Lessons in Drama, Part 1: Don’t Discrimin-hate

High School: The Trenches.

Wretchedly deep, sometimes un-navigable, the stench of broken dreams and lost souls wafting hopelessly amidst tear-soaked books. I only wish I were exaggerating.

Sometimes students arrive to their lesson awash in exasperation and proceed to re-live their most recent woes for me, so many of which have occurred as a result of one thing:



scary mask man say NO MORE DRAMA
scary mask man say NO MORE DRAMA

If only I were talking about Commedia Dell’arte. If only. Sometimes I envision my high school girls and boys dressed up, prancing around in those freakish masks of yore. Sadly, the behavior of too many high schoolers wouldn’t actually deviate far from the distorted, anti-human tendencies of this antiquated art form. Listening to some of my high schoolers’ stories makes me slow-blink repeatedly…

Yes, the struggle in the trenches is real. I wish I could say I was impervious to it when I was alive in it, but because I’m not a saint, I remember it all too well. Here are the things I keep hearing (the shit I lived, the shit we all lived and continue to live), and here’s my advice…

(High schoolers…listen up)

Drama Category 1: Competition is Fierce

Most notable in phrases such as:
“He / she isn’t really a very strong (vocalist / dancer / actor / actress)”
“He / she is the director’s favorite, so I don’t stand a chance.”
and my personal favorite:
“He / she didn’t even want that role”

Let’s dissect.

“He / she isn’t really a very strong (vocalist / dancer / actor / actress)”
There is a small chance that your personal judgment on things like character, vocal analysis, and ability to piourette may be a teensy bit clouded because you are an unwilling vessel for jealousy and contempt. I only know this to be true because 99% of the females in my senior musical were teeming with annoyance that the only lead female role was given to a girl that was not in choir, had zero vocal or dance training, and whose only redeeming stage quality (at least it seemed at the time) was her characterization of her role. In other words, she was an “actress / singer / dancer,” in that order, not a “singer / dancer / actress.” Halfway through the run, I distinctly remember looming backstage before an entrance, watching the lead do her song and dance and, in a moment of stunning clarity, I realized she didn’t sound half-bad. Did I want to admit it? Of course not; doing so would admit weakness, but the moment existed nonetheless. Was she as strong as say, someone with years of voice and musical training? Probably not. That’s drama. Welcome to it.

“He / she is the director’s favorite, so I don’t stand a chance.”
Directors have favorites. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

Are you done throwing your kid-fit? If so, proceed to the next statement and prepare to have your mind blown.

You could probably replace the word “favorites” with the words “anchor,” “rock,” or “non-liability” and be none the wiser. Yes, “favorites” exist not because directors are evil, satanic, opportunity-hoarders. I promise you this is not the case (not always, at least). The alternative reality is far more likely: directors, teachers, bosses, and humans appear to favor certain people because they depend on them, despite their vocal background, tap ability, weight, height and hair color. They know they won’t falter onstage. They know they can hand a script / score / some choreography to a person and they’ll get it done (whether they have to work at it or not, which is a whole other can of worms). Could they take the risk on someone else? Sure. Does that always happen? No. Casting decisions are like a gamble, and not every director wants to take the risk. Is that your fault? Absolutely not. Does it mess with people’s psyche 100% of the time and scar them for life? You bet. It’s a tough business. Best to just go in knowing that and develop your thick skin ahead of time.

“He / she didn’t even want that role”

What people say and what they mean can be two very different things. I wish I could say that as you grow older, you will come to only interact with self-actualized adults who say what they mean and mean what they say. Alas, those people are the unicorns of people: elusive and quite possibly not real.

If someone says they “don’t really want the lead role,” what they probably mean (if the words were even spoken out loud at all) is “I won’t allow myself to want that role,” or “the logistics of receiving that role are too frightening for me to think about.” DO NOT BE MISTAKEN. Just because someone did not openly profess to want” a role does NOT mean they don’t deserve it, shouldn’t get it, or won’t do well with it. Remember that, kind folks.

If you DO find yourself thinking the words “they don’t deserve that role,” consider this instead: do you see all the work they may or may not be putting into a role? Are you there with them, in their lives, surveying their thoughts, habits, and patterns? Until you are, you really don’t have a perspective on the work they are doing. You probably have no idea what is going through their heads, and everyone handles lead roles differently. So in theory, until that happens, you shouldn’t discrimin-hate.


This turned into something much larger than intended. Thanks, brain, for vomiting all over my computer screen.

With that image, stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of this series…
“Better, not Bitter”
“It’s Not You, it’s Me”
“The Drama Never Ends”

…coming soon to a blog near you.

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