Sunday, January 23, 2011

No Business Like It

"Please don't let it be over, please don't let it be over!!"  I chanted the words again and again, until the lights came up once more and my fears were laid to rest.

I was in elementary school, witnessing a live stage production for the very first time.  The high school wherein my father taught was presenting a children's theater production of Peter Pan.  The director, one of dad's colleagues and fellow fishing buddies, invited my mother to bring all us kids for an afternoon matinee.

Looking back, it wasn't a very well-funded production, to say the least.  The sets and costumes were homemade, and when the script called upon the actors to "fly," this was accomplished by spreading their arms, jumping off the stage, and running up and down the auditorium aisles.

But I was transfixed.  I had never witnessed anything so glorious in my entire, young life. Every time the lights would dim after the completion of a scene, (so the stagehands could transpose the set from, say, the Darling's nursery to the Land of Lost Boys), I would repeat the above mantra.  I couldn't BEAR the thought of this magical, wonderful thing coming to an end.  I laughed, cried, and clapped my belief of fairies until my hands were raw.

And when the lights dimmed for the last time, and the house lights came up on the theater, I believe my life had forever changed.

When I entered junior high school, one of the yearly field trips involved a morning when they'd bus all of us seventh and eighth graders over to the high school, to view a final dress rehearsal of the drama department's fall musical.  We'd see the musical, then head back to school to attend our regular afternoon classes.  After witnessing a rousing (but low budget!) production of Guys and Dolls, I remember sitting back in science class that afternoon, looking around at my classmates. How on earth could they possibly focus on e=mc2 after the magic we'd experienced just a few hours before?

When I finally reached high school and could be a part of these musicals myself, I worried that some of the "wonderment" of it all would fade, once I saw the non-magical, normal backstage areas and realized the amount of hard work these productions required.  Not so. I loved every minute of every rehearsal.  All day long, during my classes, I'd count down the hours until play practice.  When the threat of school cancellations materialized because of approaching snow storms, I'd whisper a quiet prayer, hoping the blizzards would pass us.  If there was no school, there was no rehearsal, and I simply couldn't live without that.

During all this time, though, I assumed that a career in the theater was out of the question. Surely, a career so unique and amazing could only be held by truly special people.  I figured it was like royalty, you had to be born into it.

Then one day, riding home from church in the family car, I overheard a conversation between my parents. They were discussing the actor/comedian Bob Hope. Mom was telling Dad that Hope actually hailed not far from where we lived, in Cleveland, Ohio.  She had read that he got his start impersonating Charlie Chaplin outside the Cleveland firehouses.

That's when it hit me:  Bob Hope, the famous TV and movie star, had once been NORMAL?!! You mean, ANYONE could do this?  It seemed impossible, but I prayed it was the truth.  It was at that moment, in that station wagon, headed home from mass at St. Barnabas Catholic Church, that I made the decision to officially drop all ambition to become the next Ernest Hemingway. I was going to pursue a career in theater.

As you can probably guess, I never achieved the success of Mr. Hope.  I've never lived in LA nor starred in a blockbuster movie.  My limited TV appearances have been mostly local, and I can safely go out into public without being recognized or hounded for my autograph. But I can say this:  the majority of my working life has been spent performing, and it has been purely GLORIOUS.

Honestly, I don't think I've lost one ounce of the wonderment I felt that afternoon, when the lights came up on Wendy, Michael and John.  It's been a terrific ride!  Oh, sure, there have been times when I've felt tired and fatigued, and didn't feel like getting myself "up" for a particular performance.  But guess what?  That feeling always, ALWAYS vanished the second I took one step onstage.

But it's time to focus on a finding a new career, now.  There aren't many roles for women my age, and the live performance opportunities are far fewer in my new city.  I'm really just fine with this, and have no problem making theater my hobby rather than my career. Except for one small thing.

I have no idea how to do this.  Instead of auditioning for jobs, where I stood in front of a panel and "showed" them what I could do, I must now interview for a job, where I sit at a table with said panel and "tell" them what I can do.  Tell them, that is, if I'm actually granted an interview in the first place. The hiring process has become, in my opinion, ridiculously impersonal. The applications must be filled out online, a resume attached to an email.  After the employer reviews these documents, then, and only then, will the decision of an interview be made.  You can imagine how bizarre my resume looks.  I haven't received many interview requests.

But, unlike the title character in Peter Pan, it's time for me to grow up.  I've been ridiculously spoiled so far, career wise.  I've had the opportunity to do something about which I was really, truly passionate.   I don't know if this next "chapter" will allow the same, but I do know that I am ready for it.  If only they'd call me for that interview...

Thanks for Reading!!

27 comments:

Eva Gallant said...

I envy you the time you spent performing. I loved the theater as well. (I coulldn't sing very well, but I loved acting.) I was in a couple of plays in college, did comedy skits in the variety shows at the school where I taught, and had a part in a community theater production of Godspell. There is something magical about being on stage!

Red Shoes said...

It's dreams that keep us moving forward, I believe.... dreams of great loves, passionate plaster-busting sex, having little ones come into our families, and even great jobs...

We only stop growing... stop learning... stop living... when we stop dreaming...

:oD

~shoes~

Shan said...

Fortunate, yes! Spoiled? Hardly. Perhaps you can find work related to performing? Teach acting classes. Just post on Craigslist. At least until that interview comes.

Teresa Evangeline said...

I think you should find something that allows room for your passion, for what you Know you were called to do. You never know what life circumstances will present themselves seemingly out of the blue. It may not be what we think it should be, it might be something Much better. Pray and Expect. "Ask and ye shall receive."

Pastor Sharon said...

Now that is a beautiful post. Looking inside your life and what your dreams and aspirations are, I'd say you are headed for the top. . . regardless of where it takes you!

They WILL call!

Shady Del Knight said...

Everyone can learn from your post, Joan...even you! In your youth you had doubts that you "belonged" in acting. Maybe you believed as I always did that acting careers are reserved for kids at Hollywood High whose celebrity parents can open doors for them. Your thinking changed when you learned about Bob Hope, one of the many great stars who started out living ordinary lives in cities and towns far removed from Tinseltown. Indiana, Pennylvania product Jimmy Stewart is another example. Inspired by the realization that you don't have to be born into it, you asked yourself two key questions:

Why not me?
Why not now?

To borrow from Flashdance, you took your passion and made it happen. Now, you can use that same powerful belief system to succeed at whatever else you choose. The principle involved is called "act as if." We tend to become awe struck by big name celebs and political figures because they "look the part." That part can be yours as well if you "act as if" and step into the role. No matter who is in office, the president always looks so "presidential" to us; yet he started out the same as the rest of us...as a child filled with wonder. People who reach their goals must first envision themselves as already having attained them. They must believe congruently that they belong in that position. They must ask themselves why not me, why not now? Finally, they must take the appropriate massive action to get there.

Rachel said...

I can so relate! I still remember seeing "Oliver!" with Junior Programs when I was in second grade. LOVED IT!

(I was far more mesmerized by the acting and dancing to pay much attention to the actual dialogue being interpreted at the front of the stage!)

And when I auditioned and joined the ballet company as a teenager, I got to BE that person on stage. The one who looked out at little kids with wide eyes and happy applause.

Just nothing like it!

And despite the craziness of interviewing now, I'm sure you wouldn't trade your experiences for anything. You just can't buy that :)

Sylvia K said...

I hold good thoughts for you, Joan, and I have no doubt you'll get where you want/need to be. I loved the years I was so involved in little theater and entertainment, but it was rarely enough to live on comfortably so I usually held another job -- teaching, office management etc. But we do what we have to do! Hope you have a great week!

Sylvia

LightningLiam said...

i am always proud to say that i went to school( for 12 years!) with joan donnelly, who, has performed in south pacific with robert gouilet(?), and worked with the "terminator"!!! AND, i have her autograph!!!

Pumice said...

I don't know how you performed on stage, but you perform well in print. Blessings as you seek a new life.

We went to a play based on O'Henry's "Gifts of the Magi" last month. The children of friends were in it. It was better than the Romeo and Juliet I had seen done by professionals. It was put on in a church. Your talent in acting can still find an outlet.

Thanks for commenting on my blog. I have bookmarked yours and will drop in again.

Grace and peace.

ReformingGeek said...

Looking for a job. Ugh. It's just another production although not near as much fun.

I enjoyed your post and I'm glad you were able to experience such a rewarding career as a performer.

Looking for Blue Sky said...

I was briefly a performer as a teenager in school musicals and the thrill I got out of it was like nothing else! And I was with all my friends :) My (very slight) performing abilities have always helped in interviews, and they will help you too: just 'be' the person they want to hire and you'll walk into the job that you want xx

jel said...

if it's God's will "IT" will happen!

huggs

Joanie said...

Reading this post, it easily could have been written by my daughter. She has a love for live theater. She has a degree in theater. She works in radio now and enjoys her job. I get to hear her on the air from time to time, doing commercials and she has an interview show that she does on Sundays.

For your search for a new job, all I can say is "Break A Leg"!

lori said...

Great story! If a person has a chance to make money doing something they love doing then they are truly lucky, even if it's for a short time. Maybe you can teach drama or theater to kids through a community program?
I'm with you on how impersonal the job search has become. I was lucky and found a job 6 months ago that I actually really enjoy, after having been self-employed 9 years. That was tough. But you sound motivated and positive so you'll find something. I found mine through craig's list, but watch out for scams.

Lisalulu said...

I loved your story... and writing, I felt right there! You write as though you know my thoughts.

Banjoan said...

I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. As a banjo playing, picture-taking, oil-painting waitress, I don't look so great on paper (lots of fun at parties, though!). I'm not interviewing at the moment, but I know how frustrating it is to get your foot in the door with an unconventional background. Good luck to you, and thanks for visiting "Doing It With Grace". I have gotten over my diminutive bra size and have come to appreciate my compact physique while on the elliptical stepper. May the women of Haiti benefit from our "misfit" foundation garments!
Thanks for the theatrical memories- my mom and I used to go the NYC from Pennsylvania to catch Broadway shows. We shared some magical moments together.
Break A Leg...
Joan

Denise said...

What great memories. I loved reading this. Thank you :)

Green Monkey said...

you can feel your passion in your words. the interviewing process scares the hell out of me, but go see's must be equally stressful (if not more so). Love how you appreciate where you were and accept and celebrate who you are now.

Cheeseboy said...

I loved this blog post. My 9-year-old son is transfixed with the theater. He loves everything about it. Can't get enough. I am not sure he has a future in it, like you did, but we try and encourage him.

This post also made a little sad for you. Not because the job thing, but because what you love becomes a hobby. I love my job teaching, but I can't even fathom doing it as a hobby. Luckily, I will probably never have to make that choice.

Icy BC said...

I'm too shy to think about performing, but I am glad you did what you love to do. Nothing is better than that, is there?

lifeshighway said...

I loved your post. You had the fortune of chasing your dream and the amazing privilege of loving every single day of it. I can't bear the thought of Peter Pan growing up, so you will be my Mary Martin. One day filling a few hours with a paycheck only to return to wonderland.

Good luck.

Mia said...

I don't think I could sit down to a traditional interview after a lifetime of unique jobs.

Deidre said...

The job hunt is so hard, keep your head up - I am unemployed too and it is a constant struggle trying to tell people why I am qualified for this job...

I get the same way when I see theatre. totally mesmerised by the action. it is really magical.

Kellyansapansa said...

Job interviews are just like auditions. In both cases you are selling your abilities. As a performer, I would think you have an advantage over mere mortals when it comes to job interviews, particularly when you add in your storytelling skills. Don't view job interviews as a chore, and use your writing skills to make your resume stand out from the crowd. Don't you think recruiters get tired of reading impersonal job applications too?

Toyin O. said...

Great story, love the theater, and good luck with everything. With your passion, you are bound to make it.

Shady Del Knight said...

Hi, Joan! If you'd like something to do while riding out the blizzard of 2011 please come over to my blog. Another blogger gave me a 19 question blog survey to fill out and I just completed it and published my answers. The rules say I am to pass the questionaire along to 4 other blog friends. You are one of the four people that I picked to answer the survey. If you would like to participate just cut and paste my latest post, delete my answers, fill in your own and publish. Stay safe, stay warm, and take good care of yourself, dear friend!

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