25 July 2010

Seeing the Good

"It is a terrible injustice to be falsely accused." - Anne of Green Gables

I'm going to toot my own horn for a second and seem very contradictory. You'll have to forgive me.

One thing I realized about myself several years ago is that, on the whole, I'm pretty good at assuming the best in other people. Those of you who know me well might look through the files of your brain and find moments where I haven't been that way, but ultimately I think that, as a person, I'm generally good at assuming the best in others and assuming that they see the best in me.

This means that it always comes as a bit of a shock when I'm confronted by accusations of poor behavior on my part, whether those accusations are valid or not.

I had such an experience recently and it's brought to mind lots of random thoughts that I'm going to attempt to string together here. . .

The "grass is always greener" mentality can be quite frustrating when you know the grass isn't greener, it's just a different kind of grass. Being cast as a lead in this play has been, then, both a wonderful experience and an extremely stressful one. I have been around the theater business long enough to know that everyone experiences the stage differently. When you're in the ensemble, particularly if there are long breaks between backstage and stage time, it's a great time for you to play games and socialize. I knew before getting this part that as a lead you'd have lots less of that time because so much of your time would be spent on stage. What I hadn't realized was exactly how emotionally and physically taxing that can be.

It's true that everyone in the cast is at the theater for the same amount of show time, but I've never been so drained in a show before this one. Staying "on" and being completely in character for two and a half hours is hard. It's a completely different challenge than any other play I've had the chance to participate in. It's been a very welcome challenge, but a difficult one.

What I really didn't understand, though, is how hard it is to walk that fine line between putting on a good performance and being a good friend to everyone in the cast, especially with the part that I have. Marian doesn't socialize much. Nearly all of my time on stage is spent in small group scenes. This means that I haven't had the chance to get to know as many people in the show as well as I normally would in any other position. I noticed after we started rehearsing that people treated me differently because of the role that I had, and I tried to counter that by being as kind and complimentary to people as I could. No one should have an ego built on community theater of all things. I'm just another small fish in a very big and very insignificant pond doing my best to perform where I'm placed. But in spite of all that, people will still interpret distance for arrogance and think that things come easily where they don't. It can be frustrating.

Which brings me to the point of the day: It is easy for humans to criticize what we don't understand and allow ourselves to be annoyed by what we haven't experienced. It is easy for us, then, to back bite and sneer at the success of other people. It is easy for us to imagine that there is a cap on success and that the success of another person is, in some way, inhibiting our own success or potential for success. Instead, we should remember that we are always happier when we are excited for others and supportive of others. Jealousy is a waste of time, and holding a grudge even more so. We should observe before judgement, and give others the benefit of the doubt. I'm of the firm belief that rational people generally act out of good intentions.

So there it is. I feel better after a bit of venting. This ride as Marian Paroo has been rough. It's been a huge challenge for me in the actual performance, but - in some ways - a larger challenge in terms of how I relate to my cast. I hope that they know, as a whole, anyway - how much I appreciate and admire them. I hope that I've been easy to work with and generous in complimenting. If I haven't been as good at that as I would have liked to have been, or as people might have needed me to be, then I hope that there will be a spirit of understanding and forgiveness. After all - we're really all in the same boat.

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