Friday, September 16, 2011

The Scary Truth

I love working with third-, fourth- and fifth-graders because they tend to be untarnished.

The grade-school experience is homogenous in its warfare. Everyone gets hurt. Everyone wants attention. Everyone suffers the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

And then we think we grow up. We think we find our way. We think there should be payback.

I recently came upon a letter written to me in the late nineties. It was from an artistic director I had worked with, and he wrote:

"I don't remember all the details, Mel of that time...but I do remember your being difficult."

His letter was in answer to one I had sent with a long-overdue apology for my "being difficult."

I was a good actor. I had gifts. I had craft. And I had a corrupted ego.

The ego reminds me of Audrey II, that monster plant in "Little Shop of Horrors." It has an appetite as insatiable and dangerous. A little bit of fertilizer and the damn thing wants blood and more of it and all of it and soon....It is a beast.

At that time, I had been given wonderful roles, knew my stuff and had come to believe that I was better...than my directors and fellow actors. I railed at the wig department and the costume department. I made the stage manager's life miserable.

I was an ***hole because I decided no one wanted to work as hard as I did. That no one else cared as much as I did. That no one knew as much as I did.

My acting career was murdered — and my fingerprints were all over the smoking gun.

Show business is not a democracy. There is no fair play, because there are stars and status. That is the truth and it must be accepted. This is also true in the worlds of law, medicine and academia, among others.

However, if you think you're at the top of the heap, or should be at the top of the heap, it's going to go one of three ways:

    1. You'll be a star, continue working and be admired because you have monitored your ego.

    2. You'll be a star, continue working and be hated because...well, you know.

    3. You'll be a has-been with a dead career.

My ego and I took a long walk into a fire called humility. After a good crisping, we were doused in gratefulness. And I consider myself lucky.

Here's what I know: No matter how great you might be, you are never better than.

At eight, nine and ten years old, the kids don't know this yet. But we do. We can help, we can remind, and we can lead.

If I was a Queen I would make shure everyone would get fresh food and good stuff. I would not like to a meany queen or a pickey queen. I would like to be nice queen, I would like to live in Parris. I want a nice little village. I would excersise every day. I would like a five story castle.
—Sabrina, 4th grade

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