- OnStage Canada Columnist
This year, after years of being in the ensemble, I was cast in my first leading role. Not only that, it was my dream role. Exciting stuff. All year, I endured friend after friend, good naturedly telling me: “This is your year.” Now, as the season ends, and auditions and callbacks begin for the next year, I find myself wondering what it means. What does it mean to have a year?
Why was this my year? A little while ago I was part of a show that was an enthusiastic success in every sense of the word. Why wasn’t that my year? My very first season where I discovered my love of theatre. Why wasn’t that my year?
It comes back to that thing we all pretend we don’t talk about or believe in but do because we are actors with inevitable egos: paying your dues. Some – not all – actors have this notion that if you spend enough time in the theatre, and more correctly, spend enough time in the chorus, then you will earn a leading role.
Now I’ve had this thought myself, even though the voice in my head tells me to stop thinking about it, but the time has come for all of us to grow up.
Paying your dues is – pardon my French – bullshit. Theatre is not like other careers where if you put in enough time and effort you’ll get a promotion. Theatre, for actors, is one level: performing; being on stage in whatever capacity you’re in.
I’m stealing this analogy from a director I recently worked with: actors are puzzle pieces. When it comes to casting, directors are trying to make a picture and your piece may fit into that picture. I know there are other factors that go into casting for better or worse, but what it comes down to is whether you work in a particular scenario. Sometimes you work in the ensemble, sometimes you work as a lead, and sometimes you don’t work at all. It has nothing to do with whether you’ve paid your dues.
You don’t have a “year”; you have years of success and making your way in your chosen career – or hobby.
This isn’t meant in any way to belittle those who are – or have – taken on new and fantastic roles. Please be excited and proud of yourself. This is a wonderful time and a great opportunity to strut your stuff in a grand way. Just don’t think of it as “your year”.
“Your year” implies that there will never be anything else and that’s just not true. There will always be shows, there will always be opportunities. Take them as they come and try to enjoy every experience.
Photo: CLOC Musical Theatre