I’m a college senior on the verge of graduation this spring. I honestly didn’t get cast very often. I spent a lot of my time behind the scenes because theatre makes me happy whether I’m front and center or backstage. No matter what I always did my best to make my contribution to the show and the department was my best effort. I always do what I think is best to help be a working part of the bigger machine. As the series of lasts begin, people have been so forthcoming with how my contribution impacted their experience. To my surprise, the word “role model” was actually used to describe me. To me, that’s a true dream role, even if you don’t see it on a resume or in a playbill.
There are often people asking me why I do this or how I got to where I am in my life. The answer is simple: It’s because I strive to be what I needed for others. My first audition at my university was absolutely nerve wracking. I hid in the corner with the two or other three freshmen I knew in the holding room, and then one of the worst possible things could have happened in that moment...we got separated. You see, at my school, when we audition for a mainstage show, we go in groups of five at a time to keep things moving at an efficient pace.
As a shy, innocent freshman, I was called into auditions with a group of seniors AND I was only one of two girls in the group. The production team sat there saying hi to the group with such a familiar energy, it was very clear I was the newbie. Needless to say, I was terrified. These seniors were the cream of the crop in my opinion. One of them wore a costume and had choreography to their audition song. Another one of the guys had a very bold choice in the middle of his song that blew us all away. The third guy? Well, he and I actually sang the same song for the audition. The show we were auditioning for was The Rocky Horror Show and I, for some reason, pulled out “Sugar Daddy” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch when it was very clear that it was way out of my wheelhouse when I nervously stood center stage in a little sundress and cardigan. Long story short, the guys that were in my group got cast and I got to know the construction crew aspect of productions. From then on, I knew I’d like to be the familiar face.
After that audition, I made an extra effort to get to know people in the department. Soon, I had people saying hi to me in the dining hall that I was scared to say hi to at auditions. More auditions came and went, as I made an effort to be the unofficial welcoming committee. If I didn’t know someone in the holding room, I introduced myself. If they were nervous, I talked them through it. I have a feeling if someone took the time to talk to me before the audition my freshman year, I wouldn’t have been as terrified. Sometimes just saying hi and giving a smile makes a huge difference in someone’s day.
Whenever I’m involved in a show, I like to know everybody and I mean EVERYBODY. Whether I’m cast or crew or both, I make it a point to get to know my team members. You’re going to be spending at least eighty percent of your time with them if not more, why not make it a familiar experience. I say hi to anyone that walks in the door. Before rehearsals start if I see someone sitting by themselves, I go talk to them, unless I know they want to be alone. I say hi to people around campus. I want them to be comfortable with me outside of the theatre. I always want to seem approachable. I want them to know they have someone they can confide in. Sure late night texts when I’m trying to sleep aren’t ideal, but if someone needs me that badly to the point where it can’t wait until morning, I’ll make the time. I’ve had people tell me that their interactions with me had a great impact on their university experience. Little old me made that much of a difference, just by saying hi and giving a welcoming smile.
Outside of my interactions, I carry myself to a certain standard in rehearsals and crew calls. I try to maintain a degree of professionalism while still having a good time. I help out whenever and wherever I can. I always try to put myself in the other person’s shoes. If I was the director, how would I expect my actors to conduct themselves? If I was a stage manager, what expectations would I have for my crew? As an actor, how would I want my director to treat me? What is actually okay in my book?
I was never asked to do any of this. I never expect anything in return for me doing what I do. This post isn’t to pat myself on the back or me bragging about all the good I do. I’ve just met a lot of people doing theatre that are in it for the wrong reasons and make it a less than ideal experience. I wrote this because theatre is something that should be a safe place where people of all varieties can feel welcome. No one should feel like their alone, especially when theatre is such a family for many.