Monday, August 25, 2008

Bad Choice #546: Learn From My Mistakes, O Budding Theatre People

On Friday I attended a play a well-known local regional theatre. I was surprised to see a former middle school classmate in the program.

I’ve already shared on here the million different choices I’ve made that screwed up my artistic life over the past ten years—starting with majoring in education and ending with . . . well, maybe it hasn’t ended yet.

But through all of my desire to find an audience for my writing, I have resisted the thought of becoming involved in the local theatre scene, as thriving as it is. When I had boundless energy, I was exerting it all on keeping afloat as an English teacher—getting five hours of sleep at night because I was up late grading essays or re-reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to be prepared to teach it—or job hunting in my desperate attempt to escape the classroom. Now that I’m not interested in sleeping only five hours a night or running from sun-up to sun-down, I really want to focus on what I really want to do—write.

This former middle school classmate—we’ll call her Ursula—spent all her twenties running around in dance, and now she’s made the connections to get to do some minimal (and I mean minimal) choreography for a major regional house. I saw her very early work, while she would have still been in college. She choreographed for a miserable high school production of a Jerry Herman musical, and her choreography perfectly fit in with the rest of the show. I mean, what else can you say for a dance number that ends with a cheerleaders’ pyramid?

And yet, she’s worked the Fringe, she’s done bits and pieces here and there, danced, and she’s got a budding career in choreography and musical staging.

My theory was that I wanted to write for either Broadway or Hollywood, so why waste my time locally. I was also frustrated by the lack of support I had when I produced a reading of my show, when people promised they would attend but never showed up, when I couldn’t find actors. No, the show wasn’t as brilliant as I thought it was, but it was a well-produced reading, and the lack of interest in even attending to provide feedback from the large number of local theatres I contacted by phone and mail (with beautiful, full-color artwork) proved to me I was a fish out of water. I don’t live in a city that supports new musical works because we can’t afford, by and large, to produce them. So why exert my energies here?

But now, whatever reasons aside, I’ve done all the writing, but I’ve gotten nowhere. Ursula, on the other hand, has.

I’m thrilled for Ursula. But what can I learn from her choices, and what can I do to apply that to my own aspirations?

the Broadway Mouth

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