I've been holding off on writing this post for a while, but it's been ruminating, and I think it is about time.
The incident that prompted this thinking is not something I'm particularly proud of, but I think it ought to be said simply as a mea culpa. Basically, I accepted a role in a production, and then, after the cast list was announced, I withdrew. Let me state: this is very bad form on my part. You should not do this unless you feel you absolutely must. The proper thing is to either accept or reject the role as given.
That said, I wanted to talk a bit about why, what I learned, and maybe some of the larger lessons one might take away from it.
So, saying no... First, for actors saying no is really something we don't like to do. We spend so much time scrambling, auditioning, hoping to be cast. To actually get cast is an achievement! How can you say no? And it's nice to be offered a role after an audition. It's flattering. Even if it isn't the role you wanted. So while it wasn't the what I was hoping for, on the call I thought "well heck, why not, I'm not doing anything else." But in the 24 hours or so between when that call happened and the announcement of the cast, I really started to feel conflicted. When the cast list was posted publicly, I wasn't excited. It felt like an obligation more than an opportunity. And I felt bad about that too. Eventually I decided if I really felt that way, I ought to withdraw and let someone else have the part.
If I had stayed in, would I have gotten over it? Sure. I wouldn't have spent the whole time pouting. If you know me that's just not my nature. Would I have had fun? Almost certainly. I really enjoy the creative process, and building a show with dedicated people. But... and here's the thing: there are other ways to have fun right? I mean, I didn't do the part... and I still had fun in that time. I just wasn't doing it in a theatrical context.
And I think what it came down to is: as actors, the ONE thing we have control over is our choices. That means our choices in a scene, our choices in our delivery, in our character, but also WHAT shows we decide to do. Which roles to take on. And ultimately, there's only one you, and how you choose to use your time matters. And acting in a show isn't the only way to grow as a performer or as a person. I was able to take a class (several classes actually) I might not have otherwise done. It was great. It pushed me to grow as a performer. I also did a lot of physical work on myself (that's exercise thank you, mind out of the gutter) and especially yoga. I think yoga is almost a must have for an actor. When you act, your body is your tool, and being in touch with your body, where you are in space, and practicing stretching, balance, and flexibility is taking care of your tools.
Ultimately, while it was somewhat embarrassing, I learned something from this experience. I want more than just having fun. I want more than to simply pass the time in good company. I want to grow as an artist and a performer. That means I want roles that challenge me. Now this doesn't necessarily mean "starring role" (though that doesn't hurt). It means situations, productions, collaborators, and roles that push me out of my comfort zone. That make me work. This could be a challenge like working with a new (to me) company. It could be working a type of character I don't do often (or at least recently). But ultimately, if I don't feel like a part is going to challenge me and make me grow in some way, then it's not right for me. There's only one of me, and if the goal is growth, well there's more than one way to do that right? You are a valuable thing. Value yourself and do what you love. Make art. And don't apologize for wanting to grow.
That's actually the fun of South Stream. It came out of "well I want to do this play, so I could either hope someone does it, then hope I get cast, or I could just do the damn thing." And with Seascape: I'd never directed before. No one is going to come to me and ask me to direct. But you know what? I wanted the challenge, and I knew I could do it, so I gave the job to myself. And I don't mind saying, it came off pretty damn well. I'm proud of that work. And I feel the same about our show in 2015. It's a really challenging script that I've wanted to do for quite some time. And I'm excited to bring it to you. What is it you ask??
Well that's a different post.