Learning To Grow With Your Community Through Good Times and Bad
September is in full swing, which means the first semester of college is in full swing! While college students may be experiencing great change, many are doing anything they can to a) keep themselves safe and healthy and b) maintain whatever sense of normalcy they can. As fall rolls around in theatre departments, (the department that I am clearly the most familiar with), the season usually means Showcase audition season for senior theatre students.
For those reading who may not know what “showcase” is/means, generally, it is a group of students from an acting program that are chosen to perform at their school’s showcase for agents/casting directors in the spring of senior year. At my school, like many others I am sure, actor’s showcase was considered a big deal, and a lot of hard work and preparation went into both the auditions and the performance itself.
I want to speak a little on my experience with showcase, and hopefully offer up some encouragement and advice to those preparing to embark on their showcase journey…
I got into my senior showcase and, unfortunately, we didn’t get to take it to New York this past March as we had planned. Literally, about a week and a half before we were scheduled to head to the city, the world became a brand-new place and the showcase was postponed. If you experienced any sort of loss of work due to the pandemic, you could imagine how completely devastated we all were- myself, my classmates, and my professors. In school, the members of the showcase class met several times a week to rehearse and continue to learn about the industry. We continued to meet as a class over zoom once we were sent home but reaching the day our performance was supposed to take place and meeting on a zoom instead was extremely hard.
But let’s back track a bit and talk about the prep for this opportunity. At my school, the process begins at the end of junior year. The basic info is given out, and the summer before senior year, you begin the hunt for audition material. Mid-September you audition, that week you find out if you will be part of the showcase class, and if you are chosen from the auditions, you kind of immediately start searching for your materials that you’ll perform. There is a lot more to choosing material than you would think. We did scenes/songs, so pairs needed to be solidified and the order finely tuned. Even after we thought we had settled on material, it changed, and the process started all over. God bless my professor and her team because I am sure there was SO much more to it than I even know at this point, having been through it all. You rehearse. And rehearse. And rehearse. And then you’re supposed to take that work, do your thing, and celebrate when it’s all said and done. We got it all, but that last bit looked a little different for the class of 2020.
So, I swear I have a point here, and it is this: I’m sharing this experience and perspective because we went through it all only for it not to happen. If you would have told me a year ago (yikes, a year ago already) when I was preparing for auditions, “hey, maybe don’t stress so much because…what if the world enters a pandemic and showcase gets cancelled?,” I would’ve laughed right in your face and proceeded to stress anyway. I started going back over every aspect of the class and the preparation that I had worried myself sick over, and I just kept thinking, “wow, I was so upset in that moment and so worried in that moment, and so frustrated in that moment…and for what?” Now, I understand that when I was upset/frustrated/worrying in the moment, there was no way for me to see into the future. I felt as though every feeling I was feeling was valid and justified, and in those moment, they were, but it was a major lesson for me.
Not to get all Carrie Bradshaw on you here, but the whole experience got me thinking about the weight I place on moments in my life, the importance that I assign to things, and how I often allow little stressors to overtake my life in a much larger and unhealthy way. I spent many months in preparation for showcase allowing myself to feel anxiety, frustration, and pressure and allowing those feelings to really run me dry. There were lots of time I just couldn’t focus or sleep because I just couldn’t turn my mind off. It was like a hamster wheel of deadlines, scripts, notes, judgments- you name it. On the other side of it all, it made me take a deeper look at myself and the bad mental habits I had created and ask myself, “would I be this worried if I knew I wouldn’t have this to worry about in a month?,” and if the answer is no, then I shouldn’t assign so much weight to that task. If I had that mentality throughout the whole process, I can guarantee the work I was producing would’ve been even better, too.
Let me be perfectly clear: feelings of stress/anxiety/frustration are all normal, but allowing them to run your mental health is, well, not healthy. My feelings like that and the weight I assigned to them also did NOT solely stem from my showcase, but from a combination of life as a college student in her senior year, plus all other aspects of life.
My showcase class and I always had a blast when we were together. When we were staging the showcase, we were all seated onstage to watch each other’s scenes and songs. The supportive, loving, and electric energy that I felt in that room every time we would sit and watch each other was simply remarkable and untouchable. I constantly had the chills or tears in my eyes while marveling at some of my best friends and colleagues bringing their gifts to life. We were each other’s support systems in the crazy process, and I feel very lucky to have shared every last minute of the journey with them. Showcase or no showcase, we will always have each other.
For my friends preparing to embark on this journey yourselves, no matter how different the experience may be, here is my advice to you:
- Choose material that you love that speaks to your heart. Fight for it and for yourself.
- If you don’t end up being part of your showcase class, do not let it stop you for a single second. Promise me that. Your art and your voice matter, showcase or no showcase. It does not define your worth or your career path WHATSOEVER.
- Be kind to one another. Be kind to your leaders. Everyone is adjusting to a whole new way of doing this, so be gentle with each other.
- Do the work. That’s all on that. Try not to allow yourself to get too overwhelmed. I promise, every aspect will fall into place. It may take 50 tries and you may not end up where you started but take comfort in knowing it WILL work out for the best.
- Hold on to your classmates. All of them. That is your support system, now and forever. Celebrate each other’s victories and comfort each other in moments of struggle. Enjoy being in a creative space with your best people and be grateful for one another.
Be grateful. Be gracious. Be kind. Be you.
You will make it through.