Leap, and the Net will Appear: The Imposter Syndrome and the Great Ivy + Bean Tour of 2015
One week from today, I'll be hopping in a van and beginning a new adventure.
After a sold-out, New York Times-touted run at Atlantic Theater Company's Linda Gross Theater, Ivy + Bean The Musical will tour nationally January through April. We've had such an enthusiastic response to this show here in New York and New Jersey from kids, parents, teachers, and the musical's writer Scott Elmegreen. It's truly overwhelming in the most wonderful of ways.
As excited as I am to begin the next chapter of this production's life and the next chapter in my career, a fairly regular thought is starting to creep into my brainspace.
Holy $#!+, are they sure they want me to do this? Can I actually do this?!?
This thought is usually followed by awkward laughter, tears, a semi-confident statement of "hell yes I can, what the hell am I talking about?!?", uncertainty, and then back into awkward laughter/tears.
The actress Lupita Nyong'o spoke about this kind of feeling in an article for Backstage magazine, and aptly called it The Imposter Syndrome. There's a point in your process where you feel as though your director or your fellow acting peers are going to find you out, that you actually aren't capable of what they are asking of you. You're an imposter posing as the competent, talented actor they picked from dozens of others at the auditions.
I feel this sensation more keenly with this particular production for a few reasons. First, I was an eleventh-hour casting. The actress originally asked to play the role declined three or four weeks before rehearsals started because she was offered a job on a cruise ship. Second, I had been recommended to the director from a previous production I did here in New York. No pressure, just, you know, don't make this lovely human who's recommended you in the hopes that you can solve their super serious casting problem look stupid by actually NOT BEING GOOD AT ACTING AT ALL. Third, regardless of the fact that this show is mainly going to be seen by children, this is a lead role. In a musical.
The last time I was in a musical? SIX. YEARS. AGO. As an ensemble dancer.
The last time I was a lead in a musical? TEN. YEARS. AGO. In HIGH SCHOOL.
Does that even count!?!? Depends on who you ask. My parents would say, "Yes DUH." I would say, "Well, maybe, I guess if you...no. Nope."
Feeling nervous? Maybe a little anxious? I mean, I've ALREADY done this show over twenty times and even I feel like I'm gonna throw up a bit. Stay with me, guys, I promise this is leading somewhere, and it's not vomit...
So I audition. And I get the callback. And I'm offered the part. And I perform it for thousands of kids in New York and New Jersey. All the while, I'm still wondering: when will they find me out? When is the director going to tell me she's been rehearsing an understudy all along? When are the other actors going to confront me and be like, "Dude, just... no. No no no."?
THEY AREN'T GONNA FIND YOU OUT BECAUSE YOU AREN'T AN IMPOSTER. YOU LEPT, AND THE NET APPEARED.
...this particular part requires a little bit of backstory.
When I was in college, I was in a conservatory-style acting class my senior year. Prospective students were required to audition in order to be accepted into the class, and the expectations for each student were high. This was a three-hour, physically and emotionally taxing, peel-away-at-your-layers-in-front-of-your-peers class. At the beginning of each semester, our teachers sat us down in a circle on the floor and asked us what we wanted to focus on in our acting work, what we felt we weren't good at, what made us comfortable/uncomfortable, etc. Looking back, I fondly call this class time Actors Anonymous, mainly because our teachers were asking us to state, in front of a group of others (some you knew, some you just met), your hopes, your fears, and your goals not only as an actor, but as a human in the world.
One of my classmates (who I was just meeting in this Actors Anonymous circle) began by discussing his fear and hesitance to work on certain roles or texts. I think we all agreed with him on some level: some characters are so strong or so different from us, or the text is in this delicious yet daunting verse-- we don't wanna screw it up (You hear that imposter, again?! Man, that asshole is quick to contribute!). But instead of ending there, my classmate started talking about a book wherein he read a phrase by John Burroughs that stuck with him, and has ultimately stuck with me and other former classmates: "Leap, and the net will appear". He was inspired and invigorated. No matter how scared or uncertain he felt, he was going to jump, knowing that he would be caught.
YOU AREN'T AN IMPOSTER. YOU LEPT, AND THE NET APPEARED.
Throughout this production's rehearsal and performance, I feel that I am still leaping, ever leaping forward, with each net being a springboard for the next. I now leap toward the open road with an extremely kind, extremely hard working technical director and stage manager and six talented actors that I now have the privilege of calling my dear friends. They continue to beat the crap out of my little Imposter Syndrome and secure my net. It is because of the journey I've already taken with them, along with the support of my family and friends, that I am so, so very excited to start this new adventure. Imposter be damned, I'm gonna leap.
I'll be posting blogs all along my journey through the US over the next four months so family and friends can see what I'm up to. Join me for what can only be an interesting look into an actor's brain on tour in a kid's musical. I can't guarantee that it won't be scary. Or a really great time.
I was bartending when I received the offer to be a part of this show. My friends at work were so happy for me that they bought a few drinks for me after my shift. I arrived home, tipsy on shock and excitement (and beer), and sat down at my desk and slowly let my decision to accept the offer sink in. There were some tears (no surprise there), mostly tears of joy, but before I knew it, I became fearful. The Imposter Syndrome woke up from it's sleep and began eating away at my confidence. It wasn't even going to let me celebrate my success for one frickin night. What an ass.
Instead of continuing to ugly cry, I grabbed a post-it off a pile on my desk and wrote myself a note: "Hey Lauren, you can do this". I stuck it to my computer's screen, wiped my tears, drank a giant glass of water, and went to sleep.
It's not sticky anymore, but it still lives in my daily planner, just in case I need a reminder.
How strange, that in such a blurry, irrationally emotional moment for my brain, I ignored my Imposter and reminded myself that the net would appear, that I would be caught, or better--that I'd catch myself. Maybe I didn't think of the net at all. Maybe I knew I'd fly.
See you on the road, y'all.