It was nearly twenty five years ago, that I walked into a new theatre class. The instructor had everyone begin physical warm ups, followed by vocal warm ups. He began an exercise where we were supposed to move around the room, walking … running… skipping… dancing… any movement we chose, and he would pop up from behind us and ask us questions about ourselves.
What is your favorite color?
Who do you love more your mother, or your father?
Why are you in this class?
What kind of car do you drive?
All very random. An exercise to help us feel the ease of answering some questions versus the difficulty of others. How did answering change the way we moved across the room as we answered? How did answering change our body mannerisms, our vocal tone? Then he asked this poor girl…
Why do you want to be an actress?
She replied: I want to be famous. I want people to know who I am.
He told her to leave his classroom, this class was for serious actors only.
I thought her answer said so very much more. It spoke to me of a girl with insecurities, looking for validation in success. Famous would mean that her work was good. Famous would mean she was known, respected, seen. Famous would mean that she was not being looked over any longer. She was fragile. And yet, she was brave. I believe a lot can be said for her honest answer, even if the teacher didn’t see it. I saw it.
I have loved the theatre and performing as far back as I can remember. It all began in a Kindergarten Circus. We built costumes, putting on a show for our family members and other students. It was amazing. I received such accolades for my lion costume, my teacher took me around to the other teachers to show off my curly mane constructed from several shades of brown construction paper. I was an excellent lion. Years later, I was an excellent snobby heiress. Many years later, I received my first newspaper review for a stunning performance… followed by one that identified me as hilarious.
As much as I have loved the on stage aspects of theatre, I have always had a special affinity for the backstage happenings. Planning, staging, building sets, lighting design, costume construction, special effects make up. I’ve directed more shows than I have been cast in, received recognition and awards for my work. Yet, one of the most valuable things I’ve taken away from all of these experiences came from the moment I understood what that teacher really meant when he sent that student out of his classroom.
I can tell immediately when someone “belongs on the stage”. There is something about them that feels natural, at home, on the stage. I can tell when someone doesn’t belong too. Sometimes, they were cast because they looked the part but lacked the talent. Other times they wanted to be in the show for the attention, but lacked the commitment to the part. I’ve even seen incredibly talented actors look so out of place on the stage simply because their passion was something incredibly different.
You can be good at something, but that doesn’t mean it is your passion or calling. You can be terrible at something, but forced into that position to fill a void or because someone else thinks you are perfect for the role. You can even thrust yourself into the fray because you think it will give you what you are looking for, but your attempts are misguided. This student was told to leave the class because she was looking for attention and validation, and the teacher knew it would never happen. He knew that she was throwing herself into the shark infested waters, hoping that her talent would save her. He knew that throngs of people, critics, and the industry would eat her alive.
I thought he was cruel that day. Now, I see him as being merciful. As I think about her now, I remember we shared another class a few years later. She was different, more confident in herself. I’m not sure what happened after she walked out of that first class… but this was not the same girl. If I had to take an educated guess, it would be that her motives changed.
Now I am in a different “industry”, filled with writers, speakers, and ministry leaders. In the last six months, I have had multiple people tell me they feel called to writing, public speaking, etc. I often find myself asking (in my head) as similar questions as my old teacher.
Why do you want to write? Why do you want to speak at events, conferences?
Why are you moving toward center stage?
We must examine our own motives and desires.
Are we putting Christ center stage, or ourselves?
Are we sharing our words, opinions, perspectives or God’s truth?
Do we want people to look at us, see us, validate us? Or, are we giving God the spotlight acting as His humble messenger?
If we enter a public arena with faulty motives, we are throwing ourselves in among the shark hoping that our gifts will save us from the feeding frenzy. However, when our motives are in line with God’s desires then He is given center stage. We don’t have to rely on our gifts to save us, because we have already been saved. Our joy comes in sharing not our own selves with the world, but instead sharing the life changing power of Jesus Christ.