The First Ending
I’ve known since I started this blog that I would make a point of writing a post at every beginning and every ending. It started a year ago when I began my time at GLT and here we are: the first of many endings. Having anticipated writing this (as opposed to being randomly inspired as most of my other posts are), I had a lot of time to think about what I wanted to write—and yet I kept coming up blank. I even googled “how to process an ending” in the hopes that there’d be some 5-step process I could use to structure this post, but my search results consisted of articles on how to write a concluding paragraph in a term paper, and something about accounting.
At any rate, being robbed of a formulaic approach left me with only one option: be creatively organic (cue ominous music). I want to be genuine and honest in my writing, but if I document my train of thought without structure or editing, y’all will question my ability to think and function in everyday society.
The brain of an artist is a chaotic place.
So I started to think about how much has changed in a year. A new outlook, the lessons learned…
I am more humble, yet more empowered
More confident, yet more appreciative
More patient, yet more driven
And thus the outline was born: What has happened this year and what lessons were learned? I have a general sense of gratitude for the year as a whole, but what specifically is there to be grateful for? Presenting....
Gratitude: A Complete List
Footloose: Thank you for confidence
Footloose is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I don’t say that lightly. Upon college graduation, I was very insecure and had a low opinion of myself. I had been criticized about my body and talents consistently for 4 years. I’d never had a role in a musical with more than 2 lines all 4 years. I was licking the wounds left from the disintegration of my first relationship. I was a girl who’d always dared to have big dreams and for the first time, I feared that I didn’t have the gall or talents to see them met.
Greenville Little Theatre gave me a gift that I can never fully repay them for: Opportunity.
They were the first people since high school who’d put their money where their mouth was and cast me as a lead in a musical. Somebody thought that I had what it took to carry a show. Footloose is one of the most empowering experiences I’ve ever had. It was an opportunity to prove to others and myself that I had what it took to make it in this career. At the beginning, I was terrified and unsure. At the end, I was a different person. I will be forever grateful for this show. It was pivotal.
Tour: Thank you for patience and knowledge
A large part of my contract was a touring children’s show: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I expected that from tour I would learn how to handle long days, close quarters, repetition, and exhaustion, because that’s what everybody had told us we would learn. Rather, I found that I didn’t learn much that I hadn’t already known (those lessons go with the territory of being in college with a Musical Theatre class of 16 people). Instead I learned how to handle clashing personality types, stay patient when things don’t go according to plan, continue to give when emotionally and physically empty, and I learned that my passions lay outside of the world of educational children’s theatre.
I went in expecting to learn how to manage life as a touring actor, and instead learned life skills that will apply far beyond it.
If you want to test someone’s character (including your own), cast them in a children’s theatre tour. Sleep deprivation, many hours of labor, and close quarters will dissolve any person’s mask of cordiality and leave you with the most raw version of them. I learned a lot about myself. I was surprised to learn that, as much as I enjoyed and am grateful for tour, I don’t want to make my career in children’s theatre. If nothing else, that’s the kind of lesson that shapes what I look for in future gigs. I’m grateful, I learned, and I am a better person for tour.
Shop Work: Thank you for humility and appreciation
For the first half of the year, I spent my daytime hours (the ones that weren't occupied by tour) in the carpentry shop. I learned that while I may not have a passion for carpentry, I'm not half bad. I learned enough to make a desk, a staircase, and put casters on a LOT of set pieces. I base-painted many sets (side note: few things look as odd as an entire set painted white...or beige...or whatever the case may be), and I gained a newfound appreciation for the carpenters and set designers behind every show. As an actor, we have rehearsal one night and come back to the next to a new staircase, or a painted desk. It's easy to take for granted the hours of work that go into it since we don't see it happen ourselves. The reality is, there is so much more to a show than the final performance.
This is something that every actor knows in theory, but this year’s shop hours gave me a newfound appreciation and understanding. I’m not a designer, a scenic painter, or a carpenter. Thank God for those who are.
Nov-March: Thank you for teaching me self-sufficiency
This was my first taste of theatrical dead time.
Until this, I had never had more than a 4 week break between classes or a show or a lesson since age 9.
Now, I’ll concede the time wasn’t completely dead. I was still touring Alexander
during the day and performing in Miracle on 34th Street at night (until January), but I felt myself and my skills beginning to atrophy—neither track was exceedingly demanding or required that I challenge my paradigm. At first, this was very frustrating, but I eventually learned to see “dead time” as “opportunity.” I found an aerial dance school and started taking classes again. I prepared for my UPTA audition. I filmed and submitted auditions for things I’d found through Backstage. I took a couple voice lessons. Until this “dead time” season, opportunities had always fallen in my lap. This was the first time I had to actively seek out training—I had to take control of my own destiny. It was a small taste of what’s to come and I’m grateful to have experienced it in a controlled environment with a steady income and predictable living situation.
Costume Shop: Thank you for honed skills and quiet
I’d worked in costume shops before. It was where I spent my shop hours in college. My previous summer stock job had come with costume shop hours. My mother sews and I’d grown up around sewing machines, but never before had I been expected to build costumes independently. I discovered a love for sewing and an eye for design and alterations. My time here came with many podcasts, quiet time for thinking, learning how to sew my own dresses, and good conversation in a relatively small environment (never more than 4 people). I worked in the costume shop the second half of my year at GLT and loved it. I have since bought a pattern and fabric to build myself a jumper next week while I’m home. Three cheers for applicable life skills. And homemade clothing.
Hairspray: Thank you for perspective and confidence
Oh, to play the villain. This was fun. It was a unique opportunity—getting to step into the shoes of my high school bullies (if admittedly in a more campy and openly aggressive form). Over the course of these last few months I’ve not only become a stronger dancer and vocalist, but I’ve deepened in empathy.
One of my favorite things about being an actress is the opportunity to see the world from many different viewpoints.
As a girl who quit high school because of bullies (among other things—but largely bullies. That’s another story for another day), it was interesting to step into the shoes of those who’d affected me. An unexpected result of Hairspray was growing in confidence. Because I truly understood, for the first time, that all of the attacks I’d been the victim of were rooted in insecurity and a desperate need to have power and control. I pity my bullies. Now I appreciate myself so much more. I no longer fear that their attacks were rooted in truth—that I was indeed a “less-than” human. It’s intriguing that it took me stepping into the shoes of my attacker to cease feeling the victim. I love that I love myself now. GLT has played a large part in making that happen.
This is the first of many goodbyes I will face—the nature of this career demands it.
Every gig I book is temporary. Every person I meet is for a season. It’s interesting, I expected to be more emotional this week than I am. It’s as if my brain wants me to feel more separation anxiety than I do. Maybe it’s because my heart knows better. My heart knows that every goodbye isn’t really goodbye, but a “thank you—see you later.” Because the reality is, I will never leave GLT behind. They have laid the foundation off of which I will shape the rest of my career. The good, the bad, the painful, and the healing….they are all memories that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Maybe that’s why I don’t feel the pain of goodbye. Because I will never truly leave Greenville behind. I will carry the lessons and the people with me wherever I go.
Thank you, GLT. It’s been one hell of a year. You gave me confidence, patience, knowledge, humility, appreciation, self-sufficiency, new skills, quiet time, perspective, and confidence and I’ve been changed for the better. Because I knew you, I’ve been changed for good. (I’m not even sorry for the Wicked reference)