"Why aren’t you on Broadway?  Don’t you even want to try? "

"Why aren’t you on Broadway? Don’t you even want to try? "

Susan Hilerio

  • OnStage Connecticut Columnist

How many of you have ever heard these questions?  

Now that I am approaching my 40’s, I am pained each time someone asks those questions.   I studied Musical Theatre at a wonderful University, performed my entire life … theatre has been what I’ve eaten, breathed, and dreamt about for as long as I can remember.  

I can go on for endless hours about why it didn’t work out for me. I can provide you with the honest answers, and I can provide you with the scripted ones.  I’ve got too many prepared and ready to spill at any given second.  

The hardest decision I made in my life to this point was to decide that it was best for myself and family if I didn’t pursue theatre professionally anymore.

I still remember the moment… sitting across from my husband (then fiancé) at a local Chili’s.  Feeling like I was lost… like everything I had known in the entire world was gone.  I had lost myself, my identity, and the entire thing I loved the most in the world, performing.  

What was I going to do now?  Who will I be without being a performer?   Sure, I would do community theatre and love every second of it… but that carrot that had Broadway written all over it that I had been chasing for so long seemed to fade… fade into student loan payments, mortgage, car payments, etc…

I didn’t find myself interesting anymore, became depressed, and gained weight.   I went on a soul search – trying to find something…ANYTHING that would make me feel as magical and as interesting as theatre does. I tried becoming a Radio Personality, TV Personality, Police Officer, Nurse, Yoga Teacher, Dance Teacher; the list goes on and on and on. But, after so many years… nothing compares. 

I began to question… what do people think of me?  Do they think I’m a failure?  Are they surprised that I didn’t “make it”?  When I bump into my old college professors, are they disappointed? Or, are they smirking to themselves thinking that they knew I would never make it.  I found myself hiding from people from that former life… embarrassed of what I had become… afraid to answer the “So what are yoooouuu up to?

How come I never see you at any auditions anymore? Or what theatre are you working for now?  Or, are you Equity yet?”.  
If I do answer those questions… most of the time if it was a former peer I would get the (1) pity look, (2) satisfied that you are a loser and not pursuing this anymore look, (3) or the OMGHOWCOULDYOUEVERGIVEUPTHEATREYOURLIFEISTOTALLYGOING TOSUCKI’MAMAZINGLOOKATMEI’M DOINGTHISANDTHISANDTHISANDTHISOMGWHYYYYAREYOUQUITTING speech.  

I’ve tried to reverse the roll.  I think being on the asking end of these questions… the inquirer doesn’t realize how hurtful these invasions of privacy are.  I’m sure the person feels that their question is innocent enough… complimentary even.  But to some, on the receiving end… it’s almost as uncomfortable as someone asking why you don’t have children.  

As I am getting older…I am getting wiser.   I am aware of how lucky I am to have everything I have and am grateful for the ability to even say that I once did this show or that show or performed in this venue or that venue.   I have the ability to surprise my co-workers when all of the sudden a give them a glimpse of what I used to be… and it’s really fun.   

So, as I sit behind my desk on my lunch break, wearing sensible shoes – I will leave here at 5pm to go to my beautiful home, see my wonderful husband, and perfect son… I remember my motives.   I realize that even though I lost track of one of the things in the world I loved the most , I gained such beautiful additions to my life.  So, there’s a balance for me… but every time that questions comes up… the pain does find a way to sneak back in.  

Why aren’t you on Broadway?  It’s not my time

Don’t you even want to try?  I will… someday in the future when it’s right.  My life isn’t over yet.  Don’t you regret it?   Yes… every day I do.    

But I have found my balance. 

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