Actually, I wasn’t. I was cast as one in a student one-act my sophomore year of college. I was used to getting major roles, and I got cast as a cricket player. Not even the cricket player who got to throw the ball through the window; I was the other one. The one who didn’t have any lines.
Except I wasn’t. I declined the part, which my non-acting roommate ended up taking. But this isn’t really about being a cricket player. It’s about something far more sinister.
Let me start at the beginning. (Of time? No, let’s go back a little more recent than that.)
I’ve been a male for as long as I can remember. When I started acting, I therefore became a male actor, which is one of the most blessed things to be in the world of high school or college acting. Why? Because there aren’t that many of us and we’re usually not as good as most of the female actors. At your typical high school auditions, there might be 726 girls auditioning for 11 parts and five guys auditioning . . . for five parts.
I went to my first audition in high school. There were about 25 people there, 20 of them female. Out of the five guys, one was in the wrong place and one was the custodian. That left three guys to audition for . . . well, I don't really remember but let’s say . . . three parts. Shockingly, I was cast, found out that I was pretty good, and thus began swimming in a little pond known as the “Teen Male Acting Pond.” Unfortunately, in my case, success led to a growing arrogance.
As I did more and more shows in high school, I often landed leading roles and got praised for my talent. If you hear something often enough, you'll start to believe it, whether or not it’s the truth. And I believed it . . . amazingly well. In college, the trend continued. I had a decent role in my first show (and bounced back from an unfortunate incident involving eyeliner on my eyebrows), and I was off. Then came more roles, and more praise, but as time went on, I was becoming the topic of conversation behind the curtain. This time it wasn't about my amazing talent. It was about something that led to my being cast . . . as Cricket Player #2.
There were six student-directed plays, and only four guys auditioned. Those six plays had many male speaking roles, and I was cast in exactly none of them. The other three guys were double, sometimes triple-cast, and I was cast solely in a role that required me to wear all white, remain silent, and hold a non-regulation cricket ball. Not that I knew the difference.
I was devastated. I was good, and the directors were friends of mine, but for some reason . . . they didn't want to direct me. I asked one director, a friend and someone whose opinion I valued, why. And she told me. Man, did she tell me.
She said that no one wanted to direct me because I never listened, I was cocky, I only thought about myself, and I couldn't take feedback.
I was going to disagree until I realized that she was completely right. And it stung. A lot.
Eventually though, I took what she said to heart and it turned out to be one of those moments in life that stays with you and changes you. It made me a better person and even, I imagine, a better actor. Turns out that once you take your ego out of the equation and the focus off of yourself, you can actually grow.
I tell this story to the young actors I work with so that they can learn the lesson earlier than I did. It’s not my favorite story to tell them (that’s the one where I challenged Pants to a staring contest, won by disqualification, and then had to go to the emergency room), but it’s one that I hope they remember as they keep getting told how talented they are.
Looking back, I wish I'd played that silent cricket player, but I was lame. The good news is that my lameness led to my roommate’s only stage appearance. And it was a smashing one. Because he got to throw the ball through the window after all.
Here it is. Steven's blog, where his thoughts about things are revealed. Good luck.