Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ask G: Drama-rama!

Today in "Ask G", TJ writes:

"I am a high school student in Westchester. I sing some. I had a horrible experience last year. I had a minor lead in our high school production of Mame! and forgot some of the lyrics in one of the performances. Afterwards, the director berated me in front of everyone in the show and insisted I apologize to the entire cast. He said I should have known my limitations and never auditioned if I couldn't hack it. He used the understudy for the remainder of the shows. It was very painful and humiliating and I haven't done anything with theater since. Well I do still come into the City some weekends and see recitals and some off-Broadway shows, but I can't imagine performing again. I already had stage fright but now I think I'm scar(r)ed forever."

Dear TJ,

I hope you don't mind cursing because I'm about to do a lot of it.  This shit burns me like the white hot embers in Naomi Campbell's eyes.  How DARE your director humiliate you in front of the entire cast.  How dare that bastard, dickwad, scumsucker!  UG!  MotherFUCKER!

OK, I feel better.

Moving on.  There is nothing at all that justifies this behavior.  Nothing.  But I'm going to say this first and get it out of the way - consider the source.  I may be speaking out of school, but I'm pretty sure that as a rule high school drama teachers didn't set out on that path.  Most of them wanted to be actors and, as awesome and rewarding a career as a h.s. teacher, drama or otherwise, can be, there might just be a little chip on some shoulders.  Him (I'm imagining this is a man so my apologies if I'm wrong) saying "you should have known your limitations" is baffling to me.  Forgetting a few lyrics does not dictate your limitations.  I've seen people on Broadway forget their lyrics.  Hell, I've forgotten my lyrics!  I made up new words to "Look What Happened To Mabel" in front of an audience in a show I produced!  It happens.  And if he was a good director he would have told you just that.  Then he would have told you that being prepared is the most important thing an actor can do.  Everyone gets nerves and knowing your lyrics and lines inside, outside and upside down is really the only way to avoid feeling that sort of embarrassment that forgetting lyrics or lines brings.  He also could have stepped back and realized what sort of embarrassment you had already experienced and avoided bringing you further embarrassment and humiliation by berating you in front of your cast.  WHAT. A. DICK.

Now, let me just say that you can not give this douche the power to scar/scare you for life.  If you love singing, and you must because why would you audition for a musical otherwise, then you must sing.  No, listen to me.  YOU MUST.  If I've realized anything in my life it's that unhappy people want everyone around them to be unhappy, too.  If singing makes you happy then you owe it to yourself to do it! 

Before I left my previous job, I worked for a miserable woman in a law firm.  When I told her I wanted to really take my acting career seriously she said something along the lines of, "you know, it's a very hard business.  The chances of you making it are really slim.  You might as well just stay here until I retire and take over my job."  I get what she was saying, but it still really ticks me off.  How dare she tell me not to pursue my dream because I "might not make it".  The thing people don't understand is that there are many levels of "making it".  I might not ever be in a Vogue spread or on the cover of US Weekly, but I make a living using my talent and I enjoy every single minute of it.  Let me tell you, TJ, you can do the very same thing but you have to try!

I hate this person for robbing you of your confidence, but think of it as a momentary laps.  The best revenge you can take in this case is to pursue what you love, be it singing or otherwise, with all your heart and live the happiest life you can.  Your stage fright will lessen with each performance, but you have to stumble a few times before you soar.  (Wow, I really do think I'm Dr. Phil don't I?)

And let me say lastly, if you give up singing/performing because of this guy I will be really pissed.  I will come and hunt you down and cast you in one of my shows and make you love it again.  Don't make me do that - I'm really busy.

Keep on fighting the good fight!!



Ken said...

Glennis is absolutely right. Forgetting lyrics or lines or any other myriad mistakes in this, or any profession, happens. It's called being human, and that's overall a fine thing to be. What shouldn't have happened is what this teacher did you. That was not a fine thing to do; it was cruel, unnecessary, sadistic, and unprofessional thing to do. I have been acting in the city for 20 years and have never experienced a director berate anyone like that in front of a cast, much less "demand they aplogize to the entire cast". For this behavior, that teacher owes you an apology (and a letter of reprimand from the principal, because that is not how a teacher is supposed to behave). Glennis has pretty much covered his character, so enough about him.

Take care of yourself, and I mean that in terms of healing from his abusive act. That you feel skittish about performing is where you are now, but that doesn't mean that's how you will always feel. And by all means, when you feel you are ready to sing again, do it.

I will leave you with these words, which I didn't hear until I was 30 (I know, I am old), but they are awesome and are meant for every artist out there. And I implore you to think of yourself as an artist. If you can sing you are creating art, and that makes you an artist; not a paycheck, not fame or recognition, or someone else's permission. The joy of creating and producing a form of art is what makes you an artist. Anyway this is what Agnes de Mille wrote to Martha Graham: "There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.
And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable it is nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.
Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive."

TJ said...

Thank you so much, Glennis & Ken. Obviously I posted here because I was looking for some encouragement. I hope it didn't come off as "fishing." My boyfriend and parents have been encouraging but none of them are involved with any creative pursuits, so it is really nice to hear such kind words from those who are. We are doing Damn Yankees later this school year and I do intend to try out. (Oh, and that instructor won't be involved with this production; he was not asked to return to our district.) --Tina

Glennis McMurray said...

I'm not surprised he wasn't asked to return. Let us know how the audition goes, Tina!

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