Although I definitely didn’t think so at the time, one of the kindest and best pieces of advice I’ve gotten in life was from a director who told me I wouldn’t get any good acting parts until I was at least 40. In those days, my personality and physicality never quite matched my age. I was an “old soul” (cool college language for someone not lithe and light and dewy).
It’s only in high school (and occasionally in college) that we can expect audiences to suspend their belief enough to have a 21 year old play someone twice her age. In the real world, there are plenty of 40-something actresses to go around. Now that I’m (ahem) 40-something, I don’t have the opportunity (or desire, really) to perform much, so I’ve never put that director’s theory to the test. But, in hindsight, it rang true – it was just difficult to accept. We’re all programmed with an idea of what’s desirable: youth, beauty, grace, talent. And we’re all inundated with products and programs that tell us if we just try hard enough, we can be all that and more.
Here’s the great irony: after spending so many years trying to be someone that I wasn’t, I find myself back at square one, trying to embrace who I am. Ain’t that a kick in the head?
Backstage.com is a website for theatre-types, especially those serious about breaking into the biz. But, like so many things in life, there’s more there than what’s on the surface. My favorite find, of late, is an article about “embracing your type.” Try reading it and replacing the theatre nouns (ex: casting director) with someone you’re in a relationship with – a friend, significant other, potential employer, whatever.
“Casting directors want to hire you based on how they perceive you, but you don’t like your own self-perception so you prevent yourself from committing, from having fun, from being free and expressive in the audition. All because you possess qualities that somewhere along the line you have been taught they’re not OK to have – that you are less a person for having them. That if you show them, you’ll be punished or made fun of or unloved. No one is really perceiving you the way you perceive yourself. Give yourself a break. You are cast-able as you are. You’re able to book jobs as you.”
What I need to remember is not only am I cast-able as I am, but this role was written especially for me. Why in the world would I want to sit in the audience – or backstage or at home – and watch anyone else play my part?
Alright, Mr. DeMille. I’m ready for my close-up!
Above: That’s me at 19, playing Lucy (another girl who was born 40) in “The World According to Snoopy,” Southern Illinois University – Carbondale, Lab Theatre