Tuesday, February 18, 2014

leaving the wicked stage: the grieving process

Life upon the wicked stage ain't ever what a girl supposes.

It's more.

The casts, the curtain calls, the exquisitely tailored costumes built just for you--everything about singing and dancing for a living has surpassed my expectations. And the applause ain't bad either.


One day your alarm wakes you up at 5:30 am. You glance over at your backpack that you, a 30-something adult, have packed with tap shoes, character shoes, ballet flats, dance clothes, hot rollers, hairspray, Russian Red MAC lipstick, non-dancing heels, a wrinkle-free audition dress, and a three-ring binder of sheet music. You peek out the window and see the snow starting to stick. You know that to secure an audition appointment, you'll have to arrive at the audition by 6:30 am, but you may not be let into the building until 8.

Once inside the building, you'll have to sit on the floor (if you're lucky) in a room packed with hundreds of women with similarly bulging backpacks, all fighting to use three electrical outlets and talking in overly bright voices about nothing. If you're unlucky, you may find yourself standing up, shoulder-to-shoulder, in a hallway with a frazzled building manager charging you with the impossible task of not being a fire hazard. 

It's now 5:40 am. Is it worth going to all that trouble to compete with two hundred girls for two spots in a show that will give you five weeks of work at $600 per week? 

I used to think it was worth the trouble. Though I would complain about auditions, I would enjoy the challenge and the excitement and the camaraderie of my true friends, girls that I went to happy hour with after auditions, and my "audition friends," girls whose names and resumes I knew but that I didn't see outside the audition holding room.

Auditioning is exhausting--but what's my other option? Working nine-to-five at a job where no one applauds for you? Where's the fun in that? 

I know I need to move on. But it's not easy.

Someone recently described leaving the theater life as a grieving process. And thinking about shelving that part of my life really does feel like a loss. Living your dream is intoxicating. It's hard to walk away, to move on. But more often than not, I find myself wanting to put down that backpack.

I keep hoping that the thrills of the "real world," like getting a weekly paycheck and going to one place everyday instead of running to five auditions in eight hours, will outweigh the addictive high of booking a job. And slowly, I'm beginning to appreciate the little things--like walking out the door with nothing but a small purse. (My non-sagging shoulders love it, too.) 

Can stability really ever win over excitement? It's hard to say. Will I ever really leave theater behind? That's hard to say, too.

But I do know this: the thought of leaving my tap shoes, character shoes, ballet flats, dance clothes, hot rollers, hairspray, Russian Red MAC lipstick, non-dancing heels, wrinkle-free audition dress, and three-ring binder of sheet music is getting more appealing by the day.

For now, I'm still watching the snow fall and considering my options.