How do you teach your child to be gracious? How do you teach them to be grateful for the opportunities that they’re given and not dwell on the times that they are told no? Obviously, it starts with setting a good example. It can be hard to be gracious when you are disappointed. I have done a lot of theater, so I am painfully familiar with the fact that you will be told no way more often than you will be told yes. I remember that feeling in high school when I was just positive that I was THE perfect person to play a certain part. I remember being so angry when the part went to someone else and just seething with resentment and telling myself that I could do SO much better than that person. It was hard to let go of that feeling and enjoy the time I spent in the chorus or ensemble. It took me years to even contemplate being part of a play and not being on stage. Each experience I’ve had with every play I’ve ever done has been rewarding in a different way, and all the times I didn’t get the lead role have been just as fulfilling as the times when I was the lead. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some time in the spotlight, but now I appreciate the fact that there is so much more that goes into a show then just the actors on the stage. I know the importance of a good makeup and hair department, how vital a costumer is and why the stage manager is the single most important person ever when you can’t find a prop. The community theater that I do now is just that, all about community. I am old enough now that I can truly appreciate what an opportunity it is to participate in any aspect of a show. The people I get to work with make every experience rewarding.
The sense of community that I feel towards all of my local play people is what makes it so disappointing when a few people get so worked up about not getting a part. When there are only four parts, not everyone can get one, but we still need you! There are still plenty of opportunities for you to help and be involved and have fun. Please don’t get involved just for the recognition and applause. Get involved because it’s awesome and you get to work with great people. Be grateful for the opportunity to participate in any capacity. Set a good example to the kids who are looking up to you. Set a good example on social media about the importance of being happy for others. I know that no one is perfect, and that it hurts to not get chosen, but you can still participate. I wish I could go back and help back stage and be a part of some of the shows I wasn’t cast in. I regret the times that I was so upset about not being cast that I didn’t help at all. Knowing what I know now, I missed out on a lot.
My son is so excited for the time when he gets to be in a play with his mama. I will not be the drama mama that kvetches about my baby not getting a certain part. I want to make sure that he is grateful to participate. I want to help him understand that every part is important and every person working on the production is a vital member of a team. I want him to learn graciousness from me. I want him to be eager to help and be happy for others. I want him to understand that just because he doesn’t get first place, get a ribbon, get a medal, get the lead, get the solo… he is still awesome. I want him to know that he doesn’t need that kind of recognition or validation. I want my son to be genuinely happy for the person who does get first place, especially if that person is his friend, and even more so if that person is his enemy. I want him to really understand what it means to be grateful and to be a gracious person. Part of being gracious is learning humility, and learning to be humble comes from being a gracious loser. I want my son to understand that you can’t be the best at everything all the time, and that’s ok. Sometimes I feel like our society puts so much emphasis on winning that we’ve lost sight of what it means to participate.
I am by no means saying that I’m perfect or that I don’t get a little jealous of the person whose make up I’m doing or wistfully wish that someone was zipping me up into my costume so I could dash back on stage. I recognize now that everyone deserves their own time to shine and I have to share the spotlight. One day my son will be faced with the disappointment of not getting chosen for something and I don’t want it to break him down. I don’t want him to waste as many opportunities as I did by being resentful. I want to make sure that I teach him to be gracious and to participate every chance he gets. We in the theater community jokingly say that there are no small parts, only small actors. The same can be said of every aspect of our lives. Everyone is important. Everyone has something to give. Take away one member of the chorus and that means someone doesn’t have a dance partner, or that there’s only one soprano to hit that high note so the person at the back of the theater might not hear it. If the person doing the stage left follow spot isn’t there, everyone will notice when that area of the stage is dark. So aside from having gratitude, I also want my son to realize that he is important. Everything he does is important and has an impact, and if he starts with the right attitude, he will be so much happier.