Even your agent rejected you? That could mean you’re on your way

OK, so here’s the thing about rejection. We all get rejected and some rejections are worse than others. We get picked last for the volleyball team in phys. ed. Big deal, since we could care less about sports, but we feel the sting anyway.

We don’t get picked for the lead in the school play. Bigger deal, but we understand that there were other kids with more experience.

A boy or girl you like asks someone else to the Prom. Bigger deal still, since you had dated and you had every reason to think it was working out.

You are the experienced kid who everyone thought was a shoe-in for the lead in the high school play, but you ended up in the chorus. You are devastated. Bigger and bigger is this deal, and more painful the sting.

The love of your life leaves you. Biggest deal yet. You are heartbroken. Recovery time is gonna be long and painful. It is way past a mere sting.

Your agent no longer wants to represent you. Devastating, like falling off a cliff. And while you are in free-fall, you here those damned voices again, your Furies forcing you to agonize over all sorts of awful things. What did I do wrong? What is it about me? Am I not talented at all? Will I never have a career in theatre? Will I really have to get a full time job in some stuffy office where I’ll never be able to laugh or cry or be at all real?

Well, yeah. Sometimes life sucks. But here’s the thing I promised that could make it easier: WE ALL DEAL WITH REJECTION. If we didn’t experience rejection, we wouldn’t know the joy of being picked.

The other thing is: Don’t look around for something or someone to blame. Blame has nothing to do with it. Blame only keeps the downward spiral going and you and those damned Furies hounding you into the bowels of Hell!

So what do you do now?

You hurt. You experience the hurt, but without blaming yourself or your agent. Your agent needs to make a living and you, by not landing any audition he sent you to, are not helping his career.

The other side of that is, you need to make a living and by not landing any audition he sent you to, you got to see that maybe he isn’t the right agent for you.

So what do you do now?

Allow yourself to feel as bad as you can. That’s right. Scrunch up your eyes, make fists, and bring up all those bad feelings. Got it? How long can you keep your focus on that bad black hole? Not long.

It is too hard to keep that level of intensity going. All you can keep going is to make up stuff, letting your Furies think all sorts of made-up thoughts about the incident. These Furies would like to keep you thinking all sorts of things–true and not true–about the rejection, anything to keep it going, and sure enough, you can conjure up even more terrible feelings just by thinking more terrible thoughts.

Or.

  1. Take a deep breath. Take another. Dismiss the very next Furies thought and clear your mind of everything.
  2. Next, take this rejection and see what you can do with it. Look at it to understand how it wasn’t working.

You can only move on when you recognize this is a crossroads, and that there is no going back to business as usual. You need to do some things differently. Your job is to find out what you can tweak or change outright. For instance, if you were going on auditions for cute-young-thing parts and you were showing up with torn tee-shirts or bad makeup, try dressing for the part you are trying out for.

Maybe the material you are working with (scripts, monologues, special acting/workshop appearances) isn’t right for you. See if someone you trust can give you an honest assessment and change the material.

Maybe if you get who you are and what you are going for, you will realize the agent you had was not right for your goals. Find one who is. Do your research. Ask around.

Maybe this rejection is telling you what you have already glimpsed about yourself, deep down away from the blinding light of reason. Now is the time to bring it up. Should you be working in regional theatre instead of trying for a Broadway role? Do you need more acting classes?

Maybe you should consider that acting isn’t right for you and that you could, with a little more experience and education, be a stage manager and then aim for directing? Maybe your talent and interest really lay in design?

This is your golden opportunity to find other ways of breaking in. Talk to people who have done it. Read Martha Beck’s Finding your own North Star. Get a new direction to go in.

Oh, yeah. And wipe those tears. They are clouding your vision.

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Absorbing the slings and arrows

My play is getting a reading and maybe even a full-blown production. That’s nice.

I am getting criticism at every turn. That’s nice.

The play is still being tweaked by my readers. One fellow, a natural-born fact checker, found two historical mistakes. I welcomed that. Things can get by an author.

There were more comments, of course. These generous people were helping make the play better by pointing out what didn’t work for them and what did. For the first time ever, I allowed myself to hear the good, as well as the bad.

I also realized these comments weren’t directed at me. In other words, I am not the play. It is a thing “out there” and is a kind of product that I brought into being.

But lately, some comments have been sharp and seemed to be aimed at me, personally. “Oh, you can’t direct like that. Our people just want to do it the way we always do it.” These weren’t the exact words, but how I interpreted them. What our leader who said them meant that she would direct the play herself. I felt the usual shame and inner dialogue: “Why didn’t I get it perfect! What’s wrong with me! I can’t write worth a damn!” Notice how “I”, or my ego has gotten right in the middle of this. It is “me” who isn’t worth a damn, etc etc.

And outside the play criticism, I have taken hits. We are to give a kind of holiday performance. “Something entertaining! Skits!” our leader urged us. “Something fun!”

I had always wanted to read A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. The language is so rich and flowing, it is perfect for oral interpretation. “No, no,” sternly, and giving me the up-and-down look reserved for a fashion faux pas. “Too highbrow.” Said like no matter what I suggested, it would go right over the audience’s heads. Said like, “I’ve got your number, you… you intellectual!”

Again, I felt shame. Why couldn’t I be just a regular person and like what everybody likes? Nothing wrong with skits except they bore me silly.

Again, I put “me” right in it.

And then, talking to a non-theatre friend about the play and the rehearsals and how I’m designing a new web site for my plays and novels, her cheery comment was how much she admired how “busy” I kept myself. I was some poor creature who needed a good pat on the head for staying out of trouble.

Good grief! “Busy?” I am dealing with meaningful art, I hope, and have set about inspiring others to pursue their goals in the performing arts, and to have some success of my own in the arts.

But once again, “me” got right in the middle of it.

But even as I felt bad, I had to admit that things are changing. I wallowed in my misery, all right, but this time it didn’t last. In the past, it would be weeks, months, a year, before I could bring myself to write anything. I wasn’t cutting it. I was being ridiculed as a pretender. Poor me!

No matter what my ego was whispering, I could not sustain the misery of feeling ashamed and believing I had no right to a life in art. It went away, even as my ego struggled to keep it going. Instead, I had to wonder if I was clairvoyant or something that I was so sure I knew that people were talking about my shortcomings 24/7. Am I really that important to people? Nope. That’s just storytelling.

But being told I kept “busy” forced me to reconsider my goals. I read them over and even my ego couldn’t dismiss any of them as “busy.” Therefore “busy” has nothing to do with my true self and Martha Beck’s North Star that I’m following. But this episode did prompt me to strengthen my goals and my resolve to see them through. And to see there can be a good side of criticism.

I have come to realize that I am an artist, maybe not a household name, but I am creative and can write fairly well and am getting better all the time. For every writer (even the great Steven Sondheim) knows it could always be better, which inspires one to get on with the next play or novel or blog or whatever.

The other effects of criticism

What has changed for me about these critical hits is that:

  1. I now find these comments only mildly annoying.
  2. The comments exist outside of my true self.
  3. I can make things better/different in some way because of them.
  4. There are just as many positive comments, but this time, I am listening to those, too.
  5. (DRUM ROLL!) The hidden good news underneath these comments and criticism, harsh or mild, have nothing to do with my true self, but all to do with the fact that I am in the game. I am a player. I have something “out there” that has gotten notice. I am creating things that other people have seen.

I win!

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Director as traffic cop: the administration part of the job

So I’m directing the play I just wrote. Or at least I was.

I spent a week going over my own script to determine how best to bring it alive in the reading we’re doing to show the board of directors of my community theatre an idea of what the play would be like should they chose to produce it.

But what a disaster! The readers theatre group, whose leader’s idea of theatre is one mindless “skit” after another. To be fair, there is a part of this group who want to do more and has already performed for an audience.

I’m resigned that my play is not going to get that kind of reading. Partly my fault. I wanted to do a real readers theatre, with some movement and acting and voice work. Big mistake. I went right over everybody’s head and expectations, so the directing was taken away from me.

Am I bitter? Am I chagrined?

Nope. I was elated! I did not want to direct anything with such a large cast. Also, I the wrong approach for this group. So when the suggestion came that someone else direct, it was a huge relief! I get to spend more time on new writing projects: I have another play in the works and another novel. (A playwriting teacher said it was probably good to have two things going on and I agree.)

Outside, I was humble and grateful for this person taking on my directorial duties. Her main problem with me, she told me solemnly, was that I was “too detailed.” “Too right-brained.” I agreed, but said nothing further. Like I was left-brained enough to write the damned thing in the first place. And in the second place, I was creative enough to block the play creatively for an interesting reading. Where I made a mistake was in assuming this group wanted to stretch and reach for more. Some of them do. The leader of this group did not.

Directing requires good administration skills

Now here comes two lessons I learned: 1) don’t do things that you really don’t want to do. Ask for help. Let things go when every part of your being is screaming for you to run and run fast and far. Which is what directing this was making me do.

And 2) directing is more than a creative activity. It involves decision-making, attention to details (despite the criticism of this person), budgetary skills, and general management skills. In other words, a director is a business administrator in charge of a division of the company, the play being one part of the theatre’s (company) season.

Here’s how administration was already working in this particular example.

  1. As an administrator, I drew up what we would be doing at each of the rehearsals and who was called. Emailed that to everyone.
  2. I finalized and formatted the script in a printing version that everyone could read easily, had them printed and bound them. Made sure everyone had a copy.
  3. I brought pencils to the rehearsal for taking the notes I was going to give (actors never seem to remember that they need something to take down blocking.) This group were surprised that there would be anything to note. Surely blocking was only for the main stage.
  4. I brought highlighters so the actors could highlight their lines. This they got and were grateful for.
  5. People who had conflicts emailed me, sure that I would resolve things and I did and did it surely and quickly. We were ready for the next rehearsal. I even printed extra scripts just in case.

What happened so far

The rehearsal day came with the new, non-detail-oriented director in charge. She told me she was going to recast it a little. Fine, I said. Directors can do that.

She told me we would have a table read-through after our regular group meeting. Fine, even though a read-through is what we already had. But fine. Up to her. Not me. I would just show up.

I showed up. We had a brief meeting, lots of coffee and donuts, and we learned that our leader would take over the directing duties for me, and we learned all about the “skits” we had to look forward to this year. Meeting ended. Everyone chatted and socialized and talked about the 9/11 production one of our members put on for an almost full house and how moving it was.

But no move to rehearse.

Cast members coming up to me. What is going on? Thought we would rehearse. Confusion when all I could do was shrug my shoulders. Finally, I asked the new director if we were going to rehearse. She shrugged and said she still needed 2 men for the cast and wanted to talk them into taking the roles. Apparently, she didn’t do this a week ago when she decided to take on the play. Apparently, she never notified anyone that there would be no rehearsal.

So no rehearsal.

I bring this up to illustrate how a director has to work for the good of the company and to plan ahead, and to either pay attention to detail, or appoint someone else to do it.

I also bring this up because there are only two rehearsals left before the small performance for the board. I ought to be in a panic. The way this director is approaching the task, we’ll have our table reading at the board meeting.

Am I in a panic? Will my play ever get a fair reading? Will it mean the whole project will be scrapped and me sent home in disgrace?

Maybe.

So why am I smiling? Because I realize, from the calmness I feel inside, that I was right to let it go. I wrote the play, but the play is NOT ME. It will get produced or it won’t. I fulfilled my part of it and that is just fine with me.

I have succeeded.

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What do you do when you mess up badly?

Yes, all right, I did it. I messed up badly. Sometimes stage managers get it wrong.

I don’t feel bad, though. Maybe a little embarrassed and afraid to meet the leading lady’s forgiving gaze. She is a trouper and she likes me and I like her and we have mutual respect for each other. But I messed up and she could very well have gone under the bus. But she didn’t. She recovered nicely.

So did I. I made it as right as I could for the rest of the performance, after I blew a major light cue and left the audience sitting in semi-darkness, wondering if this was intermission and someone forgot to turn on the house lights.

There are a number of reasons this cue got blown: new light board person foisted on me without having any rehearsal; me having to sit in a different place with bad lighting so that I had trouble seeing my prompt book and a different angle of the stage (again, no rehearsal in this new arrangement); me forgetting to turn off my com when I gave technical cues so that the assistant stage manager backstage wouldn’t take my “Go” to mean sending the leading lady out on stage. No rehearsal because the director doesn’t get that the tech people need a chance to learn the cues, very much as actors need to learn blocking.

You directors out there: if you change major light and sound cues during the run, know that there are trickling down repercussions that may need rehearsing. Bringing in a light person after the show is running has repercussions. Everything in the booth changes. And no way to rehearse any of it.

And what kind of message does it send to the stage manager? That you can’t handle simple light cues. This message, even though it has all gone seamlessly up until he brought in the light person. What was he thinking?

And why didn’t I object? I did, but not in that forceful way stage managers have of saying, in a pleasant way of course, “Back off!” and mean it.

So yeah. It was all on me and throwing anyone under the bus except me, has no purpose. It would only destroy people’s trust in me.

So I took the hit. I will move on. Tonight’s show will go well and seamless, once again.

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When is it “just” community theater?

When the ruling theater members keep telling me to stop wanting things done “professionally” because this is community theater, not professional theatre.

When I tried to bring a professional outlook to the production my community theater is doing, several people told me to forget it, that “this is community theater!” Notice, the “just” is left out, but just community theater is what they mean. Just community theater becomes the underlying principal of all they do. They say, “Relax. It will all come together at the end,” and indeed it does. And sometimes without planning or analysis. It comes together as if by magic. We need a coffee pot as a central part of the plot? No problem, someone will eventually find one – but not the prop person because the prop person went out of town very early in the rehearsals leaving it all to the stage manager (me) to find and deal with.

So here I am, having to go extra early to the performances because before I can do my stage managerly tasks, like sound and light checks, checking in with the actors, etc, etc, I have to wash glasses, fill bottles with drinkable stuff, prepare food (real goulash!), make sure the ice cubes in the stage freezer haven’t stuck together over night (they are used by our very excellent leading lady who gets so much thrown at her every night and who sucks it up and deals with it admirably), and cupcakes placed on a plate and set in the frig.

Where is the prop master or mistress in all this? There really isn’t one. The person who said she’d do props, pulled a few stale old things from the theater’s storeroom, told me “there wasn’t much to props,” and left town.

I read the play. Many times. Each time to note the requirements of a play element. Like props. This play is all about props. All the business the actors do comes from a huge variety of props, all of which the audience must see and recognize, and most of which becomes part of the running gags this show thrives on.

Guess what? I had to get props. Me, who hates shopping, doesn’t know a coffee pot from a Martini glass. Props design? Forget it! “Just” get something. Anything. Who knows – or cares – from design?

And guess what, again? This theater group, because of that attitude, can now add the “just” to “we are ‘just’ a community theater.” Because professional is just an attitude. In my experience, amateur theatre can be exciting, fresh, energized, enthusiastic, and well-done, even with little or no money. Again, it is not money but attitude.

You always wanted to act? Now someone has cast you in an amateur production. You are acting your heart out and audiences are charmed. Unless the props person forgot to set things you absolutely need and you find yourself fumbling around the stage looking for that certain prop instead of acting with it. Or the props person provided a high tech telephone for a play that takes place in the 1940s and the audience is focused on what that phone is doing in this play rather than what is happening in the play.

Attention to detail, a willing, enthusiastic cast and crew, and community theater can be every bit as enjoyable as any professional production that had tons of money thrown into it.

What separates professionals from amateurs usually involves money. Professional theaters can hire people with the necessary training and experience. Pay a permanent administrative staff. Have a budget to be able to realize theatrical concepts conveyed in the production values of the play: sets, costumes, lighting, and props. Oh, and paid actors.

Because community theater often functions through volunteer effort with very little budget, it gets looked down on. But who are these “volunteers” who devote long, arduous hours to putting on a play? They are people whose professions are other than theatre, but they bring a joy and enthusiasm to the production that may not always be found in the professional theatre.

It isn’t “just” community theater. And why should any of us dedicated amateurs dummy down how we perform our jobs?

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Odus the Diva

I have an Odus on my crew for the Community Theater’s production that I am stage managing.

If you play Candy Crush, you’ll find a second level of games that challenge you to clear out all the jelly candies or the candy ingredients. Only this version adds one more thing: an owl, Odus, perched on a branch. You have to keep him from falling off the branch while having a certain number of moves to clear what needs clearing to win the level so you can go on to the next level. Keeping cute little Odus safe on his branch means you have to waste moves that would otherwise go toward the goal: to clear those jellies and ingredients.

I have an Odus in my props crew. A cute teenage boy, full of himself, to be sure, who is under the wing of one of the more influential board members. Does that give him immunity? Possibly.

I have to waste valuable time, energy, and resources to a) appease him when he feels put upon, i.e. when I ask him to set the props for Act I, which is his job, and b) to watch what he does so that he doesn’t get himself into compromising situations, like waiting in the semi-dark parking lot after the rehearsal for a ride.

What else? This Odus spends a lot of energy texting. I know when I see him text, that I can expect a phone call soon from the important board member. I will have to explain how Odus misunderstood, misread, missed out, on what was really going on, being said, etc.

What can I do? Like Odus, this boy is permanently there and I have to deal with him. But I need to minimize his disruptions.

I have a goal for each rehearsal. This week, we are adding some sound, real food and drink, and all of the costumes. The set is being painted. I need to work toward those goals and hope that Odus’ thumb gets tired.

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Changing the Code: Think about the theatre problem in a metaphor

Hamlet: ….Why, then ’tis none to you; for there is nothing either good
or bad but thinking  makes it so. To me it is a prison.

And so it goes for me and maybe you. I am stuck and I think Hamlet had it right. It’s those stories you make up in your head to explain to your ego why you feel so bad about something – that often make up the bricks and mortar of your own prison.

How to break out?

Here’s what is happening. I am stage managing for the first time in many years at a well-run community theater. Except it is all turning sour because I am not doing things the way they were always done to keep this a well-run theater. So how can do what is expected and still feel good about myself and my abilities? Who I am?

I know what I am doing and maybe you do this, too. I am stewing, going over in my head, what I said and did, what they said and did, who’s at fault, and how the hell can I get out of this.

My first thought is “fight or flight” with “flight” being my favorite choice. I can just give it up. Take my dolls and dishes and just go home and stay there. Safe.

But if I cut and run, what do I learn? Do I ever get what I want? Because, the plain truth – not just in my head as a made-up excuse – is that if I run, I get nothing. Not even the satisfaction of “showing them how wrong they are.” I cut and run and I show them just what a sniveling coward I really am.

My choices?

  1. I stay with this job for another interminable two months and be miserable.  Being miserable or being cheerful and seeing this job as an adventure is up to me. My choice. I think: I need to change something – some code in my system of applications I have learned and built over the years – just gets reinforced and the next time the going gets tough, I’ll do the same old thing over and over again. You know, the thing that has never gotten me anywhere near where I see myself heading. I cut and run and I’ll have to start over somewhere else. I will never reach my goals.
  2. It hits me. Change the code! How? Think about it differently. As in, a different kind of option.

I read Martha Beck’s life coaching books, a little every morning to get my day started on the right foot. I remember that she said one of the ways to begin to solve a problem is to think about it as a metaphor.

I laugh because the first thing that pops in my head is that this stage managing experience is like Alice in Wonderland being at the Mad Hatter’s tea party. She knows what a tea party is and how to behave at one, but this one has its own set of mad rules, things that she doesn’t know or understand and that gets her in all sorts of trouble, leaving her wondering “what the heck did I do?”

If you read the last post about all the trouble I got into letting the director pour a glass of wine at rehearsal, you know that I am knee-deep in a mad tea party. I don’t know the rules at this theatre and everyone assumes I do.

Yes, very well, you may be saying, but what does one do about changing things? Memorize all the rules? Maybe, but I realize that isn’t the trouble. The trouble is that I made one mistake and now everyone is out to make sure I never make another one. In a business situation, this would be like micro-managing me. Do you want to know just how bonkers that makes me? (Maybe another time….)

So the tea party thing doesn’t quite do it. This morning, I had an “Aha!” moment. What is going on with me and the theater is like an ANTM moment.

I watch reruns of America’s Next Top Model to get tips on how to coach young up-and-comers in the performing arts and to get good business tips from Tyra Banks, who is brilliant at both.

I am laughing. I am so like those girls who can’t take the heat – from the judge’s criticism or from the cattiness of the other girls in the model house. The last episode I watched featured a major meltdown from this arrogant girl who not only had an answer to everything any of the judges said, but went on the attack and shouted out insults to anyone who dared say anything at all. Her photo that week was actually very good, but it amounted to nothing because she stormed out of the room screaming at the producers that she wanted to go home and to go home NOW! High drama and good for television, but not so much for her modeling career.

Really, who hasn’t wanted to do just that? Tell off your oppressors and ending it with “I have to be true to myself?”

The lesson Tyra wants these would-be models to learn is that modeling (i.e., the performing arts) is just a business and the client hires a model for a very specific reason that will help them sell their brand. They are not going to hire someone who is nasty and uncooperative. Or who wants to sell themselves. It is the wrong business to be in if you want to go off on your own tangent.

The problem with this is, I have also read about people who have made it to the top of their profession by sticking to that thing that makes them unique. People like Amy Poehler who stuck to her brand of comedy even as Those Who Know told her it would never work. And Joan Rivers who occasionally offended me with her dirty comparisons but made me laugh anyway because that is who she was and for her kind of humor, she was brilliant.

Am I like those girls who can’t take criticism in ANTM? No, I don’t scream insults, but I sure as heck want to go home! And ruin a perfectly good second career as a stage manager/theatre person/drama coach. Because what these people want is 1) a well-run show and 2) managed the way they know and understand. Being the new person is always hard, but if I want to ever stage manage there (or anywhere) again, I need to bring not only my A game, but find useful ways to blend my A-game brand to produce what they, the client, wants. Their brand.

I have to change the code in my head to something more effective. I need to see mishaps with humor and to understand where others are coming from, their insecurities blending in with mine. I need to be more compassionate (to myself as well) and to keep the goal in focus and when the stories in my head are getting in the way, to gently change those stories in some small way and keep doing it until the code in my brain changes.

I imagine myself taking criticism, not as a personal attack, but as a way to keep becoming a more effective stage manager.

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What does stage managing have to do with keeping bunnies?

Why aren’t my bunnies getting along? Who is the alpha bunny? The one who is bunniechewing up my couch and is a Mean Girl bunny to my other, sweet Buttons? Or sweet Buttons for staying out of Snap’s way.

I realized, from an incident in my stage managing experience, that the Alpha Bunny needs to be me. I have to mediate between bunny fights, and still make sure everyone gets exercise, a time to run around, a time to bond.

This realization came from a recent rehearsal incident. I needed to step up and be the Alpha manager during rehearsals for our main stage community theater production.

I am used to the director being the adult figure who calls the shots and has the vision. I see myself as the director’s Minion, who sees that all is carried out the way the director wants it. I go along to keep everything smooth. Not traits of an Alpha anything.

So it was in an early rehearsal, when there is table talk and everyone is figuring out what their characters are about and what the play is about, that the director brings a little wine to this table. I think about how much I hate alcohol (and drugs) in any theatre situation, including having to play to a half-drunk audience, but I shrug and say to myself, well, that’s the way he’s doing it. Who am I, etc. etc.

Stage Management means never having to say “I’m sorry,” and that’s what this little stunt brought upon  me because I didn’t do what needed to be done. Instead, I said “I’m sorry! I didn’t know! I’m new!” to all sorts of executive types. Saying I’m sorry wasn’t enough and meant very little. I had to know, new or not, what the theater’s policies are and no alcohol is at the top of that list. End of discussion.

So what did I do? An Alpha stage manager would have found a diplomatic way to have managed a potentially explosive situation.

Me? I had to learn it’s ok to be Alpha. The lesson I learned is that I do have good sense and good instincts and that I need to step up and use that good sense and good instincts. In other words, I’m the adult.

For you folks just starting out in the biz of show biz, know this: no matter how much you think mood-altering substances enhance your creativity, you are wrong. You are not present (prerequisite for an actor.) You are not helping your creative fellows. You are making it almost impossible for anyone, sober or otherwise, to relate at all to you. You may be creating, but it is nothing you can share and it certainly isn’t manageable. And that is a terrible situation for a stage manager who has the well-being of the show in his/her hands.

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What do you do when you have too much to do? Part II

I started listing my problems in the last post, “What do you do when you have too much to do?” and promised I’d tell you how I dealt with them.

Here’s a day in my life: Pick up the new bunny – a two-hour drive across the state to get a little cutie to be a bunny buddy to my Buttons. Need time – days, weeks, months, however long it takes – to introduce them and give them reasons to bond. Not all rabbits like all other rabbits. They can be as finicky as those Mean Girls in school. Then head off to a production meeting. Then learn lines for something else. Then study the set design so I can spike the rehearsal area. You get the picture.

It isn’t going well. Sweet Buttons, who wants a bunny buddy to bond with, is being snubbed and outright attacked by my new Bunny from Hell. The new bunny, Snap I’m calling her because it goes with Buttons and because she uses the snap to her advantage as she bites me every time I come near her, is only a baby – 6 months old – and hasn’t yet learned how to play well with others. Patience is what is needed from me and to watch her and see what she needs, like maybe a bigger cage and a lot of exercise out on my porch. So my bunnies are working it out on the porch while I write this post.

Meanwhile, I have made a list of all the things I want to accomplish in September and I am tired and confused just thinking about them. I am very involved in my stage manager job for the first main stage production and find that I can fritter away a whole morning just sending emails back and forth between cast and director trying to accommodate a rehearsal date change for one of the cast. It is community theatre, after all, and people (unlike some professionals) have lives.

Bunny standoff

Bunny standoff

So what do I do with too much to do? First, I will drop those things that aren’t contributing my overall goals. (I mean, do I need to spend an hour a day playing Candy Crush?)

Then I’ll deal with stress. I know one thing: feeling stressed out only defeats whatever I want to accomplish, so I will drop the notion that I am stressed and take a walk to the beach, where I’ll mull over what archetype I should become instead of this poor victim who is so stressed out. I get the archetype descriptions from Carl Jung, Martha Beck, Deepak Chopra, and Joseph Campbell. (Drama students should look these people up – you should know who they are, even if you don’t take the lessons they teach us.) The archetype I choose is the Hero. This guy/gal is in every action movie you’ve ever seen.

It goes like this (writers take note): The Hero sets out to accomplish something. Things are good. Looks like a clear shot to the end. But. Things get messy. All kinds of obstacles come up and these obstacles turn into Trials. The Hero has to navigate through the Trials, solving them, letting them go when that is all he/she can do (this I picked up from Divergent.) Searching, striving, and battling through to the end goal. This is the rewarding part. With it can come enlightenment and much more than the Hero expected when he/she set out. The Hero is changed, made into a more understanding, sometimes compassionate, confident human being. The next Quest? No problem. Got it covered.

So it is with all that I have to do. I will see it as a Quest whose outcomes I can’t be sure of. But I will go through all the Labors of Hercules forging onward. I can’t control the outcome, but I sure can put in the effort and drop stress off on my way. Stress serves no real purpose except maybe as a wake-up call that something is amiss.

I will organize everything into neat chunks and whittle away at them. For example, my bunnies will have to work out their bonding rituals on their own, with help and nourishment and encouragement from me. But whether they ever actually bond, is none of my business. It’s theirs. Just watching them running freely on my porch is enough for today.

The play will come out as it will, but I will do my best to stage manage it to a successful outcome. I will act to the best that I can and people will like my performance or they won’t, but I will enjoy the effort I am making. In fact, I will enjoy each Trial as it comes up.

I will look for similarities – what have people done before me? I will take their lessons and learn from them and apply them to my own Trials. And I will delegate what I can’t do and trust that it will all come out the way the Universe intended.

Excelsior!

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What do you do when you have too much to do? Part I

School is back on again. Too soon for some of you. There are preparations: clothes, books, supplies to buy; summer friends and flirtations to say goodbye to; start on that reading list you neglected all summer; find a way to pretend that none of this even makes you break a sweat.

I feel you.

So here’s what I’ve got going. It’s all happening at the same, hence my “OMG!” moment.

  1. Stage manager for a main stage community theatre production and there’s a production meeting tonight and the first rehearsal later on this week.
  2. A rehearsal for a Readers Theatre two-person production of a famous author’s work. Not only am I acting as the narrator, I am also writing the narration that will theatrically (I hope) introduce the selections I have picked out for the other actor to read. Oh, did I mention, besides writing, adapting, and acting, I am the director and producer?  Plus, I’ve got to get permission to use this material. Oy!
  3. A rehearsal at the end of the week of The Importance of Being Earnest for which I am acting the role of Miss Prism. Gotta learn me some lines!
  4. My little bunny, a butterscotch fluff-ball named Buttons, is mourning her bunny pal who died last weekend and needs bunny companionship tout de suite. Finding the right bunny for her took some time. No bunny breeders or pet stores for me—I want a rabbit that needs a home, so tomorrow, I’m off to the nearest rabbit rescue, which is a 2-hour drive. Now I have to spend tomorrow bringing home the bunny of our dreams. Then introducing them to each other in such a way that they won’t rip each other’s faces off. Rabbits love other rabbits, mostly, but it is also possible that these sweet creatures will turn into Mean Girls. Did I mention “poop wars?”
  5. Pet my cat and feed him when he meows loudly, announcing to one and all that it’s “Suppertime.” (Gorgeous Russian Blue mix.)
  6. Write this blog. I know it is too long between posts. Also, I need to make it more readable. Jazz it up a little. Any advice?
  7. I want to teach and write scholarly papers about theatre at the college level. So I am composing and sending a follow-up email for a college teaching job for which I believe I am particularly well-suited. But the people doing the hiring need to be as convinced of that as I am.
  8. Also, I have a great and abiding need to work as a voice actor, so I have voice and body exercises to do, a demo reel to make, an agent to find. Not going to happen overnight.
  9. Keep my living space and the bunny hutch and the cat litter clean.
  10. Plan meals so I can stick to my food plan in spite of odd-hour rehearsals, car travel, bunny bonding, learning lines, writing this blog, and the rest of it. Actually, this should be at the top of my list – top priority – because I have lost gobs of weight over the last few years and that and the fact that I did it through a sensible and regular food plan and not a diet, means that to keep it off I must not stray from my food plan – and believe me, nothing in the above list is even remotely possible for me should I not stick to the plan. So planning meals is key for me.
  11. Meditate. Got to. There is nothing more to say about that right now.
  12. Keep up with the Little League World Series. What does that have to do with anything? Beats me. I like watching these fast-moving and exciting baseball games—it is summer, after all—and I still and if I don’t watch, I’ll be missing part of what makes life good and fun.
  13. Keep up with reading.
  14. Keep up with season 4 of The Killing. Just have to. Nothing more to say about that, either.
  15. Keep up with Candy Crush. (Don’t ask….)

How would you handle all this? Any advice for me?

I keep lists. I have goals and objectives. I work project management magic to get through grocery shopping. Is anything going to help?

Buttons and Rhonda

Buttons and Rhonda

Next time: How I going to survive, have fun, while
giving it my best efforts
.

Also next time: A picture of the new bunny, Snap, getting along—or not—with Buttons.

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