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August 29, 2011

SpiritBlog

Here’s a valuable lesson for budding actors — and for you and me

By Michelle Martin

Each afternoon when I pick Caroline up from her theater camp, the students perform short pieces from the plays they will be presenting for the other campers and their parents.

What impression do we give everyday to the people you see -- and see you -- all day long? "Remember," Catholic mom and columnist Michelle Martin writes, just as young actors learn, "you are always auditioning."

It gives them a chance to work on new pieces in front of a small and friendly audience, without the high-stakes pressure of it being their one and only on-stage performance, and it gives the parents a chance to see what their kids are doing all day.

It also is a teaching situation, both in terms of the actual pieces being worked on — the teachers don’t hesitate to stop the music and remind the children exactly how they are supposed to be singing or to correct a dance move — and in terms of general life lessons.

So when a camper asks when the auditions for the next play are, the answer is, “You’re always auditioning.” That includes when they are supposed to be watching and listening to other campers perform.

When campers are practicing how to introduce themselves for auditions, they are reminded that the audition doesn’t start when they walk out onto the stage and say, “Hello, my name is … . “ When they are waiting in the wings, that’s part of the audition too, so they should projecting a sense of calm and confidence, not fidgeting with their clothing and poking the camper next to them.

That’s a valuable lesson, for people who want to be on the stage and for the rest of us.

Sure, there are times in your life when you know you will be evaluated or tested or have to prove yourself. There are exams and job interviews and tests of faith and courage.

Character counts. Everything counts.

But those aren’t the only times when you have to comport yourself well, with grace and dignity and kindness. Everything counts. Character is what you do when no one is watching — a line that has been attributed to half a dozen speakers, but most often to legendary basketball coach John Wooden.

Because, of course, someone always is watching. It seems trite to say that God is always watching, but that’s what Jesus tells us. In Chapter 6 of Matthew, Jesus tells his followers, “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.”

Nearly as often, people are watching, but they might not be the people you think about trying to impress. Ask anyone who is the primary caregiver for a toddler: Is there any time those eyes aren’t trained on whatever you are doing, or those ears aren’t straining to catch what you have to say? I remember watching Caroline play with her dolls when she was small, and seeing her repeat interactions I had with her word for word.

What about all the people you see every day, the waitstaff and store clerks and bus drivers? What impression do you give them as you go about your day?

Remember, you are always auditioning.

Reprinted with permission from Catholic New World, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Contact Martin at mmartin@archchicago.org.

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