Order Switch

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Wait, there has to be a mistake….I didn’t hear my name called.

I stood catching my breath, after just nailing the dance combination and singing my heart out at the callbacks for the National Broadway Tour of A Chorus Line.

And this wasn’t the first time I had been in.  I had been called back for the Broadway production, and was invited in by casting for the Tour.

I had done everything the same.  I sang the same song, I knew the choreography forwards and backwards.  I wore the same outfit, and I had nailed the infamously hard pirouette sequence.

So, why was I cut?

I just gave the performance of my life.
Was it not enough?

As I watched other friends and peers stay for the next round, I found myself blinking back tears, lowering my eyes as they started to sting.

I didn’t want to be seen like this.

As quickly as I could, I made my way to the dressing room, and changed out of my sweaty leotard and tights, and around me other dancers who were cut were voicing their disbelief and denial,

Why did I even come today?
I totally messed up the dance!
They weren’t even looking at me.
The show must already be cast.
Well, back to the day job.

And as I stuffed my leotard and feelings into my backpack, so many emotions rose in my throat, choking me off.  I was both angry and deeply confused.

I had thought for sure after being in callbacks for Broadway, I would book the Tour.

I was wrong, and I never did the show, and casting actually never called me back in.  I went from being seriously considered to no longer considered.

Just like that.

 

It’s Maddening, isn’t it?

You spend hours, days, weeks, years on your Creative Process and building your craft.  You put your heart and soul into your work and then you stand up, put it out there for your audience, and say,

HERE I AM!

You are giving your all, full of energy, hands open, eyes open, just waiting for approval, waiting for validation.

And what do you hear?

Next!
Nope!

Or even worse….crickets.

It feels completely unfair, doesn’t it?
It feels completely unbalanced.

You are giving so much.  Why isn’t it being returned?

 

Integrative Therapist and Coach Tom Tynan breaks down the world into two types:

The Givers and the Takers.

It’s pretty much exactly as you would imagine, the Givers always give first in order to receive, and the Takers take first in order to give.

So, what commonly happens?

Well, the Givers become exhausted.  They go through endless roller coasters of feeling good when they give, and then burning out when they are not recharged.  Basically, they give until they are empty.

Sound familiar?
What category would you put yourself in?

How many times have you given endlessly with your Creative work and saw no return?
Do you then feel motivated to try again?

So, what’s the answer in this cycle, since as Creatives, we so desperately want to give?

What do we do in that moment of crying out,
PICK ME PICK ME!

We need to learn how to RECEIVE.

I recently asked a writer in my tribe what it means to “Receive as an Artist”, and he couldn’t answer.

Bingo.

I know I never had an acting, dance or singing teacher give me tools or any teaching around receiving. In truth, it was a completely foreign word in my performance career. I kept viewing it all through what I had to give.

And even more so, we need to reverse the process so we don’t burn out as Artists, which means we need to Receive FIRST, and then GIVE.

So, what does this mean for you and your process?

There are two elements here to consider,

1) Having the quiet space before we go into action and into our work to actually receive our creative inspiration
2) Being able to receive what we are actually given by our audience, whether they are people hiring us or taking in our art.  Our audience is directly tied to our livelihood as Artists.

For that former dancer who was so heartbroken and frustrated at the Chorus Line callback, I didn’t have any kind of daily practice to recharge. I was pretty much operating on two extremes,

On and Off
Highs and Lows

Now I start my day with meditation, have a daily gratitude practice, and go to yoga weekly. I now have a way to open to receive BEFORE the action, to calm my monkey mind, a place of quiet.

And this may be different for you, but ask yourself, how do you recharge? And I don’t mean, distract. I’m not talking about binge watching Netflix or disappearing into social media for hours. This isn’t about escape, but about nourishing your Creative Being.

The powerful question is, how do you fill your Creative cup back up so you feel inspired?

Because the magic is, when we are able to recharge and fill our own cup, then we have the capacity to receive the rejection or being cut or experience the disappointment and use it as information.

Information instead of judgement.
Evidence to continue, instead of give up.

For whatever reason, the creative team behind A Chorus Line decided I wasn’t right for their show, and if I had these tools at that time, I could have taken a step back and known this was not a reflection on my ability.

But it was a reflection that I was burned out. And it was information to move on to the next opportunity and the next creative team who would value my talent.

We can so commonly get caught in the belief that we are not enough, that our work is not enough, but for all you givers out there, I have a gift instead:

Receive first, and then Give with your Creativity.

And ask yourself the simple question,
How AM I enough as an Artist?

Next time you find yourself caught in the frustration and feeling like no one cares,  make a list of how you are enough.  When you phrase the question this way, it can only be positive.

Because it’s from that place of knowing what you actually bring to the table, that your greatest work will occur.

A Call to Action

workshop

What is your earliest memory?
When was a moment you felt most loved?
When was the moment you realized you wanted to perform?

I sit to the side, and watch the pens move, beautifully, in circles and arcs within each hand, as the students’ focus translates on to the paper before them. The pens pause for a moment as a new thought occurs, and then return to draw in waves of ink their inner vision, and present truth.

Five minutes are up, time to place the pen down and embody what is now written for their eyes and all to see.

Five minutes to create a phrase, non-verbal. Some dive in right away forming their levels, while others stand stock still for a moment, paused and unsure, before the mind relaxes and the task becomes the focus.

At first the stories are individual, as instructed, each performer telling their tale without words, in their own space, until six different phrases play out before me.

Then I say “integrate”.

They turned to face each other, and singles became pairs, then trios, switching partners and mimicking movement as eye contact is made. Then they all gather together, and do the same movement, not a word spoken, it is just understood. As they slowly lower to the ground and lay on their backs, they travel from six stories to one. One they are telling together.

 

Last Sunday I had the wonderful experience of teaching my first workshop through Broadway Donation titled Authentic Performing and Auditioning. My intention was to offer tools to help performers within the roller coaster of rejection and nerves so common to a theatre career.

I’ve known that ride all too well.

I remember going in a long time ago for the swing/Penny understudy role in the Broadway company of Hairspray and I had been given a large packet of scenes and songs. I worked like crazy on the material, but was horribly nervous, as I wanted the job so badly.

I showed up to the call, taking in the large number of dancers there, and my heart immediately sank into my toes. How could I compete?

We all had to dance first, and it was as if my brain stopped working. The combination was not difficult, but I couldn’t remember the sequence. When it was my turn to dance, I completely messed up and was cut. I was so desperate to be considered I went up to the associate choreographer and begged her to give me a second chance. She acquiesced, and I stayed to learn the second combination, another easy dance. But the mindset was stuck. I couldn’t pick up, again.

So I was cut.

I never got to sing the songs I had worked so hard on, or read the scenes I had memorized and marked with highligter, actions, and beats.

I came outside to the street, and it was pouring rain. I sank down to the sidewalk and bawled like a child. I was beyond embarrassed at my inability to pick up an easy combination, at my begging to stay, and then my failing to be kept and show them my powerful voice.

I felt like a failure, and was inconsolable. I called my mother and choked out my story. I cried into the phone, railing against myself, railing against my dreams to be on Broadway draining down the New York City sidewalk to the sewer at the end of the street.

I was so angry at myself.

What was this story I was telling myself, and why was it high-jacking my ability to show up?

 

Years later I found myself crying out in the rain because my dream of being a mother and married were draining down the same metal grates. I couldn’t stop it. I tried everything I could, but it was out of my control. Before if things didn’t go well with an audition, I at least had the comfort of being a wife, of having my marriage, and trying to be a mother.  I had an identity.

With all that seeping through my fingertips, now who was I?

Suddenly the labels that had defined me and been my comfort no longer made sense, not only that, they were gone. How would this affect being a dancer, a singer, and an actress?

In the face of so much confusion, I turned in.

I began to listen, and in my loss a huge space occurred. I learned to meditate and for the first time began to work with my mind and see the patterns, the grasping, and the attachment I had learned and lived by my whole life.

I learned what it meant to be present, and not stuck in the past, or wishing for the future. And I saw I wasn’t just a wife, or a dancer, singer, or actor. I was something both more complicated and far more simple, and this was interconnected with everything around me.

I began to cultivate a single focus, instead of jumping from every thought that occurred to the next like monkeys in a cage.

And in this space I began to write again. I realized I wasn’t a dancer, I loved to dance. I wasn’t an actress, I loved to perform.  I re-connected to my love of story and the power it could have in communicating, and that infused and fed my creativity.

I remembered why I spun around my living room in abandon as a child and choreographed dance after dance as a teenager.

 

I walk into the audition room for a new Broadway musical Lab contract. The choreographer knows me very well, but I’ve never worked for or met the director before. The pianist tries to rush me, but I stand my ground and sing Bonnie Raitt’s heartfelt words, “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, choosing to play the scene as the moment of empowerment; recognizing the truth of the situation. The pianist then follows me, and I complete the song. After thanking me and asking about my dancing,  the director smiles at me and says, “Good story-telling”.

I smile back thanking them, take my music from the accompanist, and walk out of the room.  I’m happy with my audition, and I feel grounded, whether I get a callback or not.

Purpose met, story told, and I go take dance class.

Sound like a revolution? It is, come join me.

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