In the 6th grade I tried out for my first musical. The choir room that I auditioned in was packed with 40 other students who had the same hopes and dreams as I did: to land a starring role in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. I desperately wanted to play the role of Linus and had a genuine fear that instead I would be given the part of Pig-Pen and I absolutely hated being messy.
When my name was called, I stood at the front of the room in my jeans and Linus-inspired green t-shirt and read a dramatic monologue from the musical where Charlie Brown was lamenting about how awful lunchtime was at school. My strategy was to show off how well I could read out loud in a clear yet speedy way. I thought for sure that would work well for me. Who wouldn’t want a fast-talking Linus to light up the crowd with laughter? In about 45 seconds, I polished off the entire monologue and expected nothing but applause from the casting team (made up of a very talented music teacher, our super-hip high school librarian, and a quirky English teacher). They looked at each other, looked back at me, and said: “okay, thank you!”
The next week the cast list was published. It was a hand-written list of the fortunate scribbled on a piece of legal-sized. There were dozens of people clamoring for a peek at the list, so I had to wait to get to the front of the crowd before I could celebrate my victory as being the next fast-talking Linus on stage. When I reached the list, my finger slid down the list of people who were on the cast list and I was not among them. Instead of the Linus I longed to be, I was in the chorus – in the land of harmonizers and back-up dancers. It was a very humbling moment – served with a side of a reality check – but it ended up being the best experience in my life.
Why? Because even though I wasn’t the lead, I discovered the value in every role of the production. The lighting kid? Yes! Derek did a fantastic job on the lights. The student who flipped the teacher’s piano music while she played? Especially her! You go, Monica, you did a phenomenal job. The person who sat in the orchestra pit and fed me my lines when I forgot them while playing the lead in my 11th grade performance of The Secret Garden? Oh, Amanda – you saved my life and I will always love you for it!
I like to think I operate in the same way today. When I find myself in a new position or situation, I immediately look to those who can be supportive of the work that I do. People like Amanda, Derek and Monica. Those are the people that will always have your back when you are front and center and forget your lines.