When I got to BYU I formalized a decision that I'd made in high school by applying for the English Teaching major: I would not make a living out of theater. Not that I didn't want to. What better place in the world for an LDS actress than BYU to get experience and support in both building technical skills and connections that would allow me to maintain the standards that I've set for myself? At the risk of sounding arrogant, I'm no acting slouch. I'm not perfect, but I've been involved in shows since I was about five: I know more than most. But it didn't feel right. I didn't feel like it was the best decision for me to make. I'm always more comfortable when I don't feel obligated to do something I love, and making a career out of theater would have, of necessity, made it critical for me to occasionally do a show I didn't care about so that I could eat. Some people can live with that kind of decision: I just couldn't do it. I needed more stability.
So I stepped away and moved instead toward my other passions: reading and writing - and did what most female English nuts do: teach. And I've loved it. Adored it, really. It was the right choice. It's stable. It's fun. It's hard. But always, always rewarding in the end. The theater part of my life became something I would have to content myself with only developing to the extent I could in the occasional show. I won't ever be as good as I want to be - but at least it isn't a permanent severing. Just a temporary one.
Last summer gave me the biggest break a community theater actress could have when I was cast as Marian in Music Man - a part I've wanted to play for as long as I can remember. It was some kind of dream world, last summer. For four blessed months I got to walk in the shoes of Marian Paroo. It was incredible and life changing - it reaffirmed to me that God has not neglected my desire to keep the arts in my life.
But this year, it seems, will be different. I have looked up and down the valley for a show worth doing and there aren't any. Literally. Disney's Camp Rock. Seussical. Hairspray (in Utah? Where are you going to find any race?!) Jekyll and Hyde. At least two theaters are doing Joseph (again.) It's as though last year God placed me in a show and this year He is closing every door - directing me somewhere else.
And I'm alright with that. Well - no. It hurts. It makes me want to claw at things and throw pillows against the wall out of frustration. But it will be alright. I can live with it, because I know that when doors close, it usually means that God has something in mind for me that I couldn't find on my own without help. I can be patient.
At least until the show I saw yesterday. A high school production of a show that I'm not hugely fond of but when to anyway to support some members of the cast. I always go to high school shows expecting a huge amount of parental excitement and enthusiasm to look over the flaws because everyone has worked so hard. I expect a director to glow and rave about how proud they are of the students for what they've accomplished. Instead I experienced the most frustrating night I've EVER had in theater, and it wasn't the fault of the actors. There were several students on that stage who had more than earned the right to be there. Oh no - this time, it was the director.
Let me explain: for one, the director was there in what must have been his pajamas. A sweatshirt and sweat pants. If this wasn't sign enough of utter disrespect for your show, then what follows is certainly confirmation: the set was more or less cardboard, students wandered around upstage behind set pieces consistently, the tech was a disaster, there was at least three minutes of flashing strobe lighting in a strange attempt to look flashy, and - to cap it all off - a parent sitting in the middle of the theater with a tripod and camera out taking pictures WITH flash. Not once or twice - at least forty times in the second act alone. And the director did nothing about it. And those are only the things I can say without giving away what show it was. What a complete insult to those of us who want to be in theater and are willing and passionate enough to care about it.
So for now I'm fighting to regain my sense of peace about the lack of arts in my life right now. I envy my brother for being daring enough to make a career out of music. I am frustrated with myself for being practical. I am resolute in not giving away everything that I am for the stage and desperate for it at the same time. I am angry at this director for abusing the right to teach. I am in mourning for those students who deserve better.
Mostly - I miss the stage. And I am holding to the belief that somehow - somewhere - the talents I have been given will be put to use again.