onceuponarealityproductions

The Art of Failing While Pursuing Your Dreams

In Uncategorized on May 5, 2016 at 6:42 pm

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Are you a dreamer? I sure am. And I’m going to be completely honest with you. Dreaming kicks my ass. But when it works out, dreaming actually kicks ass. Have you been told that you’re unrealistic? That it’s cute that you’re still pursuing your dream? That you should maybe have a Plan B? Then pull up a chair, and let’s be friends. I’m in your corner. You’re going to need as many people in your corner as possible, because dreaming, if done incorrectly can be a nightmare. I know because I’ve been there. And I’m alive to tell the tale. So it can’t be that bad, right? Great. Let’s get started.

The Tale of Failing Level One at Groundlings.

Have you heard of Groundlings? If you’re living in LA and pursuing acting, you’ve definitely not only heard of it, but you’ve probably passed every level and used your Groundlings street cred to get you an audition for a co-star role. I auditioned for the Groundlings school and got accepted into the level one class. I was ecstatic. I was making my way as an actor in LA. I had a commercial agent whose office was based out of the lobby in an apartment building in Sherman Oaks and now I had passed an audition to start taking class at Groundlings! I was on my way in the world of Hollywood! I had no aspirations to be on SNL. I had never taken an improv class. But I had heard that Groundlings looked great on a resume so here we go! Guys, I was terrible. I was stuck in my head. The format of the class made no sense to me. I couldn’t let go. Ever. And I was unable to create characters who weren’t happy/peppy. There was a class in which the teacher kept telling me over and over again, I need your character to be upset. Cry. Get angry. Do anything. But don’t make this character happy. I couldn’t go there, guys. This improv class taught me more about who I am as a person, than any acting class has. I have struggled with depression my entire life. Most people don’t know this about me. I’m usually the happiest person in the room. Always smiling. Always securely locking away my dark feelings of sadness deep down where it can’t be touched. This class taught me that all sides of our personality and all of our emotions are beautiful. It is what makes us human. And human is funny. Its relatable. On the last day of class, I finally let go and felt like myself. My teacher told me that if I had ‘let go’ in earlier classes, she could’ve passed me. That is what they wanted from me. So I failed. For years I steered clear of Groundlings. Afraid I would fail again. Afraid that I wouldn’t ever be able to let go. Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, and I was sitting and watching the movie Ghost with my boyfriend during one of the many scenes where Patrick Swayze is able to communicate with Demi Moore as a ghost. I was sobbing my stupid face off and sputtering at the TV: Ah shit, Demi. He loves you! That ghost loves you, Demi. Ditto! I can’t handle this. That’s right, you give him a hug. Go get it, Demi! Believe! He’s really there!

As my boyfriend sat watching me cry and yell at the TV, he started rolling over laughing. I was crying and he was laughing. And it finally made sense to me. When we are genuinely feeling the extreme of whatever we are feeling, it can be hilarious. Because it’s real. I was being real. And that’s all that Groundlings wanted from me. Not a happy/smiley/seemingly perfect girl. They wanted me. Flaws and all.

The Tale of Performing for No One.

I moved to New York a couple years ago, because like many others, I dreamed of Broadway. I dreamt of spending my days writing in my Soho loft, and grabbing a cab to the theater at night (more specifically the Cort. Or Lyceum. Of all the Broadway giants, these two are my dream babies to be produced in) to sit in the house and give notes and make adjustments as actors said my words out loud. I dreamed of parts of the script not working, and I would delete entire scenes and everyone would panic and say, “You’re deleting that scene! But I  loved that scene!” And I would sit for a few minutes and scribble out something brilliant. Something better. Then, just to show off,  would delete that scene and write a whole new and more spectacular one. This was my dream. When I first moved to New York, I had a lot of energy and I didn’t give two shits about what anyone thought of me. I walked into a cabaret space and said that I wanted to rent the stage for 2 months to self-produce a play I wrote. The producer who ran the space was intrigued. I had just moved to town. Did I have the resources to fill the space? Of course I did!

Side note: I came from an acting background. I was used to being rejected. I loved being rejected. I was once asked if I could tap dance and I said ‘yes’ so that I could land a primary tap dancer spot. I would learn how to tap dance later.

So that’s what I figured would happen this time around. I would learn how to fill a house later. I just had to get my damn foot in the door. And my confidence worked! I landed a two month contract. I auditioned folks for the show and found a wonderful cast. I even found a girl to run the box office. We were a kick-ass all female ensemble. I had just moved to town and I was nailing it! Nothing could go wrong!

Here’s the thing: Even on the most smallest level, theater in New York requires an obscene amount of promotion for even 5 people to show up. It’s ridiculously competitive. There were nights we had 10 people in the house. I gave out comp tickets left and right. I also made the terrible mistake of assuming that I would make a profit off the show, and that money would go back to the cast in the form of stipends. Can you see how many mistakes I’ve made so far? A lot. But people trusted me to steer the ship. And on one particular night, I steered the ship into a rock. Not a single soul was in the audience. I was shattered. I felt like a loser. People kept telling me, “You should be so proud of what you’ve accomplished! It takes balls to get as far as you’ve gotten!”

But here’s what I knew to be true: I had friends who had babies. I had friends who were literally raising humans. I had friends who were pursuing a Master’s degree. I had friends who were achieving their goals. And I felt like the universe was telling me, This is clearly not the right path for you. You are failing miserably. Stupid dreamer. Don’t you think everyone wants to run off to New York and write plays? Sure they do! But they don’t because shit like this happens. So go back to your 3 day jobs and closet-sized apartment, because all you’ve accomplished out here is higher levels of anxiety.

On the night that no one showed up, I was also told that my contract with the theater would be cut short. There was a bartender working the lounge who wasn’t going to make a dime that night because I had failed. There was a cast who had no one to perform for, because I failed. There was a venue owner who was stressed out, because I failed. But there was my tech sitting in the back who saw the empty theater as an opportunity to perform one last time full out and we could get as crazy as we wanted. This talented young man has a wildly successful career because he finds a way to make things work. We performed the full show that night. It took me months to not want to cry whenever I thought about this night. And then, a few months later, the following happened:

I was working as a porter at a Broadway theater. I was backstage cleaning a toilet in a dressing room when I happened upon a familiar face working on the crew for the new show that was loading in. It was the girl who ran the box office on my failed show. She was a PA on this new show on Broadway and I was cleaning the toilets. You won’t believe this. I didn’t cry. I didn’t feel upset. I felt blissfully happy. It was solid proof that good things come to people who take the right path and work out the kinks. Here was a girl who ended up working for free because my dumbass didn’t budget her stipend. And now she was a PA on Broadway. Shortly after, one of the actresses from my show was in a new show and getting rave reviews by the NY Times. Again, I was thrilled. She survived. She had performed for no one and she had risen above it and continued to pursue her dreams and it worked out for her.

I scrubbed the toilet extra hard that day. It was going to work out for me someday, because that’s how the universe works. The universe was teaching me that when it comes to success, you can’t race to the finish line or skip a step. Sometimes, you have to take the baby steps and take the time to learn. Even if it means learning the art of failure. And I’m great at failing! I’m even better at overcoming my failures! Watch out world!

 

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  1. One of my favorite pieces of advice that I’ve carried with me has been; “Fall down running”

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