Never Feel Sorry for Being Involved in Theatre

Liz Lydic

I started by eliminating the word 'just' as much as possible. My second-wind acting teacher (one of those game-changers I met in a re-entry to acting who was influential to me as an adult in ways he’ll never know) would yell out in our audition class: “Stop saying ‘JUST’! Your character never JUST does anything, you’re never JUST trying to show your character doing something.” 

Nonstop with the ‘just’ cleanup of our community college (I was 30, coming back to acting via a class setting years after a BA in Theatre) acting ways. I thought I was above it, I would ‘never’ use that word in the context of acting. But I did. To answer the tough questions about character intention and motivation, it was constant "She’s just trying get her dad to accept her." "She’s just not sure about how everyone else feels." I even started to use it as an actor to justify intentions as if I were in a right or wrong contest and the ‘just’ would get me out of a wrong answer. “I’m just seeing how this goes.” “I’m just trying something new.” “I’m just not sure I agree with that” (to the director). Oh and even, “I’m just in this little community theatre show.”

There’s a wonderful Jennifer Lawrence piece with some themes about the apologetic nature of women (in her case, as it applies to Hollywood and equality pay). She’s an inspiration to me as was that theatre teacher in eliminating this built-in and well-worn reflex of justifying/apologizing/minimizing our way of communicating what we are doing and what we want. I’m getting better. I’m working on it more and more in work situations. I’m constructing my emails out of brevity and directness, and it’s going well.

But I need to do better with being a tip-toer in theatre matters, particularly those not directly related to acting.  I need to fight (and win) against the urge to write an email to a theatre person on the board I sit on that begins with ‘I don’t know if we have ever thought of this before, so if we have, please disregard’ and ends with ‘It’s just a thought, no worries if it doesn’t pan out.’ I want to stop calling theatre my ‘little side hobby’ and say (like I used to) that it’s my passion and very important to me.  I want to stop apologizing for something that makes me so happy, and for asking for support of it too.

There is a way to be clear about our needs and our interest, and still be polite and gracious. I am speaking under the presumption that anyone in need of editing his/her ‘sorry’ behavior when it comes to discussing theatre already has a natural propensity toward being kind and mature in correspondence and communication. What I am suggesting is the improvement to a natural habit of padding our thoughts and requests on behalf of theatre, and shaving off the fat and words that sound apologetic or guilty. Here are some specific thoughts:

 -Just tell people you are in a show and give them the information to attend. Leave out ‘If you have time,’ ‘If you’re interested,’ ‘You probably won’t want to go,’ ‘It’s not very good’ and other “I’m Sorry I’m In a Show” garbage.

- Just ask people for money or support for your theatre and give them the information they need to help. Leave out ‘I know you have other places to give,’ ‘I don’t know if this is possible,’ ‘No problem if the answer is no’ and other “I’m Sorry I’m Working on Behalf of Theatre” garbage.

- Just make your suggestion about an administrative theatre idea and let it land. Leave out ‘This might be a dumb idea’,  ‘This will probably never work,’ ‘Maybe you’ll disagree with this’ and other “I’m Sorry I Have An Idea to Make Theatre Better” garbage.

It’s ridiculous to me that I have to remind myself and likely others that we need to not be sorry for doing theatre and telling people about it, including asking for help. But it’s legit, and it’s a kind of a hybrid result of a personal lack of confidence inside some of us, an acquired habit stemming from formal and informal gender rules, and a possible disregard for each other’s human thoughts and needs as well as an opinion about the arts or its importance. 

What makes us passionate and willing to go to great lengths to expose vulnerability should not live in the same space as a weak approach in communicating about it.