It's audition time. It's exciting and nerve wracking and wonderful and terrible all rolled together in one adrenalin pumping package. I love this time and I hate this time. I love it because as a director I get a glimpse into the potential that will grace our middle school stage this year. I hate it because it's just so stressful and scary and I know that every decision, every list, every evaluation is going to make someone cry, fill someone's heart with such grave disappointment, convince someone that it's not worth the effort to try out, to take a risk, to put your best on the line only to have it not be good enough - at least not good enough to secure the part, the role, the coveted spot.
I hate doing that to kids. We do everything we can to make auditions as encouraging and positive and calm as possible. I remind them that I think the fact that they walked into the auditorium and are willing to get up in front of us and some of their peers is half the battle and they show great character just by taking that risk. I assure them we will not yell, "Next!" when they are done but that every audition performance will receive applause because we all know how hard it is to do what they are doing. We smile and remind them that every single person in that room matters and that we truly do care about each one of them and that we know just how hard this whole process is.
And all of that is true. But the hard fact remains that there's a big group of kids and a small number of lead roles. We gulped and swallowed and decided to take everyone who auditioned this year into the full cast - currently a group of over 70 kids. Are we crazy? Yes - but it's middle school and middle school should be about trying new activities and stretching your wings and having the opportunity to experience music and sports and drama without all the pressure and selectivity that high school will bring. We want to take all these kids and give them a safe place to do that with a group that can become a family, where they know they can walk in every day and belong. We laugh and learn and love on them big time. We teach them about the commitment and discipline and teamwork and respect and yes, even humility that drama requires. But we still have to decide who will play the lead roles and who will be the dancers and who will be in the featured vocal group and have to create a call back list for those who are being considered for those coveted spots . . . sigh. It's times like these when I'm tempted to just put all their names in a hat and toss the slips of paper down the stairs and the ones who make it to the bottom step win.
So as we forge on through call backs in our middle school auditions, I can't help but think how many times in a day I can feel like I'm facing auditions of my own and not measuring up to making it. The state of my house is never anywhere near the beauty on the magazine cover that's on my coffee table - that is when I can see the magazine on the coffee table and it's not covered with mail or school papers or the empty Wawa cup from last night's smoothie treat on the way home from dance. The fitness level of my body is just not what it used to be - and once again today my good intentions of getting out to walk are thwarted, but today at least it's because it's raining and not because I listened to the call of other busy timetakers. I have friends who work full time, keep an immaculate house, walk the dog at o'darkthirty, have an organized weekly meal plan with an organized refrigerator, freezer and pantry with freshly ironed clothes hanging in the closets. They.are.amazing. And I'm in awe of their ability to juggle it all and juggle it so well. It's just something I have to keep working on, even though I'll never be amazing at it all. And when I compare myself to them, I know my name will not be on that particular call back list. Sigh. And it's so easy to compare ourselves to the ones we just know will make the list we'll never be on.
This past week I learned of a girl who had been at a summer camp directed by a friend from college. She was 15 years old and just a few days ago she decided to take her own life by jumping off a bridge. I still feel sick to my stomach thinking about her. Just a bit younger than my own daughter. The same age as the girls we would take out on the Trail at camp. And for whatever reason, she didn't think she could go on living. My heart is breaking for her parents, her family, her friends, everyone who knew her and had some kind of connection to her, and the surreal haze they are forcing their feet to stagger through one step at a time. I keep praying for all of them. I keep wondering what call back list she didn't think she would make.
Ridiculously trivial or earth shattering, heart wrenchingly larger than life - we all have a call back list we long to find our name listed on. The one that tells us we matter. We belong. We have arrived and achieved. We are significant, successful, strong. That when the curtain rises, we will be on the stage, we will be in the spotlight, we will receive recognition and applause for how well we played the role we auditioned our way into.
And yet I also know, and also tell my drama kids, that there is much to learn from this process itself, from getting out there and trying, from building on what you learned last year, from simply being part of the cast and the team and learning as much as you can - even if you didn't get the lead role you longed for. From discovering how much joy can be found in bringing your own unique God-given qualities and abilities and personality and linking them with the unique features of your fellow cast members, working together to bring a production to the audience that will entertain them, make them laugh, make them cry, make them think, make them wonder, make them so very glad they came. And making you glad you didn't quit just because you didn't get the part you wanted.
Let's encourage one another to not quit, to not miss opportunities to learn and grow, to not let the inevitable evaluating call back lists of life rob us of our joy. For Jesus paid the price so I could be on His list, His Lamb's Book of Life. I am precious in His eyes. I am His own.
I can't think of a better call back to get.