When I was on my first summerstock contract, I had the good fortune to play some great roles. One of them was a romantic lead, boy next door type. I had just turned 21 and had only done one 'professional' show by then in my career. I was very young, but very much looking forward to learn from other 'professionals' in the biz. The show landed right in the middle of a 5 show season. My love interest, the leading character, came in from NYC and I was excited to meet her.
Turns out I was the only one with that sentiment. I had played romantic characters before, and I always thought you had to fall a little bit in love with them in real life to convey that. I learned on this contract, that sometimes you should just try acting.
So many times she would be rude, avert my gaze on stage, blame things on me (my favorite was the day she kept singing her part wrong and said in front of everyone it was because she couldn't hear herself with my loud voice in her face), and generally treat me as if I was less than. Luckily, I had a director and choreographer who noticed this behavior and had a way of making me feel better.
One day, I think around a note session, I had let my leading lady's remarks get to me. I remember the choreographer coming over to me, and asking me what was wrong. I told her that I just didn't understand why someone would treat someone else like that. I'll never forget what she said in response. She said, "
Well, don't ever forget how that feels. And don't ever treat that way."
Words that stayed with me throughout my career. I always made a point to be a safe place for my cast mates, both in the rehearsal room and on stage. I didn't want anyone else to feel the way I felt on my behalf.
Fast forward 11 years.
I was playing the lead in a very dance heavy show. I had just finished another very athletic show, where I had thrashed around bare foot and had to do a lot of very athletic things over the course of the show. I had no turnaround between productions either, so my body wasn't holding up well. I remember getting to the final rehearsals before opening, feeling like my body was going to crash.
There's a move towards the very end of the show that is famous for taking out dancers. Turns out on this day, I would join that chain. I went down offstage after rolling over my foot, and laid there on my back, feeling pain in both of my feet. I knew I couldn't stand up. My body had finally got the best of me. I was able to make my way to the seats in the house. I will never forget as long as I live what happened next.
All I could think was there is no way I would be able to do this show. I had always heard about people being replaced at the last minute due to injury. My mind was racing, thinking that I didn't want to hurt the show, I didn't want to lose my career over this injury, we don't really have an understudy for me, are my feet broken, things like that. I felt like one of those dogs you see in an ASPCA ad, shivering in the corner of a cage of a shelter. Like I was about to be put down.
Sitting across the aisle from me just happened to be one of the cut dancers that I knew was supposed to be understudying me. He looked over at me, and asked what I was going to do. I proceeded to snap at him, saying something to the effect of "I DON'T KNOW!"
Just like that moment in Somewhere in Time, when Christopher Reeve finds the penny and is taken to another place in time, I was immediately back in my first summer stock gig, feeling two feet tall from my leading lady. I apologized many times over the years for my reaction in that moment. But it has stayed with me all these years.
In that moment, I figured out that people deal with their insecurities in different ways. But in those moments, when they choose to lash out at others, it's not about the 'thing.' It's never about the thing, it's always about the person.
I felt just as bad on both sides of that interaction, 11 years apart. I've always tried to be a professional in the room, on stage, in the dressing room, etc. I'd like to think I've made it about 85-90% of the time. That stuff I can't remember as well as that 10-15% where I messed up.
All we can do is be good to ourselves and to others. And to not wear the times we aren't for the rest of our lives.