s as simple as investing in dance classes, a vocal coach, or better headshots. Other times it is learning how to audition better. There are even times it makes us dig deeper and learn to get along with each other better.
And so…we theatre people go on. We embrace the next opportunity for rejection, knowing that eventually there is acceptance.

2016 Out, 2017 In!

Yes, I’m aware that the new year is already 36 days old.  Cut me some slack. I just unearthed a box of unopened mail from December 2014. My “to do” list isn’t exactly up to date.

Last year I wrote about New Year’s resolutions and detailed what I hoped to accomplish in 2016. That post is here. In the interest of accountability, I give you my results:

1- Exercise 3 times a week.

VICTORY!  There were months where I took an average. Forgive me.

2- Read 2 books a month:

FAIL. To be clear, I won’t let myself “count” any audio books I listen to, which would push me well into the VICTORY category. I only “count” books I read with my own two eyes. I only accomplished ½ my goal.

3- Write 1 new blog post a month:

FAIL.  Dismal, pathetic failure. 2016 was tough. I didn’t write here because…well…I didn’t feel there was worth in the practice. I didn’t feel valued. I didn’t feel that anyone read or cared. I didn’t think writing for mental clarity or the actual writing exercise had merit. 2016 did a number on me.

4- Save some money.

FAIL. No discussion.

5- Send 1 handwritten note- unsolicited- to a real person every month.

VICTORY! This was the best practice I implemented in my life in 2016. It was fantastic. I sent all 12 notes, excluding “Thank You” notes and notes to cast members or interns during the summer theatre season. Some notes included a small gift, all notes were sincere and had a specific point. Fully half of the notes were acknowledged by the recipient.

6- Meal plan for our house every week. EVERY SINGLE WEEK.

VICTORY!  This was the second best practice I implemented in my life in 2016. In the past I have been a fan of spontaneity and “What do you feel like?” dinner plans. My meal planning in 2016 left room for that flexibility, but significantly reduced my grocery spending and overall food waste.

7- Keep up those other successful bits of awesome I attempt.

VICTORY!  I concede, however, that this is subjective.  Some days just showering and leaving the house fulfilled my “bits of awesome.”

I have plans for 2017.  

1- Exercise 3 times a week.

I thought about eliminating this from “resolutions” because I enjoy a generally fit lifestyle. Seeing the workouts logged, knowing I made a promise, and keeping the promise motivates me.

2- Read 2 books a month.

This should be easy for me. I used to read three books a week. I can easily read a 300 page novel in a sitting. I must do this.

3- Write 1 new blog post a month.

I cannot doubt what I know works for me. Even my shallow, emotional rants serve a purpose in my consciousness. I also have been listening to a storytelling podcast (The Moth- go listen!) that reminds me:  I have stories to tell.  2017 is the year I tell my stories.

4- Focus on financial health.

A slight modification from past years’ “Save some money” resolutions, financial health is different. I’m returning to a period in my life where I sat every Monday morning and balanced checkbooks, transferred money to savings, evaluated money in/out, and saved for vacations and extravagances- all without relying on lines of credit. 2017 and 2018 bring some milestones to my and Joe’s life and I’d much rather enjoy them than not.

5- Send 1 handwritten note- unsolicited- to a real person every month.

I’m telling you: try this. Real mail, real letters, real appreciation for a human in your life. This not only brightens someone else’s day, you will marvel at how many people you have to choose from. Sitting and thinking of who is (or was) a light in your life keeps marvelous perspective.

6- Date Joe more- 2 times a month, I hope.

Like any couple, we used to have a set “Date Night.” During hectic weeks or months (and honestly, the years 2010-2013), we’d laugh and vow to make it up. We spend lots of quality time together, but we’re going to try to spend concerted “Dates” together. We even made lists of places to check out for a few hours, restaurants to visit. We’ve been RedBox – ing movies together. It’s really, REALLY nice. #year13

7- Organize these digital photos.

UGH. My goal is 50 per day, all year long. If I get 1,000 per month I’ll be happy, though. That *might* get my iPhone cleared up.

8- An overall de-cluttering initiative.

To be fair, this started in Fall 2016. I spent several hundred dollars and about nine days working my costume collection. I’ve attacked my personal wardrobe and started utilizing ThredUp and Poshmark to thin out my collections. I’ve dropped three full Jeep loads at Salvation Army. I’ve even been throwing out “souvenirs.” 2017 will bring success with this resolution, I know it.

9- Decrease digital messes.

7, 8, and 9 could probably be combined.  Each day I have nine email addresses I check. That’s nine inboxes of subscriptions, spam, and news. I’m hoping to streamline this to three, each serving a purpose. I strive to unsubscribe from unwanted shopping sites and merge duplicate accounts.

10- Random acts of connection.

If you’ve read anything at all here, you realize that I not only hoard STUFF, I hoard relationships. Or their baggage. Or their remnants. So instead of dwelling on these past connections, I’m trying something fun and fleeting.  I bought Sneaky Cards. Check ‘em out. Random, fun, bold connections with strangers who get to pay it forward into the world is my goal.

SO…..I took most of my 2016 list and put it on the docket for 2017.  I eliminated the meal planning from my list. It is completely ingrained in our household. We waste less, we spend less, we eat better, and our pantry is never harboring random canned goods from early 2006. Keeping the “bits of awesome” should go without saying at this point in my life. If it’s good, keep it. If it’s bad, toss it.

Ten is a lot- a WHOLE lot. One month in, nothing’s been abandoned yet. One month in, all ten feel pretty good.  

Disappointment

It’s inevitable: people will disappoint you.

Your spouse will forget an anniversary. Your child will choose a bad friend. Your parent will ignore you. You will get cut off in the church parking lot. Your college roommate will ignore you at your class reunion. You will catch your best friend gossiping about you in your own kitchen. The grocery store cashier will forget to scan your coupons.

Don’t forget: you will disappoint others.

You will blow off a birthday brunch. You will make a snarky comment about your best friend to a mutual acquaintance. You will “grr” at an employee in a department store for no good reason. You will fail to apologize for showing up to a meeting ten minutes late. You will inadvertently compare your spouse to a former flame. You will reject your child’s attempt at helping with a chore because you can do it better. You will lose your patience with your kids and yell louder than you intended.

A constant challenge for me is to channel disappointment into positivity. The Pollyanna “GLAD” game gets old. How can I really say, “I’m GLAD my friends came to my home, ate my food, drank my wine, and made me cry with their cruel jabs about my personality”? Is it even sane to consider morphing being excluded from a family gathering into, “I’m GLAD that my brother and his wife are confident in their choices and excluded me so hurtfully from the baby’s birthday party”? No, Pollyanna, I’m not GLAD these things happen. In fact, I struggle with disappointment constantly.

I don’t know what the answer is. I’ve tried talking- LAWD have I tried talking. I’ve tried subtweets and vague-booking. No thanks. What’s been most effective for me, but might not gain accolades far and wide, is taking disappointment and making a very selfish, concerted effort at change. Consider:

*I walked in on one friend whispering about me to another friend when I had confided in them an emotional crisis. I felt betrayed that these two pals were now rolling their eyes about a situation they’d been validating for several weeks. I was embarrassed. I was frustrated. I was still in crisis. I wanted to drink too much Merlot and call them out. I took to my journal instead. When I felt the urge to “talk about it,” I put my thoughts on paper and closed the book- literally. I get to spend time with my biggest fan (me), I get to work on my writing, and I can choose to ignore the sentiments jotted down or relive them over and over again.

*Our house is the go-to for our circle of friends in terms of hanging out. I happily and willingly create a giant spread of food, make sure the fridge is stocked with everyone’s favorite potables, and never lament the work/cost/time/mess. At our last “happy hour” a snarky, “You don’t have kids, you don’t get it,” reminded me of the great divide- those with children versus the childless. It also illuminated that this woman genuinely has zero respect for the role I play in many children’s lives nor does she have respect for what my life is overall. Last week when discussion of a “happy hour” gathering came up, I declined the conversation. I may have said that I’m too busy, but instead I curled up with a novel I’d been aching to read. I don’t have to spend my most precious commodity preparing to entertain someone who diminishes me so easily. I’m spending that time reading instead.

*I didn’t smile at a little girl in CVS. I was walking in to buy allergy medicine and was annoyed to be doing so. I entered the automatic doors, staying to the right, while an obnoxious creature on a cellphone was barreling towards me, oblivious to my presence or basic rules of civility. Trailing behind the offending party was a little girl, probably three years old. She had a new toy in her hand, still in the package. She looked right at me and smiled, so excited to share the acquisition with someone. My annoyance with the little girl’s mother consumed me. I looked at the child and kept walking. When my own decorum returned, I felt so guilty to have denied this child a smile, the most basic convention of friendliness. I’ve been sure to smile at each person I pass when I’m out in the world, regardless of age. It’s amazing how much a smile can do for someone, particularly when coming from a stranger.

*My boss made a bad decision. He made a call in the heat of the moment that the team didn’t believe in, that had a negative impact on the project, and ultimately fractured morale. I was disappointed in his weakness, in his lack of dialogue. Instead of harping on this incident, I’ve spent more time praising my colleagues for their strengths. I’ve spent more time connecting team members’ strengths to tasks. While it’s still a new scenario, we all seem to be happy to seemingly ignore the snafu of last month and focus on the future when in fact we’re channeling a disappointment into creating positive growth.

Maybe this seems dumb to you. For me, finding a way out of disappointment is essential. In the past I allowed an isolated disappointment to consume me- to become a negative outlook or complete bitterness. Too often I pull up Facebook and see someone going on a non-specific rant about an injustice they’ve suffered. They garner “likes” and “HUGS” and “Feel better, sweetie, you’re better than them” types of comments. But they are perennially unhappy. They seem to thrive on negative interactions and expect disappointment. The longer I employ the technique of negative energy conversion, the less disappointed I am. Truly. It has become automatic to experience joy by choosing positivity. And maybe that Pollyanna outlook isn’t so “old” after all:

I’m GLAD to endure a disappointment so I can find a different path later. I’m GLAD that I’m able to work through disappointments. I’m GLAD that I will not allow disappointments to define me or even the moment.

 

 

Dear Lisa

Dear Lisa,

Remember me? That fun, eager to please, book lending friend of yours? You were probably one of my very best friends despite our short time together. I loved that first time you invited me out.  I was shocked when my assistant covered the receiver with her hand, extending the phone to me.

“Jule, is Lisa.”

“Hello?”

“Hey! What are you doing Tuesday night?”

I immediately assumed you needed a favor: the baby picked up, the dog walked, the groceries shopped for, any one of the mundane tasks I reveled in accomplishing for you because I loved you.  And truthfully, because we acted like family. These were the things you did for family.

“Nothing. What’s up?”

“Wanna go out? I’m thinking dinner and drinks?”

WAAAAHHOOOOOO!!!!!!  She likes me! She really likes me!  I couldn’t believe it! Here we were: separated in age by a decade and at least half a dozen contrasting life decisions. I approached friendships with trepidation: my high school years were riddled with one mean girl after another, each knocking down a different part of my self esteem. My college years helped remind me of my good characteristics, and resulted in some of the best relationships of my life. My post-grad life brought me to you, your husband, and your daughter, a relationship that felt familiar and fantastic. It was as though I had finally met and connected with “my people.” On that afternoon we planned that you would pick me up on Wednesday, your hubby would stay with the baby, we’d do dinner, we’d hit the bars, and another fantastic summer night would be giggled about for years to come.

 

We did go out that night. And when you dropped me off at 3 AM, I broke down sobbing, having seen behind the Lisa curtain. Dinner started with you detailing the diamond earrings you demanded as a push present then progressed to you blatantly making fun of Johnathan- his dancing, his mother, his fashion, his work ethic.  By the time we left dinner and headed to drinks, you “confided” in me that you’d left Johnathan and Rebecca six months earlier and even filed for divorce. Your marriage was in trouble, but you resolved to stay married. The night ended horrifically for me, a spectator in all of the festivities: shots, pitchers, a wedding ring migrating to your right hand, creatively spun “single girl” tales for a group of young MBAs.  You disappeared. Taking off with a strange guy was one thing, asking me to lie to your husband about it quite another. I was devastated. I felt betrayed, embarrassed, sick, and utterly disgusted.

The next few weeks passed quickly. I was on the cusp of a fantastic career opportunity that relocated me. My first month away you called weekly, usually putting the baby on the phone.  Rebecca was just about two and hearing her say my name always made me smile. I sent care packages, you reciprocated. When I came home to visit at Thanksgiving, you three were my only socializing. At Christmas time, I looked forward to our “family dinner” and was shocked that you planned it for a night Johnathan was away. New Year’s Eve I spent alone. I should have known then.

By March, specifically my birthday, you were gone. I didn’t get so much as a phone call, let alone our usual cake/card/gift exchange. In April, my phone calls went unanswered. On May 12th I heard the rumor for the first time. Apparently I was sleeping with your husband.

In the ten years since that moment, I’ve thought of you and your family every single day.  EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. My heart aches when I think of the slander, the abandonment, the loss of the relationship. I never slept with your husband. I never betrayed you. I never lied to you. I loved you with everything I had and earned a broken heart and bruised reputation.  Four years ago, having learned that you STILL perpetuated this lie, I called you.  I emailed you. I emailed Johnathan. The stony silence comforted me. If you weren’t ready for the confrontation, perhaps it was because you knew your own guilt in fabricating such an ornate piece of fiction. Perhaps you would have had to confront your own infidelity, dare I say infidelities. I will never know.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Rebecca now has to attend two dinners, traveling from your home to your ex-husband’s. Your ex-husband is dating a lovely woman, from what Facebook reveals, and it’s nice that they are geographically compatible to you and your new hubby. I wonder if you cheat on him, too. It never occurred to me to get my books back. I’m finally to an emotional place where I miss them far more than I miss you.

The Wave

I’m a big fan of The Wave.  Not of sporting event fame, but rather, that moment when you’re driving and a friend sees you and waves. I have a friend who is terrible at this.  Truly.  There are only like TWO THINGS my friend Sarah can’t do, and spotting friends in vehicles is one of them. For me, there’s great pride associated with spotting a vehicle in motion and identifying the driver. In my small town, it’s a quick way to keep up on life.

“Mark must have had a good winter. New truck, new letters, new boat.”

“Wow. Guess she got everything in the divorce- he’s STILL driving that Explorer. ”

“You-know-who is back in town. THAT can’t be good.”

“Randy’s home from vacation.”

That kind of stuff. The idle gossip of small-town people.

There are different kinds of waves. There’s the town tight-ass who’s wave looks more like  Nazi salute. There’s the town flirt who’s wave is just as flirtatious as he is- all his fingers kind of tickle the air between him and his windshield. There’s the genuinely happy to see you wave of our local politician. There’s the half wave of  the “I’m so busy being busy I can’t take my full hand off the wheel” local business owner. Regardless of style, with each wave, you have a connection.

For me, The Wave is an essential way to gauge the state of your relationships. A while ago my former best friend stopped waving at me.  This was YEARS after we stopped being friends, but we were still civil- at least on the roadway. When he stopped waving at me, it was as devastating as our friend-breakup. What had I done? Why can’t he see me?  I have the same car! Insert Lifetime Movie worthy obsessing here.  He later upped his game and would turn his head to face the opposite direction when we passed. [Side note: That’s a dangerous kind of “FUCK YOU.”] Turns out, he just doesn’t care about civility anymore.

This morning a different friend of mine didn’t wave. It gave me pause: did he not see me? Was he so focused on his day that my car fell into his myopia? Maybe he just wasn’t aware of me because it was so early- I’m notoriously NOT a morning person. I spent quite a bit of my drive to work mulling over all the possible scenarios, because that’s just how I roll. As I walked to my office, I laughed at myself:
IT DOESN’T MATTER.

 

Besides, Joe always waves.  That’s all I need.