I make a living directing plays for middle school students and I love almost everything about my job. The part I don't love is auditions.
Making the final decision on who will get what parts is difficult and twice a year, I lose sleep over it. It's not difficult because the choices are hard. In reality, it's almost always very clear who is best suited for which roles--that is the easiest part of the whole thing. What's difficult for me is the emotional distress that my students feel.
I know that disappointment is part of life and a big part of growing up. It's also part of theatre, and I can't change that. But I love my students and seeing them hurt or disappointed--even though that's not my intent--hurts.
This process, difficult as it is, has taught me some important lessons, though. The first lesson is this: when I cast someone in the leading role, I'm not making them the lead. I'm merely acknowledging the talent that exists and validating what was already there. I cannot make someone into a lead, no matter how much I want them to be happy, or how much I love them, anymore than I can make water into wine. Someone is either well-suited or not. My decision simply acknowledges that reality and in spite of what people frequently say, I have almost nothing to do with it.
I have a feeling that this is what the final judgment is. I suspect that the sum of our character and our choices will make our final destination very obvious. God will acknowledge and ratify and finalize that, and surely the law of Mercy will come into play. But I don't think it will be a surprise. No matter how much He loves us--and He does, infinitely--He cannot make a terrestrial soul into a celestial soul anymore than I can make a tone-deaf mutterer a leading lady. It's simply impossible.
Another lesson: I'm always surprised by some of the people who are surprised they didn't get leads. One mother once came to talk to me. "Why didn't my daughter get a lead?" She asked in great shock. I was in an equal state of shock. I thought, "What in the world gave you the idea she would even be considered? She's unreliable and difficult to work with. And she's not all that talented, either." I didn't say that, but I wanted to. Students (and parents) often want to be leads just because they want it. They seem to think that wanting it badly enough will make it so.
Occasionally a brilliantly talented student appears and gets big lead, but normally the students who get the coveted roles are kids with some talent who have spent years in voice lessons and summer camps and paying their dues in the ensemble. Each experience has taught them and they've learned bit by bit--literally, line upon line until they are prepared. Their progression to lead roles has been apparently organic and seamless to the observer, but I've seen the hard work, consistent choices, and years of preparation.
Braden is the author of The Road Show. He's a husband, father, director, teacher, and writer and he blogs about it all at bradenbell.com.
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