Lessons in Drama, Part 2: Better, not Bitter

I’m back and still spewing brain matter onto my computer keyboard. Yesterday’s post ended up turning into a much lengthier matter and I didn’t feel comfortable slapping my thoughts together in one hit. Lesson One: Don’t Discrimin-hate. The Competition is Fierce can be summed up in one word:


There’s a lot of it, and I get tired of it. I wish I were immune to it, and in many ways, I believe I’ve set up my life so that I’m better distanced from that sick stressor.

Yet, it still exists.

Let the Maven’s School of Hard-Knocks continue…

Lesson Two: Be Better, Not Bitter

a wise woman once said: Let It Go
a wise woman once said: Let It Go

Let me be the first to admit that I am still a work-in-progress in this regard. A few years ago, I made a conscious decision not to return to a public school music teaching job because I wasn’t happy and found it increasingly difficult to live with the knowledge that I couldn’t even nick a seriously flawed system in my given situation. I decided my abilities were better utilized independently and elsewhere. I live 2.6 miles from the school where I used to work and can’t say I don’t drive by sometimes and give the building a lengthy, gangster-esque staredown, which is sort of ridiculous coming from a 28-year-old white woman. I try to wear the right sunglasses for the occasion so as to appear more menacing.

The “better, not bitter” reaction is usually brought about by the following instances:
“I could have done a better job at that song/dance/monologue than he/she did”
“they don’t even appreciate what they’ve been given,” which is sometimes disguised as “they’re not taking that role nearly seriously enough”
and, finally:
“He/she doesn’t deserve that role,” which is used interchangeably with “I deserve a bigger / better role”

Let’s pick these apart.

I could have done a better job at that song/dance/monologue than he/she did

As humans, we are built to defend at the first sign of threat. When you perceive that someone else is doing better than you, it is likely because…well, they are are, and your thought process is a reaction to that. Maybe you can do a better job;  triple threats are hard to come by, so chances are you probably are better than someone else in any one of the singer / dancer / actor categories. Consider surveying the room when you give your audition in your strongest area and peruse the reactions. Now imagine you are in their shoes…because you are, right? Otherwise, you wouldn’t be questioning someone else’s abilities. Voila: this is called perspective.

So the proper reaction, instead of bringing down others, is to be self-aware. Know your strengths and weaknesses and know those of your competition. Work to make yourself better so when it you are on-par with someone else, someone vying for your role, and both of you are strong singers but you move (or sing / act) better, the role will (in an ideal world) go to you. Then when the role doesn’t go to you, you can’t say you haven’t done everything you can to be better. 

They don’t even appreciate what they’ve been given
They’re not taking that role nearly seriously enough

This is a hard one, and you may just once see a side of the Maven that you rarely get to see. It’s easy to assume we know people’s thought processes based on how they act in rehearsal and real life (I just tried to make a list of three things, but what is there besides rehearsal and real life?). The only thing I can liken this to is bullying. Bullies are usually the ones who need more and demand those things in socially unapproving ways. Egotistical actors/singers/dancers really aren’t any different. They’re just insecure.

I’ve come to understand that if someone gets a role and you don’t, some universal force has created an alignment of events that caused someone else to get the role you want, which on some level means things are supposed to be that way. This thought used to frighten me, but now I find that thought comforting. Unless you’re behind closed doors, you may never see what a lead does for someone else, how it shapes them as a person or creates their future. If others appear nonchalant or unappreciative, take solace in the fact that their behavior will probably only contribute negatively to their future.

Consider yourself on your own path, where your lack of lead role is creating your person. It may be that you are supposed to take the chorus role because…the universe wants something else for you (that’s about as psychedelic-religious as I will ever get. Enjoy it while it lasts). No amount of bitterness, frustration, or wine can change that fact, so you may as well just enjoy the wine.

“He/she doesn’t deserve that role”
“I deserve / want / need a bigger / better role”

Call me an idealist, but the last I checked, everyone deserved the same thing as everyone else. By that logic, you don’t actually deserve a role more than anyone else, even if you have never had a solo, or you really need that role for your resume / portfolio. Nobody owes you anything. Organizations do not owe you lead roles, institutions do not owe you raises, and the further you move away from that mentality, the happier you will be (and, as my own history has proven, the more opportunities you will receive). For me, this was and continues to be the most difficult issue I face: how not to resent people / organizations / groups / etc. When you work your ass off, It’s hard not to expect (or, in some instances, demand) that the universe somehow compensate you.

If you are “promised” something, like a role, promotion, or raise, and you don’t receive it, the alternative is simple: go somewhere else or choose to be better. Go where you are appreciated, where you are wanted, where you are needed. You do not have to accept a chorus role if you don’t want it; your time is precious. If you go into a project choosing not to be better, you are actively contributing to a poisonous, toxic environment. Nobody wants that (despite what “reality” TV or a scorned chorus may lead you to believe). There is something to be said for holding out for better, which is not a copout, and usually pretty difficult to do in high school (peer pressure is a volatile, unforgiving thing), but also as an adult. It would be better to appreciate what you’ve been given and emote positive support for those who have been given what you want. Besides, It’s better in the chorus, anyway...


Stay tuned for parts 3 and 4:
“It’s Not You, it’s Me” and “The Drama Never Ends.”


Until next time…


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