How many performers, when the exhaustion sets in and things aren’t coming together, when the rewards seem meager and the pay abysmal, when the audience is lukewarm and the cast crabbing at one another, have asked themselves this question? I’d wager nearly all.
The quick answer of course is that we do it because we love it. But that love grows dingy when all of the above kicks in. So I ask again – why do we keep doing this? And the answer I believe is…..Because we can. Because we are called. Being called, being cast - means being wanted. Because an audience will pay money to see us tell them a story. We are privileged to tell these stories with our voices, our bodies. We can take on beautiful characters and make them our own and people will give their money and time to watch this. How miraculous is that? There is such a fragile, narrow window for roles with one’s physicality, age, timing, that if we want to tell stories in the theatre we must. Now. At whatever level we can. The universe is demanding this of us. Do we want it to be good? Of course. It is a huge sacrifice of time away from family, sleep, energy, driving, tears and frustration. But still – we get to do it. It is a privilege. And that’s why we give 110% every minute. The audience deserves this, our families deserve this for the sacrifice, our castmates deserve it, and the universe mandates it.
We are fortunate. We have the training, the timing, and dare I say…..the talent, that allows us to do what (some say) most of the world secretly wants to do. Are there imperfections? Hell yes. Tons. But THEY are not the focus. The world is imperfect, so the theatre, as a magnifying glass of the world, will be doubly so. Small (and large) theatres are basically comprised of good people trying to keep a loved art alive. Bless them. We can’t control whether they bring up our light. We can’t control if they cut us off with music or play the video at the wrong time. We can’t control if someone strikes the chair we’re supposed to sit in or moves our costume so that we can’t find it. But we can choose to embrace that as part of the imperfect, beautiful process that just might be perfect for one minute, one hour, one night. In bringing these characters to life we have the opportunity to bless. The cost? All of the above plus the acceptance of imperfection in varying degrees. And that might just be okay.
“SHOW PEOPLE” from Curtains by Kander and Ebb
You're a special kind of people known as show people
You live in a world of your own
The audience paid plenty to sit there and clap
Hearing you sing
Watching you tap
Did you know your dentist longs to be in show business?
Your window washer wants to be a star
And though your analyst may…..never couch it that way -
You don't know how lucky you are
Ask your cleaning lady, "Don't you dream of show business
To vocalize or stretch beside a barre?"
Her affirmative shrug
As she shampoos your rug
Lets you know how lucky you are!
We're a special kind of people known as show people
We live in a world of our own
Our days are tied to curtains
They rise and they fall
We're born every night
At Half-hour call
We can't picture being anything but show people
Civilians find the whole thing quite bizarre
But that hop in our hearts
When the overture starts
Helps us know how lucky we are!