The invitation caught me a little of guard. I had watched others participate and wondered if I could. I must admit that there have been times I have thought that it didn’t look that hard. I found too many excuses to not be involved. To be brutally honest, the excuses were a thin layer for my lack of courage. Someone else would be better. I wasn’t keen to make myself so vulnerable in the hope of participating. I was afraid of making a mistake even before I set foot into the possibility.
The director told me it would be a small role in the Horsham Arts Council’s production of Annie. They were looking for another male to ‘help make up the numbers.’ I thought the small role meant sitting on the edges, being an extra while others would shine.
I didn’t look at the role or script until all the cast came together for the first reading. That’s when I started to feel like I had been set up. I don’t want to give you the wrong idea. I wasn’t a main character and I wasn’t on stage for more than five minutes. However, when we first practiced our scene with a total of 6 other people and the director was almost on the floor laughing at me, I was convinced I had been set up. Having a small role had become having a few lines which became singing and dancing. Which should not have been a surprise really considering I was participating in a musical. I guess one way to overcome my lack of courage is to be unknowingly sucked into something!
Throughout the rehearsals, I also became involved in the backstage crew. The challenges working backstage were different but just as intense. The need to move quickly, smoothly and almost unseen is an art form. After watching a number of productions over the years, I now have a deeper appreciation of what it takes to produce such a great show for people to enjoy.
The experience was so valuable I am still chewing over the lessons…
* Once we say yes to something, there is no half-hearted! Well, we can be half-hearted, but we miss out. Being fully engaged meant participating in physical and vocal warm-ups, something no one told me before I agreed. It meant wearing makeup so the lights didn’t make me look pale. There are some words I never thought I would say. It meant having people critique me and receiving feedback, wanted and unwanted. It meant deciding to fully step into the role and even go over the top.
* There can be plenty of suggestions made, but there needs to be a common vision and direction given. There were plenty of times when people offered opinions and asked questions. Many were valid. I imagine many ideas would have been incorporated as the show progressed. Things were changed as the practicality or impracticality became obvious. In the end, there needs to be someone reminding people of the vision, the goal, the destination. Whatever path we are travelling, we need to the courage to keep pursuing the vision we have. We also need humility to make adjustments, admitting mistakes along the way.
* Learning to dance is one of the great gifts in life. Moving scenes as the cast were moving on and off stage was like doing a great dance. Being able to watch for each other, take our cues from others, receive instruction, watch our timing, work in the background so that others can step to the front … it was all a dance within the show. We could have just had the cast on the stage, but the scenes, costumes, makeup and lights added depth and an experience for the audience. You could travel to a different room and even through time. Hours of rehearsals to produce the character says nothing about the hours of preparing scenes and setting up sound and lighting. Our lives are learning to dance with others.
* Being uncomfortable and taking a few risks will bring the greatest rewards. Were there times I Questioned my decision? Yes. There were times I was frustrated, uncertain and even confused. There were probably times others felt the same about my contribution. I am not the expert. However, I have been reminded of the possibilities created when people from all walks of life contribute to something bigger than ourselves.
* There is a great deal of time spent waiting. In a world where we are always moving from one to things to another and feeling the urgency of responding immediately, I learned to appreciate the moments of waiting. It was ordinary and at times it was a drag. But so much of life is lived in the ordinary. It’s the ordinary that gives us the greatest gifts as we learn to be present wherever we are with those around us.
* Friendships come from the most unexpected places. I heard some great stories from people. I learned from teenagers, young adults and people twenty years older. People who have different interest, opinions, and values to what I hold. I love being a part of a community that lives, works, plays, and dances across the generations. I am better for the collective experience and wisdom.
* Learning to celebrate is important. I was caught off guard after the first show that everyone was high-fiving, hugging and saying well done. I was standing there thinking we still have eight shows to go. I learned to celebrate with others, every show. There were always things to improve, change, adapt and work on, but we had still created something together, and that was worth celebrating along the way.
What has been your experience of stepping into something new or participating in something outside your comfort zone? May you have the courage to learn a new dance.
Thanks for wandering with me.