Keep Going Even If Your Hat’s On Fire!

One of the most cited Shakespearean quotes is “All the world’s a stageand all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts.”

I have spent a great part of my life on the stage, in theatrical and operatic performances. Performing in front of a live audience sure prepares you for a lot that will happen to you in life! Anyone who has ever performed knows that there will be times when the unexpected happens. I have forgotten lines, popped out of costumes, lost hairpieces into the orchestra pit, sung the wrong lyrics and much much more! I’ve even caught myself on fire, which I will explain later. I have stared embarrassment in the face, and I have survived! This is why I feel that Shakespeare got it right when he said that we are all players on the stage of life. Real life experiences often parallel stage experiences. Here are some of the things I have learned:

Sometimes you have to have to jump through hoops to get where you want to go. I have been through lots of “cattle calls.” That’s when you stand in line with hundreds of other hopefuls; carrying your head shot and resume, practicing your vocal scales and keeping limber with knee bends, while waiting your turn to stand in front of a panel of people who often look at you like you are just another prize cow. Think ‘A Chorus Line.” I once did an entire audition for a director who was eating a sandwich and talking on the phone. When you are an actor, this is kind of a rite of passage. Most of us have to put in our time to get where we want to be. In real life, there are steps we have to take in order to achieve our goals and although it takes time and effort, perseverance is the key.

You don’t always get the part you want. There have been times when I was perfect for a role…at least in my head! Instead, I was cast in another part that actually turned out to be a better one for me and one for which I was clearly suited. Had I turned down that role, I would have missed out on a wonderful opportunity. I have experienced the same thing in real-time. Disappointments are a part of life, but we can’t always see the big picture. We tend to dwell on what we didn’t get, rather than to appreciate and make the best out of what we have.

Sometimes, you will mess up. Oh boy, have I messed up…on stage and off! After a mistake, I felt self-conscious and inept and I assumed that everybody was judging me. The thing is…most of the time, it was a huge deal to me, but nobody else really even noticed because they were focused on other things besides my mistakes. When goofs happen on stage, the audience rarely even notices the errors that the actors think are glaring, because they are having fun just enjoying the production. The truth is that when I messed up on stage, I finally realized that I was making it all about me! When I finally “got it” that I wasn’t always the center of attention, I felt rather liberated. The same thing applies to our mistakes in real life.

Expect the unexpected. In theater or in life, don’t ever think that you are in absolute control of everything! This was permanently etched into my brain the time I was performing in an opera, in which I wore a glorious costume complete with a much-feathered hat. There happened to be a candelabrum on stage, which was to be moved by my “lady-in-waiting.” As I reached for the high notes, I began to smell a strange odor which could only be described as burning feathers. I kept singing, but my mind flashed to bar-b-qued chicken, before someone threw a bucket of water on my flaming head piece. You can’t always be prepared for everything, because you don’t know what everything is! But life is never boring when you’re open to opportunities!

Keep going! Everyone is familiar with the line, “The show must go on!” No matter what happens, on stage or off, you have to keep going! There will be failures and disappointments and confusion and chaos…but that’s what makes a good show and a great life!

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