There was one role in my age range: Nora, the beautiful dancer/cousin/lust object of the main character. I have never been the ingenue type and even if genius acting had spewed from my soul, I probably still would not have been seriously considered for the role. I was a rather intense, overweight teenager and I was, quite simply, not the Nora type. But I wasn't even given the chance. They asked me to read for the 20-years-older-than-me part of Blanche--while my prettier, thinner peers all read for Nora--and dismissed as quickly as possible.
Obviously, I was never going to be cast as Blanche either. The role was out of my age range and way out of my emotional range. But for some reason, the auditors decided it was more plausible to see me fail as a middle-aged widow with two teenaged daughters rather than as a pretty young woman. And this is one of those moments, had I been less in love with the whole ideal of THE THEATRE (and at this point, I really had no idea what I was getting into), that I might have given up. I might have decided that I just wasn't pretty enough and stopped there or channeled my bossy older sister energy into becoming a kick-ass stage manager.
But I kept going. I got training. I got experience. It took many years before I was even comfortable at auditions and even now they are an elusive beast: sometimes horrible and demeaning, sometimes fun and free, oftentimes just "ok."
Flash forward more than 20 years to about a month ago, when I had the best audition of my life. It was a standard "two contrasting monologues" for the season of a company I've never worked for. My first piece (contemporary, serious) was something I'd done before, but something kicked in while I was performing: a new unexpected and genuine moment of emotion. And then I launched into my second (classical, comic) piece, one that I was using for the first time. I'd been nervous and excited about this one. I'm still an overweight actor and physical courage and abandon came late to me: but the role demanded it. I threw my body around. I rolled on the floor. I used my embarrassing center of gravity to my advantage and it was fun!
The auditors were super nice and encouraging, but that can happen even when you suck. Still, I left feeling like I'd done everything that I could do. A week later, I got a call offering me a job. The role: Blanche in Brighton Beach Memoirs.*
There are so many lessons that I take away from this, and this post is already getting too long, so I'll sum up. For myself and other dreamers: be fearless. I mean, yes, have fear if you must. But please don't let fear--of not being right, of not being cute, of not being enough--stop you. Fail. Fail big. And stumble into your successes with grace and good humor. For the gatekeepers of others' dreams: give the weird kids a chance. They might surprise you. And even if they don't, do you really want to be the reason that someone gave up?
*See my Actor page for more details.