Let’s start at the very beginning. After all, it’s a very good place to start…or, so I’ve heard.
Now, those of you who have known me for a long time (heck, those of you stayed long enough to read the first line of this blog) know that I love musical theatre. A lot. Ever since I got cast in my first show in ninth grade (Cats–yes, I know you’re cringing), I dreamed a dream of becoming a Broadway star–see, I even make musical theatre puns! I loved to put on a character, sing loudly, and even dance, though I have zero hand-eye-foot coordination (hence the joining of drama club instead of the volleyball team). I was lucky enough to be able to direct, write, and act in several plays and musicals in high school–I had passionate and talented friends, not to mention inspiring and intelligent teachers. So, when the time came to think about a college major in sophomore year, I chose musical theatre. Needless to say, my parents were not thrilled. Especially since they hadn’t been training me for the Broadway stage since I was old enough to say “belt-mix,” like so many stage-parents do–my parents had no wish to raise me in that lifestyle, thank the Lord. I needed voice lessons, monologue coaching, and–gulp–three kinds of dance lessons. But that meant I had a lot of training to do.
Most college musical theatre programs require a three-part audition–two contrasting monologues, two contrasting sixteen-bar song cuts, and a dance call. And like most prospective MT students, I was planning on auditioning for more than one school–five was my lucky number, though I knew kids who would audition for as many as twenty. So I worked hard. Over three years, I added eleven high-school shows to my resume, not to mention my titles as President of Choir and Drama Club. I paid for three kinds of dance lessons the summer before my senior year of high school–beginner’s jazz, tap, and ballet (and when I say beginner, I mean I was the only 17-year-old in a class of 12-year-olds). I took musical theatre voice lessons for a year. I worked my monologues with my high-school director, a professional union member. And then, starting October of my senior year, I began to audition–God would finally make my dreams come true!
I did not make it into a single program I auditioned for. I thought my life was over. My previously-enormous pride definitely deflated quite a bit. What on earth was I going to do if I couldn’t study musical theatre? I didn’t like anything else enough to major in it. I prayed to God to send me an acceptance letter from any, any MT program, but one never came.
And then I got into Northwestern, my ego-balloon got some air back, and life suddenly appeared to be covered in glitter and giving me jazz hands. In my eyes, God wanted me here, at one of the best theatre schools in the country, so that I could get into their musical theatre program at the end of my first year as a theatre major. Certainly by then I would have enough training, with all the opportunities to act in shows. I would get into MT at the end of my first year, utilize my God-given talents to my heart’s content, and then move on to New York to act professionally. Bam. Amen.
Fast-forward to a mere three weeks into the school year, the Sunday night that the cast lists for every single fall and winter production had come out. I am on my knees in front of my bed in my tiny, stuffy little Jones single, tears streaming down my face. Nothing. Again. I would not be able to act for an entire year. There went my chances of improving my skills or boosting my resume before program auditions. I was humiliated, utterly defeated. Then, for the first time in a long time, I talked to God.
Well, maybe talked is too soft a word. This was not a nice prayer said before a family dinner. It was a desperate plea for some sort of justification. A command for Him to answer for the horrible disillusionment I had endured over the last few months.
And it was me, surrendering my future to Him for the first time in my life.
“God…I’m scared. I thought for so long that this–music, theatre, dancing–that that was what You wanted for me. Isn’t that why you sent me here in the first place? Just–tell me what you want me to do. What I’m supposed to do I want to know. I need to know. Tell me. Help me. Please. What do you want from me? If I’m not supposed to be in musical theatre, why am I here?!” That last question would haunt me for the rest of my freshman year at Northwestern.
Little did I know that God would give me the answer to it within 24 hours of the cast lists going up–but at that point in my walk with Him, I was too blinded by the desire to succeed at performing to recognize it. The next day, Monday, I went to Cru’s Bible study for the first time. And that night marked the beginning of the greatest period of spiritual growth I had ever experienced. My trust in the Lord’s goodness grew, my joy in worshiping Him increased, and my commitment to Him and His commandments was renewed. But despite growing into the amazing community of brothers and sisters in Christ, my doubts as to my choice of performing as a career began to grow as well. I began asking God questions–the answers I discovered were surprising, and sometimes not exactly what I wanted to hear.
What would I do if I was asked to perform a role that conflicted with my values? To be honest, I worried about compromising my integrity for money or for a role. I didn’t want to have to choose between God’s standards of living and a living wage. Was my desire to perform professionally rooted in the desire to increase God’s glory or my own? I discovered–my own. Thanks to the people in the Cru worship band, I know what performing for God’s glory looks like. And singing in a worship band was something I wanted to do for Jesus’ sake, but the only motivation behind a professional performance career was selfish. I made many other discoveries throughout the year–that I wanted a stable lifestyle and job so that I could have a family and maintain a good relationship with my husband. That my relationship with God was more important to me than any show I could participate in. That rehearsal was too much of a time commitment, especially since I was working a job as well. That I hated auditioning and memorizing things–like, a lot. That the fact that I felt like I had to do it to not disappoint everyone at home simply was not cutting it for me anymore. That sometimes, the people in the theatre industry can be very hostile toward someone of my beliefs, which made a very unpleasant environment, which occasionally led to me straying from God. That doing theatre limited me in terms of my classes, going to grad school, or studying abroad. That I loved writing and working with teenagers as much as musical theatre. And finally, that being judged constantly by other performers and by auditors made me forget that my worth is found in Christ alone.
But, I still thought auditioning for musical theatre was worth a shot, especially since I had paid a crap-load of money for MT voice training. So, I began to make up backup plans–film acting, directing, writing, play-writing, communications, marketing. Things I could study as opposed to musical theatre. And even if I didn’t make it this year, I could audition again at the end of my sophomore year. A lot of really talented people had done it that way. Some people never made it into the program, but fought their way to the top of the theatre heap anyway. In the back of my mind, a small voice whispered, “Would another year be worth it?” I wasn’t sure. I prayed for God to grant me serenity as May fast approached. And suddenly, it was audition day.
Well, kiddies…I didn’t get in. So, on a impulse (a very serene impulse), I quit the Northwestern theatre major. I told God, “Do with me what you will. I am yours for the taking.”
And suddenly, everything made sense. So. Much. Relief.
I gave up everything I knew, simple as that. And God provided me with peace and joy in return. At first, I was afraid I would regret the switch to Secondary Education in English with a minor in Theatre. After all, I had sworn in high school that I would never, ever become a teacher for whatever stupid reason, and I knew (know) virtually nothing about the major. But a month later, I am still riding the high of a new path that feels much more aligned with what God intends for me. And it’s because I realized something in looking back upon my year and my rejection from the musical theatre program–God didn’t want me at Northwestern just to do musical theatre, like I had thought before I came here. No–He wanted me here so that I could love and learn about Him, grow in community with other believers, and find that my worth is not in the roles I get, but in Jesus and the cross. He answered my prayers the day after my initial breakdown by guiding me to the community group at 9pm on Mondays in the Hinman lounge. And I didn’t realize this until months later! God had much better and more important plans for me than I could have ever realized, and I’m so thankful for that. Giving up those dreams of performing on stage was definitely a heart-wrenching, long-suffering process and decision, but I’m cannot express how thrilled to see where God will take me and how comfortable I am in the belief that He will provide for me, now that I’ve surrendered that part of my life to Him.
Well, here I go–I am about to venture off into a world I know very little about. I know He is with me always, and so I’m not afraid. Nervous, yes. Excited, yes. Nervous, but excited. I’m glad you’re here to read about it.