Coping With A Part You Didn't Want

Ed Ramsey

So I wanted to do something I've never done before. Something original but also more honest than I've been in the past. I wanted to share the following experience because I believe I'm not the only one who has ever gone through it, and I want people to know how it ends. Spoiler alert: it ends pretty well. The following is what was originally a secret series of blogs that I wrote to document how I dealt with receiving the part in a musical I didn't want. As a disclaimer, I should say first that the following is a process, detailing how my thoughts and feelings change, and that no personal offense should be taken on behalf of those involved. However, I have edited this so that no specifics are mentioned (which means you'll see quite a few 'my character's etc.). I hope this provides supportive, inspiring, or even just interesting reading.

#1 (1 day)

So after everything I've done and could further do for our school's drama department, I've been given not only the part I didn't want; but the worst non-chorus part in the musical. Feeling screwed over and a little down since there's nothing I love more than singing and acting at the same time in the magical combination that is musical theatre- and my character has the least amount of that in the entire musical. One song, I have. One. Needless to say, I'm annoyed. I will now proceed to go through the process kind of half doing my best because in my head will always be that niggling thought that I am not right for the part. I'm just not. It's not about being flexible as an actor- in any case, I'm not as good as some people think; it's about not being right for the part. There are certain physical and vocal necessities for this part which I cannot provide. I wish I could, but I can't. 

#2 (3 days)

There's something to be said for the friends who exhibit both wisdom and care. And that something takes, very often, the form of gratitude. 

The worst has passed. And although I am still miffed and upset, although I still cannot see myself playing the role well, nor can I see anyone being able to persuade me otherwise, I have been allowed the chance to recover. I have been offered the support I needed to move on and make the best of the situation. Now all that's left is for me to actually try and do so.

#3 (1 week)

Last night I was watching a TV show and I noticed how much one character uses his hands when speaking. I decided that I would remember to use this as my character because the more I can change about myself when playing the part, the closer I'll be to the character I'm apparently supposed to be playing. 

#4 (2 weeks)

Read the first scene of the script the other day. I realized how difficult it's going to be for me to learn lines, as every time I look at them I feel an overwhelming crushing wave of disappointment. Not in anyone else, in myself. It's something I don't know how to fix, as I have never needed to fix it before. I don't believe I have the tools. It's like it's a quest. I must find, collect, and finally use the tools to fix myself. Tool number 1: good friends, tool number 2: working through and making decisions about the character. The rest I don't know. Only time is both my enemy and friend, so I must wait. Maybe I'll be able to open the script again tomorrow. 

#5 (3 weeks)

Still having to justify my reaction to the role. Implying I'm still not ready to take it on. I think the main obstacle to overcome will be staying in the same room when people are singing the songs. At the moment, I still find it difficult to bear. I know it's a stupid thing to say, but when I hear the songs I hear myself. And myself does not please. 

Not being happy with yourself comes in different ways. The worst one, the one which used to be unchangeable, is being unhappy with your physical form.

#6 (1 month)

It's been a while and I'm still not over it. I figure I'm going to have to start lying otherwise people will begin to dislike me. I have realized how childish I'm being and how selfish I may seem to people who don't quite understand the situation. I'm upset because the musical is a chance to do what I secretly love doing more than straight acting, singing and acting: musical theatre. But the role I've ended up with requires nothing more than straight acting. Oh, for sure it's character acting. It's going to be challenging and I quite enjoy challenging when I feel like I'd be able to overcome it at one point or another. But I fear I may never feel that way.

I've been turning down the chance to go and see the production at the Palace Theatre. I have three reasons and I've been using two of them as excuses. I've seen it before and I'm already seeing loads of productions this year are the two I've been using. The third is the silly one. I'm just not ready.

#7 (6 weeks)

Went through my one song today. On my own, only way I can do it for now. Figure if I nail that maybe I'll like it a bit more, but in truth, I'm only 40% of the way there vocally. I can work on impressions, I'm reasonably ok enough at that to hone out an impersonation of the character, but it will only be an impersonation.

#8 (9 weeks)

Please stop talking about that production in Liverpool. I don't care how good the actor playing my part was. I did however successfully shun any desire to rant again today. The topic was brought up, and I shut it down saying I vowed not to keep doing this. Nailed it. 

#9 (17 weeks)

Despite my lack of confidence, I can't deny I am (sort of) enjoying the rehearsals. My friend said I would, he knows me better than I know myself. At first, I was pretending to enjoy it just to make things easier, less awkward. Now, I don't know. Still haven't even begun learning my lines yet though. Not that I've tried, I guess I should. 

#10 (20/22 weeks)

The director in me has kicked in and my emotional instability is manifesting itself as annoyance at various decisions being made. As usual. The difference I guess is that now I have a bit of experience so I'm allowed to be like this. Although each year is another step up the stairway of enlightenment, we must never just sit down on a step and stroke it as if it's a pet and we're never going to leave it. It's fine. Move on, someone else will take care of the step when it's their turn, then they will move on. That's how the world should work. With regards to my part in the musical though, I'm fine. Probably. 

#11 (post show)

I actually really enjoyed the production week as well as the rehearsals leading up to it. We made a really great show, and to be honest I probably wouldn't have been anything like as good in the role I wanted as the person who got it anyway. In all honesty, I've grown from the experience. This secret blog has helped with that to an extent, but I think I just forgot about my initial reaction. Just forgot. And that happens. And that's fine. 

Photo: Phantom Projects Theatre Group