I was the 'Tzeitel' that emailed you a while back. I had a really hard time getting the tempo right on my 'Matchmaker' solo. My director decided to give half of it to Shprintze about three weeks ago and now on opening night she is trying to give her the rest of it... What do you do when you struggle with a song so much? How do you handle knowing that you are disappointing your director on opening night? I just worry about being able to do this as a career if my first time as a lead role is ruined.
Hey girl. Well you know what? Ouch. No way around it: that legitimately stinks. You are allowed—I give you a hall pass AND a permission slip to be sad and hurt about this. It is a painful, icky thing that you will have to endure and get through. But you WILL. Because you are a person of character and dignity and you are going to choose to use this experience to grow, rather than to wilt!
Right? OF COURSE RIGHT!
But how? I know I know, that part is hard.
Your ego has taken a beating and you don't know how to proceed.
Never fear, AlSilbs is here.
1. HELP IS ON THE WAY!
The good news is – you reached out for help and look! You’re getting some! Asking for guidance from a select handful of people you trust is not weak or “silly—“ it is responsible and brave.
My father always told me that the surest path to ignorance was PRETENDING to know— by asking, sure you risk not looking like an expert for 3 seconds, but then, when the question is answered? YOU ACTUALLY KNOW THE ANSWER. Don’t go polling every acquaintance’s grandmother, or random sage on the subway, but have confidence that asking appropriate people for advice, guidance, and assistance is part of being a responsible adult human who has a modicum of self respect.
As I’ve told you before: JUST ASK. And you did— good job.
You are probably writing to me because of an interest in theatre. Luckily this part of me was encouraged in my childhood and teens (by mega-supportive parents and mentors and teachers extraordinaire – thank you Nina Machus, Ailie Crockford, David Montee, Robin Ellis, and many many others) and eventually, through a lot of innate ability, skill-honing, research, countless hours of passionate hard work, and a Universe-smashing moment of good fortune in my final year of college, it became a career.
Many MANY others are not so lucky.
But this does not make them less valuable human beings, or less worthy of doing what they love, somewhere, somehow.
Our society has a LOT of MYTHS about creativity and what is and is not “legitimate” and “good enough.” (In fact, Elizabeth Gilbert has written an entire (amazing) book about this subject that you should go buy and read right now). But here's the gist: whether you consider yourself an “artist," a definite "NON-artist," or anything in between—feeding your creative hungers is one of the PRIMARY concerns of our basic humanity thankyouverymuch and it doesn’t matter one solid scrap whether it is the label on your tax return.
If you ask me (and you are), I am a huge believer in, and supporter of, the concept of The LIFE LONG ARTIST. Tabitha? If you don’t become a professional actor, if no one EVER pays you to act, that DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE NOT AN ACTOR, nor does it mean that you have no value on planet earth. You are still a valuable and a creative human being with lots to offer this planet of ours.
3. Keep creating.
Our society is filled with horrible stories of little kids being told by their mean teacher that they sky is BLUE not purple, and their drawing of the Mantigriffopottamus is TERRIBLE—cue the the mournful John Williams soundtrack as the camera zooms in upon that child’s devastated face, indicating that that child is currently vowing never to draw or create a single “weird” or “terrible” thing EVER. AGAIN.
“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up” – Pablo Picasso
We all have some kind of story like this. My 8th grade Art teacher told me I wasn’t allowed to do the 'special' art projects/be good at visual art because I “had my singing and my theatre stuff” and that was what I had a right to enjoy and be good at in life ONLY.
Thanks Mrs. Whateveryournamewas.
Ya now, she was probably a very ordinary and perfectly nice lady with her own very real baggage about being an 8th grade art teacher and not a [Insert Thing Mrs. Whatever Thought Was Better HERE]. But she shamed me really thoroughly, and I
1. Never forgot it
2. Pretty much never legitimately picked up a pen to draw anything in earnest ever again.
Expression of creativity is key to living a contented, passionate, life. You don’t have to have “ARTIST” listed on your tax return to give yourself permission to play the tuba in your living room. Heck: you don’t even have to be ‘GOOD’ at what you love. You simply have to love it. AND? Do it. That’s the biggest key: to just DO. Create.
Bake those gluten free cupcakes!
Counter-cross stitch the face of President Garfield!
‘Blow Gabriel Blow’ that trumpet in your weekend Indie band!
Do something creative in your own way, EVERY. DAY. SUCK at it—suck RULL HARD. Who CARES? What? Are the Creativity Police gonna come and drag you away to Suck-at-Drawing-A-Traz? The point is to to give yourself permission to enjoy the basic human RIGHT of creative flow.
Love your art, take pleasure in getting better at it every time you practice, and ultimately, have fun with it. You can be the best gosh darn [Enter Kick Ass Adult Role Here] EVER, and do plays in your living room, or sing in the garage, or write poems no one ever reads, or teach little kids, or KILL IT as Ado Annie in community theater and LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE. As I’ve said before, success is not about what you do, it is how you FEEL about what you do.
4. “KEEP IT UP”
AKA, Keep your frequency high.
“Keep it UP” is a phrase (and little hand gesture thingy where your hands flutter up toward your face) gifted to me by the great Billy Porter: Tony, Drama Desk, Grammy Award winning actor, musician, artist, and general artistic warrior extraordinaire. This man knows ALL about trying and failing, and trying again. After Carnegie Mellon, Billy spent years (years) making art, writing, teaching, and being generally misunderstood by the industry, rejected over and over again, and then one day? Boom. Kinky Boots. Tony, Grammy, stardom. And if Billy Porter can wait until he is 46 to get that validation from the world, if Brittany Spears can get through 2007, and if all of us can just get through this 2016 election, well girl, I’m banking on you getting through your college production of Fiddler.
I believe in you. So: KEEP IT UP.
What does this mean? Well, to be very specific, it means AlSilbs is giving you get exactly 48 hours to wallow in your fully-catered self-pity party before you pull up your big girl pants and get a grip.
Ask yourself how you can learn and grow from this difficult situation rather than allowing it to totally torpedo you.
What got hurt: Your pride? Your ego? Your dreams?
How can you truly heal it and make it / yourself stronger?
I'm actually asking. And when you answer, be specific.
If we use bad experiences as hard-core “evidence” of our suck-i-ness, and if we get aaaallllll jealous, comparison-y and meany-pants about our friends and colleagues, well then we are signing ourselves up for a life of misery (and zero lesson learning!)
But! If you USE this situation to be a gracious, grateful human being, I promise you the Universe WILL reward you with showers of rainbow-colored-unicorn blessings. (But seriously.) When we keep our “frequency high” we attract lessons, blessings, goodwill and every possible happiness our way no matter what crap is slung at us. So KEEP IT UP, girl!
Hang out with visionary people.
Read blogs, books and websites about things you are passionate about, and that inspire you.
Read a self-help book (or three) anchored in Truths you dig (recommendations HERE)
Do things that you love (this includes rocking out to Bernadette Peters in the shower)
Engage with people and things that invigorate you
Exercise and Meditate (both)
Laugh yer ass off
Basically? Go to the spiritual gym.
Finally? Let’s end with a kick ass quote:
"The ego is a living, active individual, and it's life consists in making its individuality real in its own eyes and those of others, and expressing itself, and bringing itself into appearance. For every man, by living, tries to realize himself and does realize himself. Now in relation to beauty and art, this acquires the meaning of living as an artist and forming one's life artistically. But on this principle, I live as an artist when all my action and my expression in general, in connection with any content whatever, remains for me a mere show and assumes a shape which is wholly in my power." — Hegel