December has been a great example of me not having any clue what the fuck I am doing as far as the theatre world is concerned. I have been understudying a new About Face musical called We Three Lizas performing at the Steppenwolf Garage. The show is a queer version of A Christmas Carol, and I must say, I am incredibly honored to be given the opportunity to be a part of an exciting new work for this amazing theatre company.
This all being said, I arrive to the theatre every Thursday through Sunday and think so myself, “What am I doing here? Why am I in the way of these nice, talented people?” My understudy duties have pretty much consisted of one rehearsal to learn the music with the composer and copy the blocking notes from the stage manager and then watching almost every performance. I haven’t had to go on yet, and I am crossing my fingers that everyone will stay healthy and capable for the next three shows, because let’s face it, I have no idea how to do any of that choreography.
Something that I have learned in my time of sitting backstage and smiling and trying to foster friendships with a cast and crew of people who are nearly all at least a decade older than me is that people in the Chicago theatre community (or at least in this show) are genuinely nice. No one is a diva (except for jokingly, in which case, everyone is a diva) and everyone seems truly happy to be working with each other. Even though I joined this process on opening night, essentially intruding on their already established dynamic, by the end of the process everyone has been really warm and welcoming to me as a young, clueless actor. Of if nothing else, they at least remember my name.
I think the lesson I am learning from this is to just say yes when good opportunities arise. For this, I had to do a lot of rearranging of schedules and commitments. I dropped a student film that I was very excited about, and very sad to leave, and I had to get permission to miss a week of rehearsing for My Fair Lady (the 71st annual Dolphin Show at Northwestern). Even though I may have been really awkward and uncomfortable at first, the people in that dressing room who I may be able to ask for advice or who may be able to introduce me to someone cool in the future will be priceless assets in a world where who you know means as much, if not more, than what you can do. This experience would be about nineteen times more terrifying if I were to have to perform, but regardless, when any sort of opportunity comes up, especially very early in one’s career, we have to just say yes and roll with the punches. As Tim Gunn would say, “Make it work.” Even though Evanston is a ghost town and all of my friends have been enjoying their families and homes for the last two weeks while I spend my time at the Steppenwolf Garage, working at Urban Outfitters, and twiddling my thumbs while I refuse to clean my apartment, I am very grateful for being offered this gig and very pleased that some of my close friends encouraged me to make it work, no matter what.
Also, this may have been the least amount of work I have ever done to receive a paycheck. And that’s saying something when compared to the box office at Northwestern.
Stay hot and keep it messy,