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Dressing Room Lessons

March 3, 2013

For the past six months I’ve been trapped in a dressing room with some of the many extreme personalities found in the theatre world. From this I’ve observed not only the business advantages of always presenting yourself in a professional manner, but also the personal benefits that come with having a good attitude. In my first post I warned of the occasional philosophical side-note I would be including in my posts, get ready for side-note #2 because this story is more than deserving of a philosophical exploration.

Let’s read some character descriptions:

First we have the Diva, who singlehandedly gives an awful name to actors in general by conducting herself in a way that magically compels everyone in the dressing room to blast their headphones upon her arrival. Her boastful attitude towards the cast is abrasive and degrading, she has even gone so far as to correct the directors in front of the entire cast and crew! She has a fair amount of professional work under her belt, but this is vastly overshadowed by a terrifying reputation that precedes her every move. As we all well know, the process of creating theatre is far from perfect, as such, flexibility and understanding are a necessity in this biz. If you think your microphone is not turned high enough, or you think you’re overworked to the point of injury, a rational discussion with management is a more proactive method than screaming at everyone you encounter backstage.

Next we have the complainer, who manages to stress the entire cast out and stir up all manner of trouble through his monstrous and unyielding rants. The stage was so hot he might have heat stroke, he’s worked so many shows in a row that he may collapse at any moment, his duet partner sings too loud, his costume is hard to dance in, his call time is too early, he made more money at his last job, etc etc etc. If you have a problem with this show, we’re likely all having to endure it, and incessant complaining is not going to alleviate the problem. If you have a personal problem outside the show, perhaps you’d be better suited with a private heart to heart conversation rather than pouring problems on everyone in the cast and bringing a tone of anxiety and trauma to the dressing room.

Finally, there is the kind of artist that motivated me to write this blog. Thoughtful and genuine, this performer is always available to help her cast mates, she is humble and obliging to the directors, and sincerely pleasant to all she comes in contact with. She brings a light-hearted, enthusiastic attitude to the dressing room and a jaw dropping performance to the stage without ever feeling the need to brag or request special treatment.  In addition to being a team player at work, this inspiring artist spent the past several years recovering from a terminal illness that prevented her from performing for an extended period of time and left her with a body severely more fragile than before. She never dwells on this period of her life, never mentions it to get sympathy, and never lets it stand in the way of giving a remarkable performance regardless of any hardship she may encounter.

Let’s take a second to swallow that information:

Imagine spending a good portion of your twenties lying in a hospital bed being told that you may not live, and if you do, you certainly wont have the ability to make a life doing what you know you are meant to do. After working side by side with this inspiring survivor for several months, I put a lot into perspective. There have been days where I walk off the stage near tears of frustration because there was a tech problem with my performance or because my muscles are sore from being overworked. This girl walks off the stage and is thankful to simply walk anywhere again, much less walk off of a stage she was told she’d never be fit for. Not only did she beat the odds and return to life as a performer with flying colors, but she now has an understanding that the personality she projects outwardly will have a prominent effect inwardly.

Luckily for us, it also has an effect on her entire cast and crew who simply adore her easy-going attitude and delight in her very presence. She will be recast and she will be spoken of highly. Her gratitude towards life and sense of purpose have given her the ability to truly utilize the gifts she was given to their full potential. Free from the need for trivial complaining or unnecessary vanity that insecure actors often tend to possess, she is living her life to the fullest and valuing every moment. I have met some inspiring and thought-provoking people throughout my life, but to watch someone who has undergone so much suffering, project such a solid optimism makes me appreciate all the positives and negatives of life simply because I have just that: life.

The Reckless Artist sig

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 7, 2013 10:48 am

    Great post–really wonderful perspective. And yes: all of these types are true! Some people can be so detrimental backstage, and others so invigorating. We must act responsibly and choose how and what we want to contribute to our work environment. Thank you for the reminder!

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