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AUDITIONS: The Aftermath

Posted in ACTING ONSTAGE, DIRECTING FOR THE STAGE, THE HIGH SCHOOL THEATRE CLASSROOM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2008 by erikball123

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Well….the dust has settled.

Who am I kidding. The dust will be whipping thru the air for some time! The aftermath of a high school audition tends to linger and simmer into deep resentment, broken hearts and hurt feelings that snowball into entitlement issues, brazen commentary and yet more hurt feelings. Regardless of the length of the pre-audition pep talk….regardless of the post-cast list “open door”…..It’s high school. It’s gonna happen. Let’s not forget that there is much to celebrate for all. Those that DID get in the cast…congrats! Those that barely missed it….congrats! You did great. But, you can’t really have a dialogue with a piece of paper stapled to a bulletin board, right?

My wife (who is the director of this particular show) and I sat in the drama classroom with 20 hopefuls who were called back for round two. When we left, we were SO very impressed. Without pouring myself into specifics regarding each student, let me just say that I was surprised at the level of dedication that each student achieved. Truly, the cast could have been generated in a dozen different ways. I didn’t envy my wife last night as she toiled away, sitting at the dining room table.

Of course, I chimed in from time to time. I’m pretty sure that’s why she turned up the volume to the Cosby Show episode that we Tivo’d.

I love my wife because of many things…but one of the top ten reasons remains the fact that she’s a stellar director. Far superior to anything I’ve ever offered in many ways. Her philosophies and HOW she executes her vision is VERY different than the way I do things. (But from a creative aspect…that’s a good thing, right?) I think we compliment each other well. Her cast is brilliant. They will flesh out the farcical “CLUE” amazingly, I have no doubt. But I can’t help but thinkg that it is the students that DIDN’T get the role today, that they thought they deserved (who may walk away gritting their teeth) that brings me to my blog today.

Emily and I have the unique privilege of working with very talented students. There is always a forum for dramatic arts: inner city, gold-plated suburbia…and, of course Summerlin….and there is never a short-handed supply of those who WANT to perform. (How many students went to sleep yesterday with visions of Prof. Plums dancing in their heads?? I argue: many.)

What we don’t get is a consistent stream of opportunity for those interested. We chose, with great care, mind you, plays and musicals that will be appealing to patrons as well as performers, something enriching, something fun, something challenging……something borrowed, something blue! We have to think about marketability…who wants to play to an empty house. And on top of all that (and more) we’re the ones to light the fire under those students who are on the fence as to whether or not they even have the confidence to attempt to get a role! (That’s a hard fire to shovel coal into.)

That cast list is posted and the smiles will turn upside-down. The nervous hands will go limp. The tension will release. And emotion will take over. I will have 9th graders scorning 11th grades. Young hopefuls will turn into young hatefuls. And I will have students never return to the stage as a result. I argue that passion is never a bad thing, if it’s about something you care about. (Imagine students having passionate feelings about something they believe in…might be a nice change.) It only when they lose sight of those beliefs do their passions turn into pains. Am I being too dramatic? How dramatic is TOO dramatic, when you’re the drama teacher? I think I’m just being honest.

I want so badly to just…..shake these kids! (Reason #56 why Emily and I don’t have kids yet!) How can someone SO talented….so dedicated….so thoughtful…..be so unbelievably clueless. I’m sorry for the reality check…but the fact remains, students DON’T get roles 90% of the time because they are OUT AUDITIONED….not because we don’t think they’re good enough.

“GOOD”….heh. Funny word, isn’t it? Yet, it’s used all the time in things like auditions. Students tend to think we’re looking for something “good” in them. What they don’t know….is that we already know there is. What we’re looking for is a means by which to compliment the students by fulfilling the demands of the show…all the while, educating them. That’s not as easy to say as “Good.”

Granted…not all students are alike. I’m addressing a few, only. There will be those who sing praises regardless. I’m not even concerned or upset. Merely, I want all of my students to know that I believe in them. Mrs. Ball believes in you. We have Faith that win, lose, or draw….God has a plan for all of you. If that means not being a part of the High School Play “CLUE”….so be it. But, until we meet again onstage or off…you are always in our hearts and prayers, for we want you to succeed.

I love my students. I love my job. I love theatre. But, until the day comes that someone somewhere develops a less human way to cast a show that leaves everyone involved chipper….I will stand by my wife, and stand by the formula that is the audition. It works. It works very well. I hope some of the students who were in the room during auditions will selflessly reflect on what those who DID get cast did what was right in order to garnish that role. Until then….with my door wide open….I will continue to offer a shoulder, an ear and thoughtful consideration to anyone who wants to talk about drama, post-audition.

Counselor, I’m not….but I am a human being with feelings. And when my students are crushed….I’m crushed. I don’t have the constitution to be any less a person.

“We’re actors. We’re the opposite of people.” – Tom Stoppard

HUMAN AGAIN

Posted in ACTING ONSTAGE, DIRECTING FOR THE STAGE, THE HIGH SCHOOL THEATRE CLASSROOM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2008 by erikball123

The art of performing makes me sad. At least tonight it does. Signature Productions, in conjunction with P.S. Productions, completed its 24 show run tonight of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” to a standing ovation and a full house. Cast members cried, props were packed away…I began to think the tech crew’s black attire signified a burial of some kind. But, NO! I refused to get caught up in the ritual of closing a show. I had friends in the audience who have never seen the show. Just because it’s closing night doesn’t mean I shouldn’t dig deep to bring to life the same vigor I pump into Gaston every night. But somehow the pancake foundation set a little heavier on my face tonight.

It’s hard investing yourself, emotionally and creatively. Granted, just like every high school drama classroom, you’re going to get a multitude of differing approaches. Some like to perform as a hobby. Others are looking to this show as a springboard for their careers. Me…I just want to use the gifts God gave me (that I don’t deserve) to glorify Him and hopefully learn a thing or two along the way to share with my students. It helps that performing is fun. I suppose if it were like a root canal, I wouldn’t feel this way, right?

I love the looks on the faces of all the kids in the lobby afterward. I love the discipline of being onstage. I love the challenge of keeping the moments fresh. I love the thrill of approaching a high note in a song. I love the rush of energy I get every time I hear the opening number. I love performing. I just love it. I’d do it for free, every day of my life without hesitation, if I could.

But you know why I think I’m feeling nostalgic, mere moments after the show closed? It’s the routine. The day to day. I’m going to miss that most of all. I love looking forward to a performance. I love getting there early and slowly, methodically putting my character make-up on. During the show, I love knowing who I’m going to pass in the hall in between scenes. The pre-show banter, the post-show wrap up….the taping of the microphones…my wife’s picture hanging in my dressing room. I love it all. When I packed up a box full of my stuff, and started hauling it out of my dressing room to pack up in the car, I felt a little bit like I was cleaning out my desk after being fired. (Silly, huh?)

Cards were exchanged and pleasantries were handed out along with hugs and well wishes. There were sandwiches waiting in the green room and a witty cake with icing that spelled out “Human Again” in yellow cursive loops. Human Again…hmmm. To some, that was a humorous sentiment, quite simply because the daily grind and wear of putting on a show was beginning to take its toll. “It’s time to let it go,” one of my friends said. To me, it was sad. I hung up Gaston’s shirt, and dropped the wig into a box marked “wash.” The boots I wore, while shabby…were comfortable. The gloves…just plain cool. I still joke about my Sonic the Hedgehog eyebrows. I’m not ready to be human again.

So…what do you do? Tom Stoppard said, “Every exit is an entrance somewhere else.” I love that quote because it offers hope. I have a hard time letting things go. I suppose I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Gaston and this production. But, more importantly, I’ll have a soft spot for those who made this show possible. The director, choreographers, musical directors, stage managers and tech crew members. The amazing cast of talented friends who were simply my second family. The audience fixed gaze never gets old. My wife who is a constant support of my doing what I love. Everyone.

You know before I go onstage…every time, before I go onstage, I say a prayer. I usually ask for support, confidence, energy, and thoughtfulness. I thank God for the opportunity, my gifts, and the people I work with. Every time before I step foot onstage I do that. I just pull myself away and find a dark wing and bow my head a little. Sometimes, I have to just be silent and kinda focus on the prayer in a group of people.

That routine will be missed.

Anytime my wife gets blue, she asks me to give her something to look forward to. It seems to cheer her up a bit. So, I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving. And in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I will offer my thanks again for a great run to all of those involved in the production. But, most importantly, I thank God for what I WAS able to do. The experience, the time, the education, the fun. I am blessed beyond my means, and even though I won’t have a wing to pray behind for a while…or a less than soft crash mat to hurl myself at every night during the Beast fight…I will look forward to finding time throughout my day to give the same thanks to God for allowing my life to accommodate what I love. Far too often that doesn’t happen for people, for whatever reason.

Side note…my beloved wife has been awarded the Pacific Southwest Lutheran School Disctrict Teacher of the Year. It’s kinda a big deal. I don’t talk enough about my wife in these posts, but let me just say that if I were a fifth the teacher she is…I’d bee a WILDLY amazing teacher. She’s simply the best there is. Students leave her class happy and having learned something very important in every class. She’s sharp, organized and disciplined…but she’s fun, caring and supportive. Students routinely bring her college essays to proof. She tutors all kinds of students, and she’s is every girl’s go-to person for advise or a shoulder to cry on. She’s my true, definitive inspiration…and I’m SO proud of her I can hardly stand it. She deserves it TEN-FOLD and I’m thrilled that someone other than me is recognizing how much she influences people’s lives on a daily basis. I love you Emily…and I’m SO proud.

So, with that said…blessings to you all. Whatever drama you are a part of now…whether you’re looking forward to it ending or not, I hope you’ll find reward and peace as you look forward to your next adventure.

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