There are a lot of hard days in musical theatre.
I know. Crazy right?
I spend most of my time singing and dancing for a living. Most people barely consider what I do to be a job (I’ll go into more detail on this gem next time), but performing is hard. It’s tiring and repetitive. Not only are you asking your body to do strenuous physical activity, you have to sing and look like it’s easy too!
There are days—when you’re sore, and tired, and you’ve rammed your face into a set piece, and your fake eyelash is jabbing your eye, and you have a bobby pin that’s trying to impale your brain—when you’d really just rather not. Not go on stage, not have lights in your eyes, not try and entertain strangers.
We all have those days, and it’s okay. I’m constantly having to tell fresh performers that it’s okay. Having a day when you have to force the smile on your face while you tap dance on aching feet is okay. You’re not a terrible actor. You don’t need to quit. Our job is hard.
But every once in a while, a very special audience member comes along who makes the hard job a whole lot easier.
There used to be en elderly gentleman who frequented one of the theatres I work for who would bring a ground hog puppet to the shows. The ground hog was always dressed in a costume to fit the show, and the puppet would dance along with us. There is nothing to get you through a Wednesday matinee like a dancing ground hog puppet waving an American flag.
There are cute little kids sitting in the front, or an older couple holding hands and smiling blissfully.
You may think the actors can’t see audience members, but we can. We will know if you’re on your phone. Word of the super hot guy in the second row will make it around the dressing rooms within the first few numbers of the show.
Last week, we were having a rough show. Nothing really bad, just a communally tired day. And then someone spotted a special needs woman right in front of the stage living her absolute best life. She was copying the choreography, laughing at every joke, and living her best life right in front of the footlights.
Having her out there smiling at us—visibly showing that, to her, our work mattered—was what we needed to get through the show. We tired, sore actors brought that woman absolute joy. And for that, I can tap dance on throbbing feet.
My job may not be fancy or glamorous. I might not be saving lives or teaching the next president. But I can make people happy. And that’s worth something.