Hello, all! Day 2 of the April challenges is here, so let’s get right into it. B is for Bias and Bodies. And Boyfriends, while we’re on the subject.
I mentioned in my last post that I had auditioned for a show recently. Ardmore Little Theater is currently in rehearsals for “I Ought To Be In Pictures.” It is a play by Neil Simon with a cast of only three people: a man, a woman, and a late-teenage girl. Initially I went in thinking I didn’t really have a snowball’s chance of winning the adult female role. I really wanted to play the character because I felt like I really understood her. I had some concerns about some parts of the show, but overall I would have loved the chance to work through and around my issues and play the role.
So I went in thinking I didn’t really have a chance, but at the time, I was thinking it was because there would be someone who was obviously better than I was, and they would get the part. Well, after the first night of auditions, I was kind of surprised. I had done what I thought was maybe my best audition ever and I thought Maybe I actually had a shot. The second night of auditions, when I discovered we were going to be reading the same scene again, I asked one of my friends if I should try to do it exactly the same as I had the night before or do it differently, and she said to do it differently. So as I watched everyone else read, I thought, “How can I be different from everyone else? How can I do it better than last night?” And I came up with the idea to take it in the opposite direction emotionally and take a completely different tone. After the reading, I felt like it had been a good choice. Nobody else had gone that direction but me, at least not that I could remember. There was one lady who I felt was pretty good, but I felt like I showed more realistic emotion. Or something. I am not even sure now. I think I just generally thought I was better. BUT. She had one huge advantage. She was much thinner.
When it came to the guys, two of them were similar but seemed pretty good to me, and the third just seemed a little bland and emotionless. Not very realistic. And there again he was the thinnest of the three. So guess who got cast? The two thin people, which really should not have surprised me, and perhaps really didn’t, because at one point they were onstage together and I thought, “I’m looking at the cast of this show right now.”
Anyway. One of the things about theater is that the result of an audition is never truly in our hands. We might think we are the best choice, but it is all about the director’s vision and only he or she knows what that is. But in this case, I felt like the primary deciding factor was appearances. That may or not have been entirely the case, but that was how I took it. How I felt. And it did something to me. Well, several things, but mostly it reminded me of the fact of appearance bias in theater and every other field and facet of the world. No one is immune to it.
But on this occasion, the reminder of that bias was almost crushing. I felt very angry that day. I thought I could see very clearly that large people are only allowed to be characters in a few specific situations: they are poor, they are Southern, they are stupid, or they are morally deficient. I tried to think, all day when I was at work after the cast was posted, of specific examples both from our local theater and from professional theater and in TV and movies, that supported my theory: extra large actors and the roles they play.
The problem is that theater is the very definition of unreality. See, in the real world, fat and unattractive people get married, have sex, and get divorced. In the world of theatre, nobody wants to see that up on stage, larger than life in spotlights in a play about love and sex. It is not fair but it is reality. No sense whining about it when it’s what we sign up for.
Anyway, the long and short of it was that it made me reconsider the possibility of ever playing a big role, or one I really wanted. I thought I didn’t want to do it if I was up against that bias. I thought I didn’t even want to play roles I might be perfect for, if I had to play them at the size I am now. I started thinking about dislike for self and downright self-hatred and how it spills over onto others and I wondered where my compassion went. (I also realized it is getting harder for me to look people in the eyes at work, but I am not sure there is a connection there.)
So. It was a rough couple of days. I identified a part I want in one of the shows for next season, but immediately began wondering if I were good enough. And then I wanted to back out because I want to play the part but I don’t want to play her at this size. And then I thought, well why not? If someone’s going to play her, it might as well be me.
This entry is getting too long, but I wanted to throw in the topic of boyfriends and how it seems like I always want one, but the only guys I have loved, liked, seriously crushed on, or considered crushing on, have all had significant mental issues, by which I mean depression or bipolar or some variation on that theme. I wonder whether I am drawn to these people or I draw them to me. My counselor the other day said something I have known for years, but because of the current climate of my emotions toward myself and my size and all, it was quite depressing to be reminded of: you have to love yourself before you can get anyone else to love you. And in the mental headspace I am in right now, all I could think was “Boy, am I screwed!”
Without further ado, today’s B Poem:
beautiful or not,
Seen through our own eyes.
or what isn’t
rejoice or cry,
but always judge.
across a stage
or a screen
and into our imagination
by categories of value
based on appearances
Bias is like air
it surrounds and touches,
it is inside and outside
and no matter
what the inside says…
the outside makes the decisions
for all of us
Until next time,