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Casting is Hard

And then, just like that, six years have gone by. Where did I go? Why did I stop posting?

I didn’t go anywhere.

I still teach.

I am still the teacher your teens go to when they feel like they can’t talk to you.

I have been B U S Y! Those students have kept me busy.

I do remember that the last thing I wanted to write about – school dances – bothered me so much that I probably couldn’t find the right words to satisfactorily convey my dismay. I had also gotten into a bit of a pickle by a public (re: non-anonymous) post that became misconstrued as shaming when I was really just concerned. And so, I shut myself up. Especially on school dances! (Thankfully, I don’t think what I wanted to write about is still that much of an issue, but I haven’t had to supervise a dance since then, so I only really know via second-hand reporting.)

Today, my biggest issue (other than grading, and yes, I will get to that on a separate post!) is casting my spring musical.

Casting a high school production is hard.

It’s hard to eliminate talented teens. It’s hard to ensure that the cast is balanced between classes, ethnicities, and even sometimes genders. It’s hard not to feel like you’re a big bully confirming a fragile teen’s worst self images – that they are completely without talent or worth. I try to make it clear that this is NEVER the case. Who am I to say whether someone has talent or not? I mean, yeah, that seems to be part of my job description…. but honestly, some people are just late bloomers in the talent arena. Sometimes there are so many other things going on in that fragile psyche that the talents just haven’t been given room to take root or grow or make themselves known.

So, I tell everyone at the end of the informational part of the first audition, and then repeat at the end of callbacks, that casting is like speed dating. I have a limited amount of time to pull together the right group of people. And just because you might not be right for this show, that doesn’t mean you’ll never be right for any show. Not getting cast doesn’t mean you suck. I hope they hear me. I hope they see and hear and feel my sincerity.

As a former professional actor myself, I know how icky this particular kind of rejection feels and how easy it is to make it personal when my director brain knows it is not. WELL…. not always. If you’re a known troublemaker, I’m going to keep you away from my production. The reasons here should be obvious.

And then there’s the accusation of F A V O R I T I S M.  This one is my favorite.

–insert eye roll–

If anyone took the time to actually pay attention to my cast lists, they would note (because it’s frikkin’ obvious), I constantly cast new people. Nearly half the cast of my last production had never been in any plays before. Anywhere. Ever. I pride myself in making sure I give everyone a fair chance. And I guarantee you that this next cast list will show I’m bringing a whole slew of new people to the stage.

Yes, I deal with fragile egos here. And I do try to tread lightly. I really do.

until next time….

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Why am I here? What am I doing?

Me: Where do I begin?

Myself: At the beginning, of course!

Me: And just where IS the beginning?

Myself: Just tell them why you decided to start this endeavor that you have little time for, but insist on doing anyway.

Me: But there are so many reasons!

Myself: Pick one and roll with it. See where it takes you.

I: Okay, here goes.

 

Picture this. I’m in my Rabbi’s office having a pre-marital counseling session and I randomly boast of my ability to write a book about all the things I’ve learned as a high school teacher. My Rabbi was intrigued. She thought it was a great idea. She even said that my theoretical book would fill a desperate need. I felt humbled, and admittedly silenced. Who am I to claim that I have any more knowledge or expertise than the random Josephine? Well, I’ll tell you.

I am the teacher that your children go to when they can’t talk to you.

Interesting things have happened between that counseling session and today. New television shows claiming to be about “real” teens have joined the airwaves. I’ve read editorials, heard politicians wax on and my own family members complain all about ineffective teachers, and dangerous schools filled with sex-crazed kids toting guns. I’ve read articles that even had ME thinking that all students engage in dangerous behaviors from sexting to lord knows what else. I’m not gonna lie – some of what you read is true. Not all of my own students are angels. Some of them are in gangs. Some of them have parents who are in jail. Yes, today’s teens ARE exposed to way more than they should be and are given way more unsupervised time than is good for them. Teens are angry. They are confused. They are hurt. They want to feel validated. They want to hear the truth even if they say they don’t. They want to be heard without feeling pre-judged. And that is why they come to me.

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