Thursday, November 6, 2014

Theatre... Actually

Imagine, if you will, walking into a room filled with people and looking around. All those people you see, want you to fail. Not only do they want you to fail but they will feel better about themselves by every mistake that you make. They see you as a threat, no matter what your intentions may be, and each thing that brings you down simply elevates their status but that smallest inch.

One may look at you and smile, then turn her head away, eyes rolling back saying, "Gosh, I hoped she wouldn't show up as her friend agrees saying, "I was just in a show with her..." and proceeds to use profanity to describe you.

This is Theatre. 

The land of "acceptance" and "forward thinkers". 

They say as you walk into an audition, "don't worry... the directors want you to do well," but most of the time, it isn't the directors you are worried about, it is the crowd of people waiting to hear how good or bad you were. 

One of the most important things you learn when being "trained" (whether through experience or formal training classes) is to build a tough skin.

I just recently read an article on how "theatre bullying" is so prevalent but has been built up that it's simply expected. 

How do you succeed in theatre? It isn't necessarily talent, although generally that would be required, but the way to simply succeed is to build a tough skin, make a lot of "friends" even if you don't like them, get a big head, suck up to directors, make it known to all how amazing you are, put others down but also tell them how "good" they are (cue fake smile), and be your own God... because otherwise you will not survive. 

There is way to much failure in this career to have "feelings". 

When there are the select few that break this mold, they are considered "weak" "soft" or "unable to take failure". 

Really, these people are the strongest, because they continue to be human and use their failures to their learning advantage. 

It's an unspoken rule in amateur theatre (high school, community, etc.) that if you are actually "talented" then you have to get "the lead" in whatever show you may be apart of. This is a falsehood that must be diminished from any mindset because theatre has little to do with actual talent. 

If someone would get a role over someone else, they develop a stereotypical "big head" and decide they are better than anyone else. It sucks, because soon as they go to the next audition or show, they realize that theatre isn't talent... its "type".

Yes, indeed! For those who know me, you know that since I am a five foot, curvy, and quite outgoing person I will never play the tall blonde, blue eyed, lead ingenue in any production because that simply isn't my type. I have always been cast in the "little girl" roles or the "lose women" comedy type roles, because that is my type. I know my type. I like comedy, because I am not particularly good with "drama". 

I have seen a lot of theatre in my life, from high school, to community, to camps, to conservatories, to professional theatre... and I have always pitied the people who have been handed roles on a silver platter, because there is no room to learn. I have seen people move on to college and not get the roles they want because if your "type" is a "sidekick" or "secondary comedic relief" character and you have always been given the chance as the lead, you never developed your real place. 

I have had plenty of failure... lots of it. I don't think I've ever been "handed" a role... or I hope not. But Whenever  I "fail" I've always seemed to see something in myself that could be improved so that next time, I wouldn't consider it a failure.

I don't think I consider "secondary roles" or "little parts" a failure anymore, because I know my type. My type isn't a lead (generally speaking, although some more modern musicals are bringing in new role types as leads... but that is another blog for another time). It's not a failure for me if I get cast in a role that would suit me better or make the show run smoother. The world doesn't need a ton of tall, perfect, blond, girls with long legs. I may have a harder time getting jobs in the future because I can't fit into ensemble as easily (I mean, common, I would be a foot shorter than all of them in the can-can line!) but I know that. I can't wait to be homeless. 

I heard one girl (around fifteen at the time) in one camp say how she wished she wouldn't keep getting the lead roles, because she knew that as soon as she went to college in the "real world" she would be ensemble and wouldn't know how to handle it... because she had never done it.

How insightful! How mature, grounded, and brilliant. 

Why, if we are all a part of some great accepting family of theatre would we consider others "lesser" than us? Why do we want others to "fail"? This girl knew that she was built for an ensemble role, which isn't bad at all! Usually the background characters are harder because they have more blocking, dancing, and singing than the actual leads do. 

Cory Cott, one of the most amazingly talented men on broadway (who was the lead in Newsies after Jeremy Jordan) couldn't dance in college. He couldn't do a single pirouette (I learned this from a women who was in his class at Carnegie Mellon). BUT he ended up the lead in an all-male DANCE show. The chorus members were all amazing dancers. I wouldn't consider it a failure to be an ensemble member in that show, just as it doesn't make Cory Cott better than them because he was the lead (although his belting face talents are outstanding). Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. 

I find theatre (in general) one of the hardest, yet most satisfying, things in the world. It is so technical yet can be flawlessly executed. Musical Theatre has always been a passion of mine. I've always known what I have wanted to do with my life. Yet, It is also terrifying because of all the types of people involved in this art. 

My life goal is to go into theatre and not be this stereotype. I don't want others to look at me and think "she is just too driven" or "what a vicious girl". I know I often can come across as very strong. I am very proud of how hard I have worked in my life. I like focus, I am driven, and I know what I want and I am not afraid to go out and get it. But, I do struggle with getting caught up in the "no feelings" mentality. 

BUT

I also wish to make it a goal in my life, to stand out from the "fakers" and try to be "real". I want to actually show love and emotions for people off the stage. I am not good at fake, I never really have been. It wastes my time. I want to tell someone they did a great job and mean it. I want to thank my accompanists. I want to thank the pit (for playing in those horrible musical theatre keys with 70 sharps and 2 flats, so sorry for you all out there!). I don't want to underestimate someone in the ensemble (which happens much too often). I don't want to look around and see kids struggling to make it in this career.  I want to help. 

All this being said, this doesn't just apply to theatre and our art. This applies to life in every aspect. 
Just let everything you do be for the good of others. 

But, theatre is my thing... 
-Mariana King 



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