I was watching SMASH last week as any theater person who cares about our industry(and NBC’s attempt to put us in the spotlight) should. Although SMASH sometimes takes liberties with the realities of show business to keep the plot and the drama going, in last week’s episode “The Read-Through” there was an interaction that I thought was spot on.
Kyle, an aspiring musical theater writer who has just had a major disappointment is ready to throw in the towel. Karen, an aspiring Broadway star has some wise words for him.
Kyle says to Karen, “How can I be so bad at something I love so much?” And her response is, “This was your first try.” He goes on to say that he wasn’t “born with talent” like the rest of them. She counters him again, reminding him of the hours of training and uphill battles she’s had to face.
And she’s exactly right. The truth is, no one is “born” to be a star or a musical theater success. Having talent is great and finding what you’re best at is key, but no one comes into this world with a free pass to center stage.
Not to mention the fact that the odds of getting anything right on your “first try,” are one in a million. Every single person in show business has to work hard, put in their time, and survive disappointments too numerous to even imagine along the way.
The good news for Kyle is that, in the long run, his love for theater will serve him as well if not better than any inherent talent he may possess. It’s what will inevitably force him to pick himself up, brush himself off, and try again until he find a path toward success.
I very much appreciate that SMASH shows the real life struggles, retaining some fact amid the fiction. I like that the Broadway-bound musical Bombshell, that is a key to the plot keeps falling through. That kind of thing happens all the time. Of course, the aspiring actress, Ivy, is devastated to be cut from one show only to resurface as the lead in another one. And the new subplot which charts the ups and downs (and downs) of a fledgling musical is more or less accurate.
Deciding to write a show, start a theater company, produce a musical, make it on Broadway, etc is incredibly exciting. Accomplishing any of those goals years later is also exciting. But where too many people falter, is the gap in between – the months or years of acting dry spells, the first two (or five!) seasons of your new theater company where cast members outnumber the audience, or the brilliant production you directed that never got reviewed.
The theater business almost never has instant overnight success stories. Sure, there will be people, shows, and theater companies that make the news or become the hot new thing seemingly “overnight.” It’s tempting to fall prey to the “highlight reel” of our colleagues’ successes. Just remember that those same companies, producers, or actors have been slogging it out for years waiting for the spotlight to finally focus on their amazing efforts and incredible talents. So keep going. It’s what we all do for love.
Read all of Brisa’s Pieces here.
You can reach Brisa via MTIShowspace or on twitter: @brisatrinchero. I also blog about the art and business of new musicals at www.makemusicals.com. I look forward to hearing from you!