July 1, 2009

Looks: Three

A few years ago Billy Crudup, a known film and stage actor, played John Merrick (the Elephant Man) on Broadway's The Elephant Man. In the usual press that accompanies such things he said in an article promoting the play (and I'm totally paraphrasing here) that he liked the theatre a little more than film because the stage is much more forgiving to the way people look. For those of you who aren't familiar with Billy Crudup- he looks like this:

I'm going to give him the benefit of a doubt that he meant something like if you're having a bad skin day the stage is a venue that can conceal these things. Otherwise I take what he said to mean the stage has more variety in body types and attractiveness. I disagree totally. There is just as much "diversity" on the stage as there is in film. The people are just as skinny and just as attractive. The theatre wants to sell tickets just like the movies. And they do it with sex. (And the promise of famous people in person.) Theatre is just as guilty.

That's pretty much the second biggest reason I didn't pursue a performance career on the stage. The first biggest is that I am terrible with rejection. I take it all personally even though it is a business. I was not rejected once. I was rejected every time. I was being rejected because I have a voice that only fits the parts that go to the skinny, attractive lead women. I am not that person. In the eyes of a casting agent I am the sassy best friend. I've since lost a lot of weight but I'm still not the kind of skinny The Business is looking for and wants that comes with my voice. And from what I can see, that means I have no place on the stage.

But I know I have a place in front of the stage. While I was learning performance I was also learning management. I love both very much but I love management better because I can bring the arts to more people that way. Maybe one day I can do something that doesn't discriminate and help break down some barriers. That I can try to bring change to people's minds about beauty without being literal. There are dance companies whose sole mission is to showcase diverse body types. It's not like that can't be done with theatre.

Sometimes I wonder if I will regret not trying harder. That I gave up too easily. I really miss singing. My voice was never the problem. My ass was. I will always struggle with my weight. My weight fluctuates as much as a menopausal woman's comfort level. I will never be able to eat anything I want without consequence. I will always have to work out intensely. It's really hard but I'm coming to terms with that fact. I'm willing to put in the effort to stay healthy. But I'm realizing that the best weight for me still hovers over the usual soprano's weight. That's just the way it is.

1 comment:

Tina Winston said...

It's interesting you bring this up, because I just finished reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. One of the issues he mentions toward the end of the book is that of discrimination against women in classical symphony orchestras. Basically, years ago women made up a very small percentage of all people playing in orchestras in the U.S. The industry wanted to change it, so they started using screens during auditions. The judges couldn't see the candidates, so their opinions were based purely on what they heard. Now, women make up almost 50% of those professionals. Seems to me that if we're talking about a purely vocal performance, something similar could be done to avoid body type discrimination. It probably wouldn't work for theater at all, though.